Sport Rulebook

Small Forward Legends: The Best in NBA History

Top Small Forwards in NBA History

Basketball has produced some of the most iconic players in sports history, and the small forward position has seen some of the most skilled and dominant players of all time. In this article, we will explore the top small forwards in NBA history, including

LeBron James,

Larry Bird,

Kevin Durant,

Elgin Baylor,

Julius Erving, and

Scottie Pippen.

LeBron James

LeBron James is widely considered one of the greatest players to ever grace a basketball court. He has dominated the small forward position since his debut in 2003, amassing countless accolades and breaking several records.

James is a four-time MVP, a 17-time all-NBA selection, and has scored over 35,000 points to date. What sets James apart from other small forwards is his all-around skill set.

He can score from anywhere on the court, rebound, pass, and play elite-level defense. Over the years, he has become known for his acrobatic layups, thunderous dunks, and impressive basketball IQ.

James’s combination of size, strength, and agility is unparalleled among small forwards, making him a nightmare for opposing teams.

Larry Bird

Larry Bird is another great small forward who left an indelible mark on the NBA. Bird won three championships with the Boston Celtics and was named the Finals MVP twice.

He was a 12-time all-star and three-time MVP. Bird is renowned for his incredible shooting ability, both from the field and from the three-point line.

He was also an excellent passer and rebounder, making him a triple-threat whenever he was on the court. Bird’s style of play was a mix of finesse and brute force, and he was known for his competitive nature and uncanny ability to read the game.

He made clutch shots and game-winning plays; his last-second three-pointer against the Portland Trail Blazers during the 1992 All-Star game is still talked about to this day.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is one of the most lethal scorers in NBA history. He’s won two championships, earned the 2014 MVP award and is a ten-time all-star.

Durant is a prolific scorer, an excellent shooter, and a deadly three-point threat. At seven feet tall, he is one of the tallest small forwards ever, making him a difficult matchup for many defenders.

Durant has a smooth shooting stroke, effortless handles, and the ability to score from just about anywhere on the court. His size and athleticism make him nearly impossible to defend, and his intensity and hunger for winning have made him a fan favorite.

Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor is one of the pioneers of the small forward position and one of the greatest players of his era. Baylor was a gifted scorer and rebounder, earning eleven all-NBA selections and averaging over thirty points per game four times.

Baylor was the NBA’s rookie of the year in 1958, and he played his entire career with the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite playing in an era before three-pointers, advanced analytics, and high-scoring games, Baylor still managed to dominate the league with his scoring and rebounding abilities.

He was an innovator on the court, using his quickness and agility to create chances for himself and his teammates.

Julius Erving

Julius Erving, also known as “Dr. J,” was a transcendent small forward who changed the way people viewed the game of basketball. Erving is a four-time MVP, an eleven-time all-star, and a two-time ABA champion.

He is famous for his acrobatic dunks, stylish play, and showmanship. Erving was a fan favorite and known for his high-flying style and graceful movements around the court.

His ability to jump and score with ease made him a threat on every possession. Erving’s size and quickness made him a difficult matchup for opponents, and his impact on the game is still felt today.

Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen was a versatile small forward who played alongside Michael Jordan on the Chicago Bulls during their dynasty in the 1990s. Pippen was a seven-time all-star, a six-time NBA champion, and a ten-time all-defensive selection.

He was known for his incredible defense, smooth shooting, and excellent ball handling. Pippen was an integral part of the Bulls’ success during the 1990s, often taking on the role of the team’s primary defender against the opponent’s best players.

His combination of athleticism, length, and defensive instincts made him one of the best defensive small forwards in history. Despite playing in Jordan’s shadow, Pippen’s impact on the game is undeniable.


The small forward position in the NBA has been home to some of the greatest players of all time. From

LeBron James to

Larry Bird,

Kevin Durant to

Elgin Baylor,

Julius Erving to

Scottie Pippen, these players have left their mark on the game through their incredible skill sets, hard work, and dedication to the sport. Each player brought something unique to the position, and their contributions to the game will never be forgotten.

Larry Bird

Larry Bird is one of the most successful players to ever play in the NBA. During his career, he lead the Boston Celtics to three championships in 1981, 1984 and 1986.

In Bird’s first year in the league, he helped the Celtics to a 29-win improvement. He was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1980, and the NBA Finals MVP in both 1984 and 1986, was named MVP three times and selected to the All-Star team 12 times.

One of Bird’s most significant skills was his three-point shooting. He was one of the first players to make the three-point shot a part of his offensive arsenal, and he did so with great success.

He won the first three-point shooting contest at the NBA All-Star Weekend in 1986 and finished his career with a career three-point average of 37.6%, which was superior to many guards at the time. Bird was also an exceptional passer, which sometimes overshadowed his scoring ability.

He completed his career with 5,695 assist, averaging out to 6.3 assists per game. He was known for his ability to find his teammates in their shooting sweet spots, which allowed the team to function smoothly without stagnating on just one scoring option.

In addition to his scoring and passing, Bird was also a phenomenal defender. He was selected to the NBA All-Defensive team nine times, and he was known for his ability to read the game and make crucial stops when it mattered most.


Larry Bird is in the Hall of Fame. Bird’s career in the NBA spanned thirteen seasons, and he was one of the most dominant players of his era.

He helped change the game and ushered in a new style of play, which emphasized athleticism and skill. Despite being hampered by injuries, he continued to play at an elite level, and his impact on the game cannot be overstated.

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant is a dominant scorer and one of the most versatile players in the NBA. Since being drafted in 2007, the 6’10” small forward has won four scoring titles and achieved an incredible 27.1 points per game average.

Durant’s scoring prowess was never more evident than when he led his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, to the NBA Finals in 2012. Throughout that playoff run, he averaged 30.6 points per game, giving opposing teams nightmares when planning to defend him.

Durant’s versatility is evident in his ability to rebound the ball, play defense and lead his team to victory. He’s selected as an NBA All-Star 10 times, and he’s managed to pick up two championships along the way.

In the 2016 Western Conference Finals, he pulled in 12.4 rebounds per game and helped the Golden State Warriors overcome a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder to reach the NBA Finals. Durant’s versatility also made him a Finals MVP Award winner in 2017 and 2018.

Despite being known for his scoring capabilities, Durant is also an excellent defender. His size, mobility, and ability to disrupt passing lanes have made him a versatile force on the defensive end.

To that end, he’s been selected to the NBA All-Defensive team twice. Durant’s basketball IQ is rarely talked about despite his obvious skill set.

His understanding of the game is highly regarded by teammates and opponents alike, and he’s known for his attention to detail, making him one of the most complete and versatile players of his generation. His basketball IQ is on full display on-court and in his interviews, offering insights into how he approaches certain situations and working to break down tough defenses.

In conclusion,

Larry Bird and

Kevin Durant are undeniable legends of the sport of basketball. They have brought incredible skill sets, intelligence, and versatility to their positions, making them amongst the best in the game’s history.

Both have achieved success at the highest level and have left an indelible mark on the game. Whether through their shooting, passing, defense, or overall leadership, these players’ accomplishments will be remembered for generations to come.

Elgin Baylor

Elgin Baylor was one of the most dominant small forwards in NBA history. Over the course of his 13-year career, Baylor achieved an average of 27.4 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game, making him one of the most prolific scorers and rebounders of his time.

He is the only player to complete 70 points in an NBA Finals Game, which is a record that still stands to this day. Baylor’s scoring and rebounding skills were a reflection of his unique blend of speed, agility, and strength.

He was an adept ballhandler, could shoot from range, and could finish off drives with powerful dunks. These skills combined with his ability to grab rebounds and immediately turn them into fast break points made him a force of nature on the court.

Baylor’s career achievements are also noteworthy. He was a ten time All-Star and a 10-time all-NBA selection.

In addition, he was selected to the NBA’s all-defensive team four times. Baylor’s impact on the game was recognized when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

His incredible scoring and rebounding abilities, combined with his ability to lead his team to success, make him a true legend of the sport.

Julius Erving

Julius Erving, also known as “Dr. J,” is often regarded as one of the most athletic and stylish players to ever grace the court. Throughout his playing career, which spanned from the ABA to the NBA, Erving managed to earn four MVPs, 16 All-Star selections, five All-Defensive Team selections, two ABA championships, and one NBA championship.

Erving’s athleticism and style of play were often compared to that of a ballet dancer. He was known for his gravity-defying dunks and acrobatic layups, which wowed crowds across the country.

Even after he retired in 1987, many consider him the greatest dunker of all time. He also had a knack for stealing the ball, securing rebounds, and blocking shots with his incredible timing, making him a force on both ends of the court.

Erving’s career path was unique as he started in the ABA and then moved to the NBA. During his time in the ABA, he became a superstar, leading the New York Nets to two championships while dazzling audiences with his flashy play.

His success in the ABA made him a cult hero among fans and landed him his first MVP award. Following ABA’s merger with the NBA, Erving moved to the Philadelphia 76ers and went on to win one NBA championship and be selected to the all-star game 11 times.

His leadership and guidance in the 1983 Finals resulted in a championship with the 76ers. Furthermore, Erving’s legacy is unparalleled.

His innovative style of play made him one of the most recognizable figures on the court, and his impact on the sport has been felt by generations of players that have followed in his footsteps. He was later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993, cementing his status as one of the game’s all-time greats.

In conclusion, both

Elgin Baylor and

Julius Erving are two of the greatest players to ever grace their positions. Baylor’s scoring and rebounding dominance, combined with his incredible accomplishments, made him a legend of the game, while Erving’s style of play, across both ABA and NBA, has been an inspiration to generations of players.

Together, both players helped to shape NBA history, and their contributions will be remembered for a long time.

Scottie Pippen

Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history, earning six NBA championships and appearing in seven NBA All-Star games over the course of his spectacular career. The majority of Pippen’s success came as a result of his role as a key player on the Chicago Bulls during the 1990s.

Pippen rose to prominence playing alongside one of the greatest players of all time, Michael Jordan, and the two of them led the Bulls to six championships in the 1990s. He played a critical role on those teams, often being Jordan’s right-hand man and confidante.

Pippen was a crucial player in some of the NBA’s most historic moments, including The Shot, which won them the NBA championship series against the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1989.

Pippen’s on-court versatility was legendary, as he was not only an outstanding scorer but also a masterful all-around player, as well as a lockdown defender.

He was one of the top defensive players in the league, earning eight All-Defensive team selections, and often assigned the responsibility of guarding the opponent’s best offensive player. Pippen’s defense was not the only asset he possessed.

He also excelled in other areas, including rebounding, passing, and scoring. He was a superb rebounder, averaging 6.4 rebounds per game, and a gifted playmaker, averaging 5.2 assists per game.

Alongside Jordan, Pippen was a relentless scorer, and his “triple double” numbers (points, rebounds, and assists) many times helped the Bulls to victory. Pippen’s consistency and versatility extended to the offensive end as well.

Pippen could play either the shooting guard or small forward spot, and he was an excellent scorer; a testament to this was when he earned the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1994. Pippen’s ability to dominate many different positions and contribute heavily to the team’s performance led to his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2010.

However, despite all his accolades, it is his defense which still remains his hallmarks – Pippen’s incredible versatility and locked down defense were critical to the success of the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. In some sense, Pippen’s defense was underrated, as a result of Jordan’s phenomenal offensive displays.

However, the role he played in that team’s success cannot be overstated.

In conclusion,

Scottie Pippen, with his unique blend of statistics, versatility, and defense, is among the most talented small forwards in the history of the NBA. He hunted down opponents with his remarkable defensive abilities, made his team better through his multitalented and versatile approach, and was an integral part of several championship teams.

His impact on the NBA as a vital piece of the puzzle for the Chicago Bulls is undeniable, landing him well deserved star status, and a spot in NBA lore forever. In this article, we have explored the top small forwards in NBA history, including

Larry Bird,

Kevin Durant,

Elgin Baylor,

Julius Erving,

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