The small forward position has gone through an evolution since the NBA’s beginning days. From stars like Paul Arizin to modern-day superstar small forwards like Kevin Durant, there’s no doubt that the position is chock full of talented players.
It’s always hard to compare players of different eras. No matter who is placed here, it’s going to cause disagreement regardless.
While there are a few players in today’s NBA that could one day be this list (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard), we’re going for players who have already retired or are already 10 or so seasons into their respective careers.
Arguably the best basketball player of all time depending on who you ask, James has been a bonafide star since entering the league in 2003.
James has 15 All-NBA selections to his name to go with six All-Defensive selections, four MVP awards and three rings.
Perhaps most impressive is what the Los Angeles Laker star is able to do in his 17th season. James was in the midst of a possible MVP season with the Lakers despite being 35 years old.
“The Hick from French Lick” is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history and it’s not hard to see why.
At 6-foot-9 with a lethal shooting stroke and unparalleled craftiness, Bird was a threat to drop 40 every night (career 24.3 ppg) and could lock you up on the other side of the ball (three All-Defensive team selections)
The three-time MVP was one of the most competitive and tough players on the court at all times and led the Boston Celtics to three titles during his career.
Some people might be upset to see Durant on this list but the fact remains that he may be the most effortless scorer in NBA history.
At 6-foot-10 with guard skills, Durant can get his shot over just about anyone and is talented enough to finish inside on most occasions.
The former No. 2 overall pick has already led the NBA in scoring during four separate seasons and once he returns from injury, he should get back to being a top-five player in the league today.
Often reduced to a “sidekick” role beside Michael Jordan, Pippen often doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the best players of all time at his position.
An absolute lockdown defender with elite playmaking skills and an underrated scoring touch, Pippen may not have the PPG numbers that others do on this list but with 10 All-Defensive team selections on his resume, he’s impossible to ignore.
I don’t care what era you played in, any time you average 38.3 points, 18.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game for a whole season, you deserve to be on this list.
Over the first seven years of his career, Baylor averaged 30.2 points and 15.4 rebounds. Couple that with the fact that the 6-foot-5 forward is often praised for how much he changed the nature of the game for future generations and Baylor certainly has done enough to end up on this list.
Honorable Mentions: Julius Erving, John Havlicek, Rick Barry, Dominique Wilkins, Adrian Dantley, Paul Pierce, James Worthy, Carmelo Anthony and Paul Arizin.