Top 10 Best Small Forwards of All Time

A feat in basketball requires the team to play with one heartbeat. Basketball has five positions: center, power forward, small forwards, pointing guard, and shooting guard, all of which contribute to the game’s magic.

Small forwards, also known as threes, must have quickness, agility, and strength. Players with these characteristics in abundance make excellent small forwards.

Small forwards are seen doing everything on the court, from ball handling and rebounding to defense. They are known as the “all-rounders” of any basketball team.

Small forwards are typically shorter than power forwards and centers, but taller than point guards and shooting guards.

A small forward, on the other hand, can be anyone with exceptional skills and tactics.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has produced several outstanding small forwards. Today, we’ll talk about ten of them.

Top Ten All-Time Small Forwards

We drew inspiration from Bleacher Report and ESPN. Here’s a summary of the list!

S.N Players Name
10. Kawhi Leonard
9. Paul Pierce
8. Adrian Dantley
7. John Havlicek
6. Scottie Pippen
5. Elgin Baylor
4. Julius Erving
3. Kevin Durant
2. Larry Bird
1. Lebron James

10. Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Anthony Leonard is a basketball player from the United States who currently plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. He previously played for the Toronto Raptors and the San Antonio Spurs.

The Indiana Pacers drafted him in the 2011 NBA draft, but he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs on draft night.

Despite this, he finished fourth in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting.

Aside from that, he was chosen to play for the USA men’s basketball team in 2012.

Before entering the NBA, he was a member of the St. Diego Aztecs men’s basketball team at San Diego State University. In his sophomore year, he was unanimously named second-team All-American.

Leonard helped the Spurs win the NBA Championship in 2014. He was also named Finals MVP after averaging 17.8 points on 61% shooting in the game.

He was named an All-Star five times and made three All-NBA First Team appearances.

Similarly, he has seven All-Defensive Team selections and has been named Defensive Player of the Year twice, in 2015 and 2016.

Kawhi Leonard is one of the best small forwards of all time, combining intelligence, athleticism, and size.

9. Pierce, Paul

Paul Anthony Pierce was a basketball player for the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards, and Los Angeles Clippers.

The Boston Celtics selected him in the 1998 NBA draft, and his career spanned the years from 1998 to 2017. Pierce had a fantastic journey where he accomplished several feats.

Pierce was named to the All-Star team every season from 2002 to 2006, totaling ten All-Star appearances.

Similarly, he was an All-NBA Third Team selection from 2002 to 2003. He was named to the NBA All-Star team four times. In 2002, he led the league with 2,144 points.

Furthermore, he was chosen to play for the United States national team in 2002, representing the team in the FIBA World Championships. In the championship, he started all nine games and averaged 19.8 points per game.

Pierce also led the Boston Celtics to their 17th championship in 2008, a 4-2 victory. After averaging 22 points per game, he was named NBA Final MVP.

Pierce also had some broadcasting experience, having worked for ESPN. He was a studio analyst for several shows, including The Jump and NBA Countdown.

8. Adrian Dantley

Adrian Delano Dantley, an American former basketball player, and coach played in the NBA for 15 seasons.

He was a member of the Buffalo Braves, the Indiana Pacers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Utah Jazz, the Detroit Pistons, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Milwaukee Bucks.

In the 1976 NBA draft, he was chosen by the Buffalo Braves. In 1977, he was named NBA Rookie of the Year.

Dantley played power forward, but he was most effective as a small forward. He finished his NBA career with an average of 24.3 points per game.

He became the 16th player in NBA history to shoot.540 from the field and.818 from the free-throw line.

Dantley ranks ninth all-time in free throws, leading the league six times.

Similarly, as number 28, he made the freest throws in an NBA regular-season game. The same record is held by Wilt Chamberlain.

Adrian Dantley was one of the best small forwards of all time because he could score in the low post despite having one leg that was two inches shorter than the other. To compensate, he opted for custom-made inserts in his shoes.

7. John Havlicek

John Joseph Havlicek, an American professional basketball player, died on April 25, 2019, at the age of 79. He was a fantastic athlete who had a very successful basketball career.

In the 1962 NBA draft, he was chosen by the Boston Celtics. He was a member of the team until 1978 when he retired.

He attended Ohio State University and played collegiate basketball there. Aside from that, John was named an alternate for the 1960 United States national team, which competed in the Summer Olympics 1960.

Havlicek was not only a great basketball player but also a great footballer. The Cleveland Browns of the National Football League also selected him in 1962, the same year he was selected by the NBA.

Similarly, he could play in two positions on the court, one as a small forward and the other as a guard.

John played a role in the Boston Celtics’ victory in the 1974 NBA Championship. In addition, he was named NBA Finals MVP.

Similarly, with Havlicek on the team, the Celtics won the NBA Finals in triple overtime in 1976. He finished his career with eight NBA championships.

During his 16-year NBA career, Havlicek was named to 13 All-Star teams and eight NBA All-Defensive teams.

When John retired, he was the all-time leading scorer for the Boston Celtics, a position he held until 2019.

In 1984, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. In 1997, Havlicek was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.

Similarly, he was ranked 14th all-time in Bill Simmons’ Book of Basketball.

6. Scottie Pippen

Scotty Former basketball player Maurice Pippen Sr. was a member of the NBA from 1987 to 2004 and again in 2008.

In the 1987 NBA draft, he was selected by the Seattle Supersonics and traded to the Chicago Bulls.

He spent the majority of his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls, but he also played for the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the Chicago Bulls, Pippen won six NBA championships. In addition, he was named to the NBA All-Star First Team three times and the NBA All-Defensive First Team eight times in a row.

He was also named an NBA All-Star seven times. In 1994, he was also named NBA All-Star Game MVP.

Pippen won both the Olympic gold medal and the NBA championship in the same year twice, in 1992 and 1996.

Aside from that, Pippen was a member of the United States Olympic “Dream Team” in 1992.

Pippen was also twice inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

He was also honored twice, once for his career and once as a member of the “Dream Team.” Both inductions occurred on August 13, 2010.

Pippen is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He was a player’s gem because of his exceptional athleticism, unusually long arms, and good jumping agility.

5. Elgin Baylor

Elgin Gay Baylor, an American basketball player, coach, and executive, played 14 seasons in the NBA for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. He appeared in eight NBA championship games.

The Minnesota Lakers selected him first overall in the first round of the 1958 NBA draft. The Laker’s adventure lasted until 1971.

Similarly, Baylor was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959. He is an 11-time NBA All-Star and a 10-time NBA First Team member.

In 1977, Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He had a very successful playing career, leaving his mark as a great shooter, strong rebounder, and careful passer.

He is regarded as one of the best small forwards of all time, as well as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Baylor finished his 846-game career with 23,149 points, 11,463 rebounds, and 3,650 assists. Elgin scored 61 points in Game 5 of the 1962 NBA Finals, an NBA Finals record that has yet to be broken.

Baylor devoted his post-playing life and basketball, serving as the Los Angeles Clippers general manager for 22 years. He was named NBA Best Executive of the Year in 2006.

In 2009, SLAM Magazine ranked him 11th among the Top 50 NBA Players of All Time.

Gary Tillery and Omri Amrany created a statue of Baylor, which was unveiled on April 6, 2018, before a Lakers game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center.

4. Julius Erving

Former basketball player Julius Winfield Erving In the first round of the 1972 NBA draft, he was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks.

However, due to contract issues, he did not play for the Bucks.

He was a member of the Virginia Squires, New York Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers. He began his career with the American Basketball League (ABA) and was the league’s most influential player when it merged with the NBA.

With 30,026 points, Erving is the eighth-highest scorer in ABA/NBA history (combined).

He is still regarded as one of the best dunkers in NBA history, and during his playing career, he was known for slam dunking from the free-throw line, which he demonstrated in slam dunk competitions.

Erving is the only player who has been named NBA and ABA MVP. In 1993, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Similarly, in 1994, he was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team. In 2004, he was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame.

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Erving finished his career third in scoring, third in field goals made, fifth in field goals attempted, and first in steals. He is a fantastic basketball player.

3. Kevin Durant

Kevin Wayne Durant is a professional basketball player who currently plays for the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. In the first round of the 2007 NBA draft, he was selected by the Seattle Supersonics / Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kevin played for the Golden State Warriors, who won championships in 2017 and 2018. He previously played for the Brooklyn Nets and the Seattle Supersonics. Durant also spent one season as a collegiate basketball player for the University of Texas.

Durant, regarded as one of the most active players in the NBA, has received numerous awards and honors. In high school, he was the second-best player in his class.

Similarly, while at the University of Texas, he was the first freshman to be named Naismith College Player of the Year.

Durant has already won two NBA Championships in his professional career. He has also been named NBA MVP once, Finals MVP twice, and NBA All-Star MVP twice.

Similarly, he has won NBA scoring titles multiple times. He also has two Olympic gold medals and the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

In addition, he has been named to nine All-NBA teams and eleven NBA All-Star teams. The list continues to grow.

Off the court, Durant is loaded with cash. He is one of the world’s highest-paid basketball players. He has had endorsement deals with major corporations such as Nike and Foot Locker.

2. Larry Bird

Larry Joe Bird, a former American basketball player, is regarded as one of the best small forwards of all time and one of the best basketball players the NBA has ever seen.

Bird has also served as an NBA coach and executive. In the 1978 NBA draft, he was chosen by the Boston Celtics. In his debut game, he had 14 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in a 114-106 victory.

The journey that began in 1978 with Celtics went on until his retirement, i.e., 1992. He then worked as a coach for Indiana Pacers. He later became the president of Pacer’s basketball operations.

Bird is the only man in NBA history to have won NBA MVP, Coach of the Year, and Executive of the year. He was equally good inside and outside the court.

He won three NBA Championships in the years 1981, 1984, and 1986. Similarly, he received NBA Finals MVP Award twice and regular season MVP Awards thrice in consecutive years.

In his NBA career, Bird scored 24.3 points per game on a .496 field goal percentage, .886 free throw percentage, and a 37.6 percentage on three-point shots on average.

Similarly, he recorded 10.0 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game on average.

The famous Bird became the first player in NBA history to have shot 50% or better than that on field goals, 90% on free throws, and 40% on three-pointers in one NBA season. He built this record twice.

Larry Bird was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame twice, first as an individual player in 1998 and then as a “Dream Team” member in 2010.

1. Lebron James

LeBron Raymone James Sr. currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers in NBA. The American professional basketball player is regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time and has been compared to the best players NBA ever had.

The Cleveland Cavaliers picked James in the 2003 NBA draft. He then became the first player for the Cavaliers to win the NBA Rookie of the Year Award. Apart from the Cavaliers and Lakers, he played for Miami Heat.

James has scored 27.2 points, 7.2 assists, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 1.4 threes per game on average in his career.

Similarly, James is the only player to win NBA championships with three franchises, i.e., the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Miami Heat, and the Los Angeles Lakers, also becoming the NBA Finals MVP.

He has played in ten NBA Finals and has won four NBA championships. Similarly, he is also the recipient of four NBA Finals MVP awards and four NBA MVP awards. He has also won Olympic gold medals twice.

James made several records in his career: eighth in career assists, all-time playoff points, and third in all-time points.

He is also the 17-time All-NBA Team, 5-time NBA All-Defensive First Team, and 17-time All-Star.

James’ life outside the court is equally fascinating and inspiring with his bulky net worth and philanthropic projects.


Are you satisfied with his list? Did we mention the same of your favorite small forward? Did we miss someone? Make sure to comment!

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