The backcourts have now been decided, with Magic Johnson being considered the best point guard and Michael Jordan is considered the best shooting guard ever. We now move onto the small forward position. In today’s NBA, the small forward position is littered with talent, with players like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard all playing that spot. Now, this spot is one that can be played in a variety of ways. Many great small forwards were great playmakers, while others were more of the high-flying, scoring type of players. What they all have in common is that they are tall guys that can handle the ball with ease and defend well. So what are my criteria for my top five small forwards ever? Well, firstly these players must display a certain amount of skill, both offensively and defensively. These players must have NBA championships to their name, so no Dominique Wilkins. These small forwards must have also dominated their position for a significant amount of time, so no Rick Barry and James Worthy. Then throw in statistics and plenty of accolades and you have my top five small forwards of all time. So let’s dive in and see who came in at number five on this list.
5) Julius Erving
The number five small forward of all time to me is one that many people would have much higher on their list, Dr. J, Julius Erving. Dr. J was one of the best ABA players of his era and he came into the NBA as a superstar. If you combine his ABA and NBA stats he would be a top-eight scorer ever, which is incredibly impressive when you see all the players in the category. Erving was the first real high flyer in the league, and many view him as the first really talented dunker in the league. Without Dr. J, we may not have seen some of the greatest players ever compete in the slam dunk contest. Dr. J. would go on to be an eleven-time all-star and a seven-time All-NBA selection. Erving was a career twenty-four-point scorer, averaged over eight rebounds and over four assists. Dr. J was also an efficient scorer, as he shot over fifty percent for his career. Dr. J. won an MVP in 1980-81 as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers and led them to a title a few years later in 1983. There is not one thing that Dr. J did not accomplish in his career and had he won more than one title, I would have had him much higher on my list. But Julius Erving is still considered my fifth best small forward of all time.
4) Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant comes in at number four on my list, as he is still playing and so I felt it too premature to put him any higher. The University of Texas alum was selected second overall by the Seattle Supersonics and had an immediate impact on the league. The Trail Blazers certainly regretted drafting Greg Oden, as Durant was an all-star very quickly in the tough West. Durant struggled to get over the hump when it came to playoff basketball with Oklahoma City, but that all changed in 2016 when he joined the Golden State Warriors. He is now a two-time champion after back to back titles in 2017 and 2018. Now many called Durant a sell-out for leaving Oklahoma City to join the Warriors already strong roster. But why fault someone for wanting to improve his situation and win an NBA title in the process? Whether you like Durant or not, his statistics are undeniable. Kevin has averaged over twenty-seven points for his career, over seven rebounds, and four assists. Durant has also become a much better defender since joining the Warriors, averaging over a block and steal per game in his career. Not only are his statistics undeniable, so are his accolades so far. He is a ten-time All-Star, a four-time scoring champion, an All-NBA selection nine times, and won the league MVP in the 2013-14 season. Durant also has performed on the biggest stage in basketball, winning back to back NBA finals MVP’s in 2017 and 2018. Durant is still in the prime of his career, despite his major injury last year, so he could definitely move up. For now, he remains number four on my list.
3) John Havlicek
The number three small forward on this list is a guy many people forget about, because of the era he played in, but John Havlicek is my number three. This Hall of Famer was a thirteen-time all-star and won eight championships in his career, the most out of any small forward on this list. But Havlicek was one of the greatest all-around players of all-time, which is evident by his accolades and statistics. He averaged over twenty points in eight consecutive seasons, showing that he was an elite scorer in his day. He also is a career six rebound and nearly five-assist guy, so offensively he could do it all. He also was on the NBA All-Defensive team eight times, which shows that Hondo was no slouch on defense. Eleven All-NBA selections later plus an NBA finals MVP later and Havlicek has the resume of a top-three player ever. The only thing preventing Hondo from being higher is the lack of competition he faced in his hay-day, but make no mistake about it John Havlicek was still a complete basketball player. He is more than deserving of a top-three spot on my list.
2) Larry Bird
Coming in at number two on this list is the leader of the 1980’s Celtics dynasty, the true white mamba, Larry Bird. When Larry stepped onto the court at Indiana State, he certainly did not look like a future Hall of Famer. But once on the floor, Bird’s court vision and jumper were hard to miss. Larry was drafted sixth overall by the Boston Celtics in 1978. Once Bird arrived, he earned the respect of his team very quickly and soon led them to the NBA title in 1981. After a couple of years, Bird would go on to win two more titles, as well as three consecutive league MVPs from 1984-1986. The fact Bird won those consecutive MVPs in an era with Dr. J, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were incredibly impressive. For Larry’s career, he averaged twenty-four points, ten rebounds, and over six assists, while shooting forty-nine percent from the field. Throw in twelve all-star selections, ten All-NBA selections, and three All-Defensive selections and it shows that Bird was the total package. Bird was the first truly great three-point shooter in an era where the three-ball was not really used. While Bird was one of the least athletic players in his era, that did not slow him down from being one of the most feared. Larry Bird will never be forgotten for all that he brought to the game, and that is why Bird is my second best small forward of all time.
1) Lebron James
For the third straight list, I found it very easy to pick who the greatest player at this position was. Some consider this guy the greatest player of all-time, and while that may be debatable what is not is that Lebron James is the greatest small forward ever. Lebron for a long time was an unreal talent that could not win the title. But Lebron went on a tear this decade that few players have ever done. Lebron made it to eight straight NBA Finals, essentially owning the entire Eastern Conference, and won the NBA title three times. Lebron is also a 3-time Finals MVP and has the accolades of an all-time great to go with it. Lebron is a four-time league MVP, a sixteen-time all-star, a fifteen-time All-NBA selection, and a six-time All-Defensive team selection. Those accolades alone would make Lebron number one on this list, but LeBron’s career statistics are even more impressive. Going into year sixteen of his career, Lebron currently averages twenty-seven points, over seven rebounds, over seven assists and over a steal and a half a game. Lebron is also efficient, with a career fifty percent field goal percentage and shoots over thirty-four percent from three-point range. Lebron has his critics (Skip Bayless) for not improving at the free-throw line and apparently not being “clutch”, but that certainly has not slowed him down. He also has his fans in the media (Nick Wright) and has been a great ambassador for the game, both on and off the court. So to me, Lebron may very well go down as the greatest ever, and while I have him at number two right now, I certainly have him as the undisputed number one small forward ever.
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