Sports

The Best Small Forwards of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated November 22, 2018 119.1k votes 17.3k voters 212.3k views 135 items

List Rules Only NBA players who played small forward for most of their career

Who are the best small forwards of all time? A small forward serves a critical role in any basketball game, whether NCAA or pro, but this list is primarily concerned with the top small forwards in the NBA. Fans of the game know how important the small forward is: he is often one of the main scorers on the team. The small forward is also versatile, able to fill many roles for a team. Which small forward deserves the title of the best ever? That's for you to decide, with your votes. You can also add any small forwards who are missing from this list, and rerank it any way you want.

When it comes to deciding the best small forwards in the NBA, well, arguments might ensue. Everyone has a favorite -- whether it's LeBron James and his incredible size, strength and versatility, Larry Bird and his extraordinary shooting abilities or a modern era shooter with amazing shooting ability like Kevin Durant. Arguments can be made that virtually any one of the players listed here could be the best ever; certainly they are all among the top NBA players of all time, too.

If you're up for more voting, check out these lists of the greatest power forwards and the greatest shooting guards in NBA history, too. These are the top 10 small forwards in the NBA.
list ordered by
1
LeBron James is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers

Position: Small forward, Power forward

Age: 35

Birthplace: Akron, Ohio

Number: 23

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2
Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Boston Celtics

Position: Small forward, Power forward

Age: 63

Birthplace: West Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana, United States of America

More Larry Bird 

#19 of 158 The Best NBA Player Nicknames #56 of 2,198 The Best Athletes Of All Timelisted on Famous Left Handed People

3
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Philadelphia 76ers, New York Nets

Position: Small forward

Age: 69

Birthplace: Roosevelt, New York, United States of America

More Julius Erving 

#1 of 158 The Best NBA Player Nicknames #59 of 113 The Most Influential Contemporary Americans #6 of 2,198 The Best Athletes Of All Time

4
Elgin Baylor is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Los Angeles Lakers

Position: Small forward

Age: 85

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America

More Elgin Baylor 

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5
Kevin Durant is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Seattle Supersonics

Position: Small forward

Age: 31

Birthplace: Washington, D.C., United States of America

Number: 35

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6
Dominique Wilkins is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic

Position: Small forward

Age: 59

Birthplace: Paris, France

More Dominique Wilkins 

#238 of 2,198 The Best Athletes Of All Time #3 of 28 The Greatest Small Forwards of the 1980s #18 of 858 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

7
Scottie Pippen is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls

Position: Small forward

Age: 54

Birthplace: Hamburg, Arkansas

More Scottie Pippen 

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8
James Worthy is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Los Angeles Lakers

Position: Small forward

Age: 58

Birthplace: USA, Gastonia, North Carolina

More James Worthy 

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9
John Havlicek is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
10
Kawhi Leonard is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
little JP Tokoto added Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 28

Birthplace: Riverside, California

Number: 2

More Kawhi Leonard 

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11
Rick Barry is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
New York Nets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors

Position: Small forward

Age: 75

Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States of America

More Rick Barry 

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12
Paul Pierce is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets

Position: Small forward

Age: 42

Birthplace: Oakland, California, United States of America

Number: 34

More Paul Pierce 

#25 of 158 The Best NBA Player Nicknames #1,758 of 2,198 The Best Athletes Of All Time #52 of 858 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

13
Vince Carter is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
tbb911 added Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 42

Birthplace: Daytona Beach, Florida

Number: 25

More Vince Carter 

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14
Tracy McGrady is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 40

Birthplace: Bartow, Florida, United States of America

More Tracy McGrady 

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15
Bernard King is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
wiabux added Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets

Position: Small forward

Age: 63

Birthplace: New York City, New York

More Bernard King 

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16
Carmelo Anthony is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets

Position: Small forward, Forward

Age: 35

Birthplace: Red Hook, New York City, New York, United States of America

Number: 7

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17
Charles Barkley is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets

Position: Small forward, Power forward

Age: 56

Birthplace: Leeds, Alabama

More Charles Barkley 

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18
Paul Arizin is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Philadelphia Warriors

Age: Dec. at 78 (1928-2006)

Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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#150 of 158 The Best NBA Player Nicknames #27 of 239 The Best White Players in NBA History

19
Alex English is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
wiabux added Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks

Position: Small forward

Age: 65

Birthplace: Columbia, South Carolina, United States of America

More Alex English 

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20
Paul George is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
ZachCarlson added Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 29

Birthplace: Palmdale, California

Number: 24

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21
Clyde Drexler is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
lauren-charbono added Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 57

Birthplace: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

More Clyde Drexler 

#2 of 32 The Best NBA Shooting Guards of the 90s #9 of 28 The Greatest Small Forwards of the 1980s

22
Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Milwaukee Bucks

Position: Small forward, Point forward

Age: 25

Birthplace: Athens, Greece

Number: 34

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#2 of 82 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today #40 of 858 The Top NBA Players Of All Time

23
Chris Mullin is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 56

Birthplace: New York City, New York

More Chris Mullin 

#124 of 858 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #25 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

24
Adrian Dantley is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
JohnWade added Dallas Mavericks, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz

Position: Shooting guard, Small forward

Age: 64

Birthplace: Washington, D.C.

More Adrian Dantley 

#796 of 2,198 The Best Athletes Of All Time #61 of 858 The Top NBA Players Of All Timelisted on Famous Left Handed People

25
Grant Hill is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons

Position: Small forward

Age: 47

Birthplace: Dallas, Texas, United States of America

Number: 33

More Grant Hill 

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