Sports

The Best Small Forwards of All Time 

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
Updated July 13, 2020 124.1k votes 18k voters 217.8k views 137 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
Small forward and Power forward from Akron, Ohio, United States of America

Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers

Age: 35

Number: 23

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2
Larry Bird is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward and Power forward from West Baden Springs, French Lick Township, Indiana, United States of America

Teams: Boston Celtics

Age: 63

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#4 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #18 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #131 of 256 Celebrities Who Should Run for President

3
Kevin Durant is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Washington, D.C., United States of America

Teams: Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Seattle Supersonics

Age: 31

Number: 35

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The Best KD 10 Colorways, Ranked #21 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,943 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time

4
Scottie Pippen is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Hamburg, Arkansas, United States of America

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls

Age: 54

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#22 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,867 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #92 of 95 The Most Overrated Players In The NBA Today

5
Kawhi Leonard is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
little JP Tokoto added Shooting guard and Small forward from Riverside, California

Teams: Toronto Raptors, San Antonio Spurs

Age: 28

Number: 2

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#30 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #13 of 98 The Most Likable Players In The NBA Today #2 of 320 The Top 100+ NBA Players Today

6
Tracy McGrady is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Shooting guard and Small forward from Bartow, Florida, United States of America

Teams: Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors

Age: 40

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#35 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #2,055 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #7 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

7
Paul Pierce is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Oakland, California, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Washington Wizards

Age: 42

Number: 34

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#43 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,978 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #190 of 343 The Most Obnoxious Athletes

8
Vince Carter is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
tbb911 added Shooting guard and Small forward from Daytona Beach, Florida, United States of America

Teams: Sacramento Kings, Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, + more

Age: 42

Number: 25

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#40 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,929 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #13 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

9
Dominique Wilkins is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Paris, France

Teams: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers

Age: 59

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#36 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #565 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #8 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

10
Rick Barry is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States of America

Teams: New York Nets, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors, San Francisco Warriors

Age: 75

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#46 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #18 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA Historylisted on Athletes You Didn't Know Were Conservative

11
John Havlicek is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
12
Elgin Baylor is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Washington, D.C., United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

Age: 85

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#212 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #520 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #11 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

13
James Worthy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Gastonia, North Carolina, United States of America

Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

Age: 58

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#37 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #2,071 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #8 of 107 The Greatest Lakers of All Time

14
Charles Barkley is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward and Power forward from USA, Leeds, Alabama

Teams: Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers, Houston Rockets

Age: 56

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15
Paul Arizin is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time

Teams: Philadelphia Warriors

Age: Dec. at 78 (1928-2006)

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#56 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #21 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History #2 of 23 The Best Small Forwards of the 60s

16
Carmelo Anthony is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward and Forward from Red Hook, New York City, New York, United States of America

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Denver Nuggets

Age: 35

Number: 7

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#68 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #2,137 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #25 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

17
Paul George is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
ZachCarlson added Shooting guard and Small forward from Palmdale, California

Teams: Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers

Age: 29

Number: 24

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#67 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #22 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History #29 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

18
Clyde Drexler is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
lauren-charbono added Shooting guard and Small forward from New Orleans, Louisiana, United States of America

Teams: Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets

Age: 57

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#49 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #670 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #11 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History

19
Giannis Antetokounmpo is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward and Point forward from Athens, Greece

Teams: Milwaukee Bucks

Age: 25

Number: 34

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#47 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #1,734 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #164 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History

20
Grant Hill is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Dallas, Texas, United States of America

Teams: Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons

Age: 47

Number: 33

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#72 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #23 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Ringslisted on Mormon Politicians

21
Chris Mullin is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Shooting guard and Small forward from New York City, New York

Teams: Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors

Age: 56

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#74 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #21 of 178 The Greatest Shooting Guards in NBA History #58 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

22
Julius Erving is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Small forward from Roosevelt, New York, United States of America

Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, New York Nets

Age: 69

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#521 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #999 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #1,050 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

23
Bernard King is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
wiabux added Small forward from New York City, New York

Teams: Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks

Age: 63

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#77 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #748 of 2,181 The Best Athletes Of All Time #26 of 151 The Best NBA Players With No Championship Rings

24
Michael Jordan is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
Shooting guard and Small forward from New York City, New York, United States of America

Teams: Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls

Age: 56

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25
Peja Stojaković is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Small Forwards of All Time
nir-einess added Small forward from Požega, Croatia

Teams: Indiana Pacers, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans

Age: 42

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#100 of 871 The Top NBA Players Of All Time #16 of 243 The Best White Players in NBA History #9 of 136 The Best European NBA Players of All Time