Every decade in the NBA has had its fair share of all-time great small forwards. Whether it was Elgin Baylor and John Havlicek in the 1960's or Julius Erving, Larry Bird, James Worthy and Dominique Wilkins in the 1980's or the current crop led by LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Most of these players have been at the top of the food chain in their era but how do they fare when put under one ranking? Similar to our previous all-time lists on other positions such as the shooting guard and center spot, these players are ranked on the basis of a few factors.
The factors being the number of championships won, individual greatness and the team glory that it brought to the franchise, and last but not least the impact of their legacy on the game.
#5 Scottie Pippen
Career Averages: 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.0 steals
Notable Achievement: He is the only player to win an NBA title and Olympic gold medal in the same year twice (1992, 1996)
Scottie Pippen is probably the most underrated player ever because he played under the shadow of arguably the greatest player of all time - Michael Jordan. Although limited, his importance in the six titles the Chicago Bulls won in the 1990's cannot be understated.
Pippen is also probably the first player who could guard multiple positions from 1 to 4. He made defensive versatility look cool and flashy.
Over the course of his 17-year career (13 with the Bulls), Pippen was named an All-Star seven times and eight times was he a member of the All-NBA teams. Although he was a handy second go-to-guy on the team, Pippen's calling card was his defense and that shows in his 10 All-NBA Defensive Team selections.
#4 Julius Erving
Career averages: 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 50.6% FG
Notable achievements: He is the only player to be named MVP of the ABA and NBA
Julius Erving, or simply known as Dr. J, is an icon of the game. The ultimate competitor, Dr. J is a huge reason the Philadelphia 76ers have a prestigious history to fall back on.
During his NBA career (1976-87), the franchise won their third title (1983) and witnessed numerous long Playoff trips in the 80's that would end either at the hands of the Celtics in the East or at the hands of the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
And don't forget, the league missed a part of his prime when he played in the ABA with the Virginia Squires and New Jersey Nets (currently the Brooklyn Nets) from 1971-76.
#3 Kevin Durant
Career Averages: 27.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 48.8% FG
As great as Kevin Durant looked in the most recent NBA Finals, it counts for just one championship next to his name and you've got to have at least three to crack the conversation for the greatest player at this position. Simply racking up points and having superhuman numbers to show off for isn't going to be enough because the players ahead of him are even better.
It's still a huge achievement, though, to be ranked third on this list and remember Durant is just 28 years old (turns 29 on Sep. 29) with easily another four-five productive years still ahead of him.
In 10 seasons, Durant's been named to eight All-Star teams and seven All-NBA teams.He's won the Rookie of the Year (2008), league MVP (2014), All-Star Game MVP (2012) and the Finals MVP (2017). That's quite a trophy cabinet but unfortunately for Durant, the next two players on the list have won some of these awards multiple times.
#2 Larry Bird
Career Averages: 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 49.6% FG
Notable Achievement: He is the only person in NBA history to be named the MVP, Coach of the year and Executive of the year.
Larry Bird easily makes the cut for one of the most competitive players ever. However, Bird along with Magic Johnson will always be looked on as saviors of the game. It was his greatness that could more or less guarantee the Boston Celtics making a deep Playoff run each year
In his 13 years, Bird was selected to 12 All-Star games and 10 All-NBA teams but here are the numbers that matter - 3-time Champion, 3-time Finals MVP and 3-time league MVP (one of only three players to win three consecutive league MVP's).
He was a member of the famed 1992 Olympic Dream team and is one of only two players to record a 50-40-90 shooting percentage season twice.
#1 LeBron James
Career Averages: 27.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 50.1% FG
Notable Achievement: He is the only player since the 1960's to reach seven straight NBA Finals
Athletically, LeBron James is a physical specimen and his body of work is what sets him apart. He's easily been the league's best player over the major part of the last decade and winning three championships has earned him some much-needed respect.
Every year of his 14 seasons in the league, James has been in the top-tier of talent. Rookie of the Year, 13-time All-Star, 13-time All-NBA selections and a four-time league MVP (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013). He's also been part of two Olympic gold medal-winning teams in 2008 and 2012.
Over the past decade, every year his supremacy has been challenged by somebody different yet before the next season, the safest choice for MVP is still The King.
It's his ability to do everything on both ends of the floor. Now, he doesn't need to lockdown defense in the regular season, in order to preserve himself for the Playoffs but when called upon he can be physically imposing and play D.