Photo Credit: Fadeawayworld.net
As we continue to part 3 of 5 on my list of Top 5 by position, this week brings me to the Small Forwards. The position had a lot of choices to pick from, this was a fun and difficult list to rank. So here's the latest entry in my series of top 5 all time.
Arguably one of the best Robin’s of all time, Scottie Pippen was a little known draft pick out of Central Arkansas and became one of the all time greats. The 6-time champion was one of the best perimeter defenders ever. He guarded Magic in his first NBA Finals and locked him up full court. His career numbers don’t wow you, 16 pts / 6 rebs / 5 asts / 2 steals per game, his impact on winning separates him from the pack.
Big Game James. One of the best playoff performers at his position. The highly drafted SF out of North Carolina was an instant stud for the Showtime Lakers. Career 17 pts / 5 rebs / 3 asts player was a 7 time All-Star and 3 time champion. Worthy was one of the best on the fast break, but his low post game rivaled Kevin McHale.
Nicknamed “The Truth” by Shaquille O’Neal, Paul Pierce was a tough minded scorer who consistently proved doubters wrong. The former Kansas product wasn’t expected to have a great career, maybe just a good one. He turned his 19 pts / 5 rebs / 3 asts career into a Hall of Fame career, mostly in Boston.
He was the “Human Highlight Reel’, Dominique Wilkins’ dunks are stuff of legend. However, don’t get caught up in the dunk. He was an elite scorer that could go head up with Jordan and Bird. His playoff battles with Bird are legendary. He was a career 24 pts / 6 rebs / 3 asts player but injuries limited his greatness.
Hondo was his name! John Havleck was the best player on championship Boston Celtics teams in the '70s and was on the dominant ‘60s championship teams. He was a star sixth 6th man before we knew there could be a valuable player called the 6th man. He was a career 20 pts / 6 rebs / 4 asts player, won 8 championships, 11 time All-NBA, and 8 time all defense.
Melo is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. He was a 2013 scoring champion and his mid-range game was unstoppable. He was a career 23 pts scorer but the championship eluded him for this career. Anthony was a 10-time All-Star, 6-time All-NBA Selection for the Nuggets, Knicks, Thunder and Blazers.
#5 - Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor was one of the first high-flying acts in the NBA's great history, he was the precursor to Erving, Jordan, etc. Baylor was also an underrated rebounder as he averaged double digit rebounds for his career. While playing in an era with dominant players like Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell, Baylor was able to hold his one post a career 27 pts / 13 rebs / 4 asts numbers. Baylor is one of greatest players never to win an MVP award because of the greats he played with in his era. Baylor is one of 10 players in league history to make the All-NBA First Team at least 10 times, amazing that he doesn't have an MVP award to go with his career numbers. He was also a great league executive after his playing career was finished.
#4 - Kevin Durant
No one has ever seen the type of scorer Kevin Durant has become in his career so far. He’s practically a 7 foot shooting guard, one of the greatest shooters we have ever seen in NBA history. Durant is a nightmare to defend with unlimited range from 3, the handle of a guard and he can also finish at the rim. A former MVP, Durant is a career 27 pts / 7 rebs / 4 asts player as his accolades will only continue to grow. He is a scoring champion and a 2-time NBA Finals MVP. If he remains healthy for the rest of his career, he should be able to at least finish top 3 in all time scoring. He will finish his career higher on this all time list for sure, as only the players I have ahead of him have won an NBA MVP award.
#3 - Julius Erving
Dr. J was the most popular player of his era, he’s the godfather of the modern style of NBA, a street ball legend, ABA god and NBA legend. If Magic and Bird saved the game of basketball, Dr. J single-handedly kept it on live support. Erving was a dominant scorer and his high flying plays are stuff of legend. A lot the the mystique surrounding the Dr. is because he played early in his career in the ABA. You only heard whippers of his greatness, the dunks, the plays, etc. There was little film of his games and the legend of his street ball plays at the Rucker falls right into that legend. Erving was a great ambassador for the game and he was class all the way as he was a great representative for the NBA. He only won 1 NBA Championship but won multiple ABA Championships earlier in his career. He was a career 24 pts / 8 rebs / 4 asts player who doesn’t get enough credit for how much of a team player he was.
#2 - Larry Bird
Larry Legend wasn’t a really good white player in a league with black players. He was one of the greatest players the league has ever seen. He won 3 straight MVP awards at this peak and only a devastating back injury robbed us of his greatness. He was a lethal scorer, but his passing, defense and toughness sometimes go overlooked. His 24 pts / 10 rebs / 6 asts numbers are amazing, but his 50% career field goal percentage as a pure shooter is what stands out to me. He was a 3-time champion, Rookie of the Year, 10 time All NBA and 3 time All Defense section. He was a killer on the court, could rip your heart out with a 3 ball, steal, or last second shot. He was just a winner making winning plays.
#1 - Lebron James
The greatest small forward ever, likely because he doesn't play like a traditional small forward. He is a point guard trapped in a linebacker’s body. LeBron James will go down as one of the greatest to ever play when his career is over. Always compared to Michael Jordan, he’s classically more Magic Johnson than MJ. He literally has no weakness in his game, unless you count free throws, that made him impossible to defend. His defense is almost as good as his offense. He is a career 27 pts / 7 rebs / 7 asts player, James at one point led his teams to 8 straight NBA Finals appearances. LeBron is an unreal combination of size, speed, strength and basketball IQ. James is a 4-time MVP, 11-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA selection, 6-time All-defense selection and Rookie of the Year.