Top 50 Small Forwards in NBA History: King James Takes the Throne

1LeBron James125827.150.434.
2Larry Bird89724.349.637.6106.31.73x12x1x10x3x2x
3Kevin Durant8492749.328.
4John Havlicek127020.843.9N/A6.34.81.2013x011x8x1x
5Elgin Baylor84627.443.1N/A13.54.3N/A011x1x10x00
6Julius Erving124324.250.629.88.24.224x16x2x12x3x0
7Scottie Pippen117816.147.332.66.45.2207x1x7x6x0
8Rick Barry102024.845.629.76.74.92012x1x10x1x1x
9Paul Pierce134319.744.536.
10Paul Arizin71322.342.1N/A8.62.3N/A010x1x4x1x0
11James Worthy92617.652.
12Kawhi Leonard51818.649.
13Carmelo Anthony111423.644.834.86.52.91010x06x00
14Alex English119321.550.721.
15Dominique Wilkins107424.846.
16Adrian Dantley95524.35417.15.73106x02x00
17Billy Cunningham77021.245.226.310.44.31.81x5x05x1x0
18Chris Mullin98618.250.938.
19Tracy McGrady93819.643.533.
20David Thompson59222.750.525.54.13.3105x2x3x00
21Vince Carter154116.743.537.14.33.1108x02x00
22Jamaal Wilkes82817.749.913.
23Grant Hill102616.748.331.464.11.207x05x00
24Larry Johnson70716.248.433.
25Bernard King87422.551.817.25.83.3104x04x00
26Paul George64619.943.3386.43.31.706x05x00
27Shawn Marion116315.248.433.
28Kiki Vandeweghe81019.752.538.
29Glen Rice100018.345.6404.42.1103x1x2x1x0
30Mark Aguirre9232048.431.253.10.703x002x0
31Peja Stojaković804174540.
32Marques Johnson69120.151.815.273.61.305x03x00
33Dan Majerle95511.443.
34Robert Horry1107742.534.14.82.1000007x0
35Ron Artest99113.241.433.
36Bruce Bowen8736.140.939.
37Andre Iguodala11221246.633.
38Jack Twyman89319.245N/A6.62.3N/A06x02x00
39Cliff Hagan83917.745.4N/A6.63.2N/A06x02x1x0
40Jerry Stackhouse97016.940.930.
41Hedo Türkoğlu99711.142.638.442.80.8000000
42Reggie Lewis45017.648.8204.32.61.301x0000
43Jamal Mashburn61119.141.834.55.44101x01x00
44Rick Fox9309.64534.93.82.8100003x0
45Shane Battier9778.643.738.44.21.8100002x0
46Stephen Jackson85815.141.433.
47Eddie Johnson11991647.233.542.10.6000000
48Gerald Wallace83211.946.931.
49Richard Jefferson118112.646.437.6420.700001x0
50Rashard Lewis104914.945.

1. LeBron James

The question shouldn’t be whether LeBron James is the greatest small forward of all-time, but rather if he is the greatest basketball player in the sport’s history. James has surpassed all of his adversaries on this list, as he is the only player to rank in the top 15 in points, assists, and steals. James is by far the best passer at the position and has the most assists per game averages (7.4) of any player on this list. James has always been a highly efficient player and holds a career 50.4 shooting percentage. In addition to his 4 MVP trophies, James is a 16-time All-Star and 3-time world champion. I expect those numbers to improve before he ends his career and for James to finish as the top scorer in NBA history.

2. Larry Bird

Bird’s greatness on the basketball court far exceeds his scoring ability, as Bird also holds averages of 10 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. In addition to James, Bird is the only other player on this list to average better than 6 assists per game for his entire career. He also has the 3rd-most All-Star appearances of any player on this list and won three titles with the Boston Celtics. In his three championships, Bird was awarded MVP of the Finals twice and is one of only four players to have won the award more than once. Including his three rings and MVP trophies, Bird was 12-time All-Star and 10-time All-NBA member.

3. Kevin Durant

Along with LeBron James, Durant is the only active player to make the top 10 on this list. If Durant retired today, he would be in the conversation as the greatest scorer in NBA history. Standing over 7 feet tall, Durant is unlike any player we’ve ever seen. With a silky-smooth jump shot and a guard’s handle, he can score at all three levels with ease. Durant has averaged 27 points per game on 49.3 percent shooting in his career, which has helped him make 10 All-Star appearances. In his time with the Golden State Warriors, Durant dominated the playoffs and won two titles and Finals MVPs. Durant is also a 9-time All-NBA member who should be able to crack the top 25 all-time scoring list before his career is finished.

4. John Havlicek

Havlicek is one of the more decorated players on this list. Despite never winning an MVP award, Havlicek went on to make 13 All-Star appearances and won All-Star MVP twice. He’s also 16th on the all-time scoring list and won 8 championships during his career- the most on this list. In addition to his All-Star appearances, Havlicek also made 11 All-NBA teams.

5. Elgin Baylor

Baylor remained one of his generation’s best scorers and was one of the best in the NBA before the three-point shot was introduced. He holds career averages of 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. Despite not making the top 25 scoring list, Baylor would be on the list if the three-point shot had been counted during his playing career. Surprisingly, Baylor never won an MVP or championships but made the All-Star game 11 times and the All-NBA team 10 times. The Lakers legend also holds the 6th best scoring performance, as he put up 71 points in a single game in 1960.

6. Julius Erving

Dr. J remains one of the most exciting high-flyers in NBA history. Erving holds ridiculous averages of 24.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. He’s tied for the most All-Star game appearances on this list with 16 and won 4 MVP awards. Erving also won 4 championships, including one during his time in the ABA.

7. Scottie Pippen

While Pippen’s numbers aren’t as impressive as the players above him on this list, Pippen’s impact on winning is his best calling card. He’s a 6-time NBA Champion and was known as Michael Jordan’s sidekick. Jordan himself stated that none of his championships were possible without Pippen’s contributions to Chicago’s success. While Pippen was a great all-around player, he’s known most for his silky-smooth scoring style and defense. Pippen was a 7-time All-Star and 10-time All-Defensive team member.

8. Rick Barry

Barry is known for his famous underhand free-throw shooting mechanics and finished as an 89.3 percent shooter from the foul line. Barry is also one of the best scorers of all-time and averaged 24.8 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting from the field. Barry made the All-Star game twelve times in his career and also earned All-NBA honors 10 times.

9. Paul Pierce

As Pierce was known to basketball fans, the Truth was one of the most clutch performers in NBA history. In addition to his playoff heroics, Pierce won a championship with the Boston Celtics and ended his career number 15 on the all-time scoring list. Pierce is also a 10-time All-Star and won Finals MVP during his lone championship win with the Celtics.

10. Paul Arizin

Arizin is very much unknown by NBA fans of the modern era. Before joining the US Marine Corps, Arizin was one of the NBA’s best players from 1950-1962. In his twelve-year career, he made 10 All-Star appearances and won a title, the Philadelphia Warriors. His career averages include 22.3 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

11. James Worthy

Another Laker legend on this list, Big Game James was a 7-time All-Star and played all twelve seasons with the Lakers. During his 7 consecutive All-Star appearances, Worthy averaged better than 19 points, 4.5 rebounds, and a steal per game. In his 12-year career, Worthy would win 3 titles with the Lakers, including the 1987 Finals MVP, which cemented Worthy among the other Laker greats.

12. Kawhi Leonard

In just nine NBA seasons, Leonard has already compiled a resume that most players only dream of achieving. Since entering the NBA in 2011, we’ve seen Leonard make the jump from rotation player, to starter, to one of the best two-way players the league has ever seen. Leonard is already a 4-time All-Star, an All-Star game MVP, a 5-time All-Defensive team member, a 2-time DPOY, a 2-time Champion, and a 2-time Finals MVP. In 2019, Leonard carried the Toronto Raptors to their first-ever championship in franchise history and had a playoff performance for the ages.

13. Carmelo Anthony

Although Melo is nearing the end of his career, he was one of the most dominant scorers in NBA history. Entering the league in 2003 with LeBron James, Carmelo went on to average 21 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game. In his 18-year career, Anthony would make 10 All-Star appearances, win a scoring title, and average better than 20 points per game sixteen years in a row. Of those sixteen years, Melo put up at least 25 per game nine times, including 28.7 points per game in 2012. Anthony currently sits at 17th all-time in scoring, and although he has never won a championship, Anthony has all the makings of a Hall of Fame career.

14. Alex English

English is one of the best scorers in NBA history. He ended his 16-year career as the 20th highest scorer in league history and averaged better than 21 points per game throughout his career. In addition to winning a scoring title in 1982, English was an 8-time All-Star and 3-time All-NBA member. The 6’7” wing cemented his place as the best Denver Nugget in franchise history and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.

15. Dominique Wilkins

Like Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins may be more known for his ferocious dunks than his basketball skills. In his 16-year career, Dominique cemented himself among the NBA’s elite, making 9 All-Star teams and winning a scoring title in 1985. Wilkins is also a 7-time All-NBA Team member and averaged 24.8 points per game throughout his career. Despite being a terrific scorer, Wilkins only stands at number 15 on my list due to his lack of team success. In his prime with the Atlanta Hawks, Wilkins failed to win any championships with the team. Still, sustained individual greatness, including a 13th place finish in all-time scoring that solidifies his ranking on my list.

16. Adrian Dantley

Although few fans today know much about Dantley, he is regarded as one of his era’s best scorers. Throughout his career, Dantley averaged better than 20 points per game thirteen times, including four straight seasons of at least 30 points per game. Dantley finished his 17-year career as a 2-time scoring champ, a 6-time All-Star, and made the All-NBA team twice. As a rookie in 1976, Dantley posted 20.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game and won ROY. He would average 24.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the floor and was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

17. Billy Cunningham

The number 17 player on my list, Billy Cunningham, was one of the better players of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Cunningham was a career 21.2 points per game scorer and averaged better than 22 points per game in five consecutive seasons. Cunningham is a 5-time All-Star and won an NBA Championship in 1966 with the Philadelphia 76ers. In addition to his one championship ring, Cunningham is also a 4-time All-NBA Team member and won the league’s MVP award in 1972.

18. Chris Mullin

Mullin made a name for himself as part of the Run TMC trio with Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond. One of the best Warriors of all-time, Mullin was a silk-smooth lefty who could score at all three levels. He’s a career 18.2 points per game scorer and was also a tremendous shooter, having posted an 86.5 free-throw percentage and shot 38.4 percent from downtown. The Hall of Famer was a 5-time All-Star and 4-time All-NBA team member.

19. Tracy McGrady

NBA fans of today may less understand T-Mac’s greatness, but McGrady was one of the best players in his prime before being hobbled by injuries that would prevent him from sustaining his massive potential. After three. Subpar seasons in the NBA, McGrady would join the Orlando Magic, where he went on to average better than 25 points per game for four straight seasons. In 2002 and 2003, McGrady led the NBA in scoring and looked destined for greatness. After joining the Houston Rockets before the 2004 season, McGrady’s production slowly declined and hindered injuries. In his impressive career, McGrady made 7 All-Star appearances and was selected to the All-NBA team seven times.

20. David Thompson

In his short, 9-year career, David Thompson was one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history. As a rookie in 1975, Thompson averaged 26 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists that helped him win ROY honors. In the next five seasons, Thompson would average better than 20 points per game on better than 50 percent shooting from the floor. Thompson made the All-Star game 5 times and won AS MVP twice, and would also go on t make the All-NBA team three times. Thompson also holds the record for the 4th most points in a single NBA game with 74.

21. Vince Carter

In Carter’s impressive 24-year career, the future Hall of Famer is most known for his time with the Toronto Raptors and New Jersey Nets. Carter recently announced his retirement this past week in June 2020. Carter is an 8-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA team member. He also won ROY in 1998 and finished his career with the 19th-most points in NBA history.

22. Jamaal Wilkes

Another Laker great on this list, Jamaal Wilkes, was one of the better two-way players of his era. Wilkes entered the NBA in 1974 with the Golden State Warriors and won ROY honors while averaging 14.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. In twelve NBA seasons, Wilkes was a three-time All-Star and a two-time All-Defensive team member. He also won three championships with the Lakers and is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame.

23. Grant Hill

Like McGrady, Grant Hill was another player whose career was cut short due to injuries. After winning co-ROY honors in 1994, Hill went on to be a 7-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA team member. In his first six NBA seasons, Hill averaged better than 19 points and 6 rebounds per game. Hill finished his career in 2012 and would secure a spot in the NBA Hall of Fame.

24. Larry Johnson

Upon entering the league in 1991, Larry Johnson went on to win ROY as he averaged 9.2 points, 11 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game. The following season, Johnson made the All-Star game and led the league in minutes per game. In his 10-year career, Johnson made 2 All-Star selections and was also a part of the All-NBA team during the 1992 season.

25. Bernard King

One of the best players in New York Knicks franchise history, Bernard King, was a prolific scorer throughout his career. In his 14-year career, King posted averages of 22.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. King made four All-Star and All-NBA appearances and won the scoring title in 1984 while putting up a staggering 32.9 points per game.

26. Paul George

George, another current player in the NBA, comes in at 26 on my list. He’s a 6-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA team member. George is one of the better two-way players in the league today and is also a 4-time All-Defensive team member. In the 2018-19 season, George solidified himself among the NBA’s elite when he recorded a top-three finish in the MVP voting. That season, he posted 28 points, 8.2 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.2 steals per game. Should George continue his stellar play and produce some team success in addition to his awards, he could push his way into the top 20 on this list.

27. Shawn Marion

As Marion was called throughout his career, the Matrix remains one of the steadiest players in NBA history. Although he isn’t among the best scorers or rebounders in NBA history, Marion proved to be a terrific all-around player. Marion ranked 19th in career steals and had seven seasons in which he recorded at least 2 steals per game. In his 18 seasons in the NBA, Marion failed to average double-digit points only once and averaged better than 15 points nine times. At 6’7”, Marion was a terrific rebounder for his position and had a career average of 8.7 rebounds per game. He finished his career as a 4-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA team member. Marion also won a championship with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-11 season.

28. Kiki Vandeweghe

Throughout his 14-year career, Vandeweghe was a consistent scorer who put 19.7 points per game. The two-time All-Star recorded seven seasons of at least 20 points per game, including a career-high 29.4 during the 1983-84 season with the Denver Nuggets. Throughout his career, Vandeweghe was highly efficient as a shooter, posting a 52.5 percent shooting percentage from the field and shot 87.5 percent from the charity stripe.

29. Glen Rice

Glen Rice will go down as one of the best shooters to ever play the game. A career 40 percent shooter from deep, Rice had six seasons where he put up better than 20 points a night. His career averages include 18.3 points per game and an 84.6 percentage from the free-throw line. Rice was a three-time All-Star and 2-time All-NBA team member. In 1996, Rice’s performance in the All-Star game earned him MVP honors. Rice also won an NBA Championship in 1999 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

30. Mark Aguirre

Aguirre was a terrific scorer for the Dallas Mavericks during the early 1980s. In his seven and a half seasons as a Mavericks, Aguirre averaged better than 20 points per game seven times. His best season came in 1983 when he put up 29.5 points per game and 5.9 rebounds on 52.8 percent shooting from the field. In his 14-year career, Aguirre was a 3-time All-Star and a two-time NBA Champion.

31. Peja Stojaković

Stojaković finished his career after the 2010 season as one of the best three-point marksmen and pure shooters in NBA history. He’s a career 40.1 percent three-point shooter and 89.5 percent shooter from the foul line. Aside from his tremendous shooting ability, Stojaković was also a terrific scorer, as he averaged better than 18 points per game seven times. Stojaković was also a 3-time All-Star and won an NBA championship with the Dallas Mavericks in his final NBA season in 2010.

32. Marques Johnson

Johnson finished his impressive NBA career as one of the top scorers from 1977-1986. In all but two of those seasons, Johnson averaged at least 19 points per game six times. He also made the All-Star game 5 times and All-NBA team 3 times during his career.

33. Dan Majerle

During his time in Phoenix, Majerle was a terrific two-way wing for the Suns. In six of his seven seasons as a Sun, Majerle averaged at least 10 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2 assists per game. He made the All-Star game three times and was an All-Defensive team selection twice.

34. Robert Horry

Known for several clutch shots in the playoffs, “Big Shot Rob” won an impressive 7 NBA titles in his 17-year career. Horry was never a volume scorer, but his presence inside the locker room and ability to hit timely shots, especially in the playoffs, earns him a spot on my top 50.

35. Ron Artest

One of the premier defenders at the position, Artest was a 4-time All-Defensive team member and was known for his aggressive and gritty play on the defensive end. Artest made one All-Star game appearance and also won Defensive Player of the year in 2003. In addition to his stellar defense, Artest was also a reliable scorer during the first half of his career as he averaged better than 15 points per game in ten NBA seasons. As a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009, Artest won his only NBA Title against the Boston Celtics, and his clutch three in the late stages of Game 7 remains one of the most significant shots in NBA Finals history.

36. Bruce Bowen

Like Artest, Bowen was an excellent defender throughout the entirety of his career. Known for his time with the San Antonio Spurs, Bowen went on to win three NBA Championships and made the All-Defensive team 8 times in his fourteen NBA seasons.

37. Andre Iguodala

In the later stages of his NBA career, Iguodala’s veteran leadership and championship experience is his best calling card. He’s still among the NBA’s best perimeter defenders, but Iggy was also an exceptional scorer early on in his career. With the Philadelphia 76ers, Iguodala had four consecutive seasons of at least 15 points per game and made his only All-Star appearance in 2011. The three-time NBA Champion is also a 2-time All-Defensive team selection and won Finals MVP in 2014 for the Golden State Warriors.

38. Jack Twyman

Twyman was one of the best scorers of the late 1950s and early 1960s. From 1956-1963, Twyman would average better than 16 points per game, including a career-high 31.2 points per game during the 1959-60 season. Twyman was a 6-time All-Star selection and was later inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

39. Cliff Hagan

Hagan carved out a Hall of Fame career for the St. Louis Hawks and Dallas Chaparrals during 13 seasons. His career averages include 17.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. Twyman was also a 6-time All-Star and won an NBA Championship in 1957.

40. Jerry Stackhouse

Stackhouse was one of the more consistent scorers of his era and produced double-digit scoring averages from 1995-2008. In those 15 seasons, Stackhouse had five 20-plus scoring seasons, including a career-high 29.3 points per game in 2000. Stackhouse finished his career as 2-time All-Star while making the All-Rookie team during the 1995-96 NBA season.

41. Hedo Türkoğlu

In Türkoğlu’s prime, he was a steady scorer for the Orlando Magic. From 2004-2010, Türkoğlu averaged double-digit points for the Magic and helped the team make the NBA Finals during the 2008-09 season. He’s a career 38.4 percent three-point shooter and shot better than 40 percent from three in 8 of his 16 seasons in the league.

42. Reggie Lewis

Lewis was one of the more promising young stars if the NBA before an untimely death in 1993 because of a heart condition. In his 6 seasons with Boston, Lewis scored better than 17 points per game in five of those seasons. His stellar play earned him an All-Star selection in 1992, and his jersey still hangs in the rafters at TD Garden today.

43. Jamal Mashburn

Like Reggie Lewis, Jamal Mashburn’s career was cut short due to non-basketball related reasons. In his time in the NBA, Mashburn was a prolific scorer and averaged 19,1 points per gamer in his twelve-year career. Mashburn recorded five seasons of at least 20 points per game, including a career-high 24.1 points per game during the 1994-95 season.

44. Rick Fox

Although just a 9.6 points per game scorer in his career, Fox’s impact on winning solidifies his place, in his thirteen NBA seasons, Fox won three world championship titles and played for the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.

45. Shane Battier

Throughout his career, Battier was known for his stellar defense and three-point stroke. Battier is a lifetime 38.4 percent shooter from deep and was a two-time All-Defensive team member. While his prime years were with the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets, Battier won two titles as a member of the Miami Heat during the end of his career.

46. Stephen Jackson

Jackson was one of the most respected NBA veterans of all-time. In his prime, Jackson was a 20 point per game scorer for the Warriors, Pacers, and Spurs. He scored more than 20 points per game 4 times and won a ring with the San Antonio Spurs in 2002.

47. Eddie Johnson

Throughout the 1980s, Johnson was one of the premier scorers at the small forwards position. In his career, Johnson recorded 9 seasons of 17 or more points per game. He finished his career with a 16 point per game average and shot better than 84 percent from the foul line.

48. Gerald Wallace

Wallace was about as reliable as an NBA starter, averaging just under 12 points,6 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game throughout his career. From 2004-2011, Wallace averaged double-digit points every season, including a career-high 19.4 per game in 2007. In his career, Wallace made the All-Star game and All-Defensive team once and was the 2005 league leader in steals.

49. Richard Jefferson

Jefferson spent the latter half of his career as a role player, but RJ was a force on the offensive end during his tenure with the New Jersey Nets. From 2002-2008, Jefferson averaged better than 15 points per game, including a career-high 22.6 per game during the 2007 season. Jefferson also won an NBA Championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2015.

50. Rashard Lewis

Lewis entered the league in 1998 as a 19-year-old rookie and was mainly a role player until his third NBA season. From then on, Lewis remained a solid starter and averaged 20 points per game three times in his career. Lewis was also an exceptional shooter from three-point range and finished his career with a 38.6 percent mark behind the arc. The two-time All-Star also won an NBA Championship as a member of the Miami Heat during the 2012-13 season.

Diehard Laker and Seahawk fan. I unfortunately witnessed the Seattle Seahawks passing the ball on the 1 yard line. I hope that sports can unite people and bring them closer together. Current student at Chapman University.

Hot NBA Stories