With the Miami Heat about to head into their fourth straight finals appearance in the last four years, setting an accomplishment that has not been replicated since the 1984-1987 Boston Celtics Team, we can say with assuredness that their leader on the court, none other than the four-time MVP and Olympic Gold Medal winner Lebron James, is probably feeling quite satisfied with himself (especially after defeating this crazy man who blew air on his face in the middle of the court).
Lebron’s accomplishments up to this time are nothing short of absolutely impressive – on top of his four MVPs, he also has two Olympic Gold medals, two NBA Finals MVPs, and most importantly, two championships, with a huge possibility for getting to three championships in just one month.
But is he truly the very best small forward in all of NBA history?
With so many incredibly accomplished all-stars, champions, and freak athletes to consider over the NBA’s rich history of nearly 68 years, we take a look at the top ten small forwards in NBA history.
10. Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce wasn’t called “The Truth” for no reason – indeed, Shaquille O’Neal dubbed him this famous nickname early in Pierce’s career for a reason: Paul Pierce was one of the best two-way small forwards to ever play the game.
Averaging 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game for his career, Paul Pierce led his team to the 2008 NBA championship when he famously created a “big three” with Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. Since then, he has been considered to be one the most famous rivals of Lebron James, having met him in the playoffs in 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
Pierce is also the Celtics’ all time leading scorer, distinguishing himself as not just one of the greatest small forwards of all time, but also as one of the most prolific and productive members of the NBA’s most winningest franchise.
9. Kevin Durant
The humble, likeable, and respected 2014 MVP Kevin Durant, who brought the nation to tears early last month with his MVP speech (in which he declared his mother “The Real MVP”) is only 25 and in the conversation for top ten small forwards of all time already. If his MVP trophy weren’t enough to convince you, he already boasts, in only his seventh season, four scoring titles, as well as prestigious entry into the “50-40-90” club, a select group of athletes that have shot 50% field goal percentage, 40% 3-point field goal percentage, and 90% from the free throw line. Not even the greatest scorer of all time, Michael Jordan, has been in this club.
Kevin Durant also led his team to the 2011 Western Conference Finals, the 2014 Western Conference Finals, the 2013 semifinals, and the 2012 NBA finals, where his team fell to Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, and Pat Riley’s Miami Heat.
8. Rick Barry
A true, distinguished leader who brought his Golden State Warriors to the 1975 NBA Championship, Rick Barry is one of the few players who have accomplished a true NBA feat: 60+ points in one game. Most recently accomplished by Carmelo Anthony and Lebron James, this is a scoring phenomenon that is scene rarely more than once a season, if that.
With 5 NBA All-first team selections, Rick barry was an elite NBA athlete in the 1970s, as well as an ABA champion in the 1960s. Rookie of the Year in 1966, Barry was possibly the premiere small forward of that decade.
7. Dominique Wilkins
Internationally acclaimed as “The Human Highlight Film,” Dominique Wilkins lit up the scoreboards, and was once considered the most direct rival to His Airness, Michael Jordan. ‘Nique was an outstanding force on the basketball court; his scoring skills were second only to Michael Jordan, as Dominique was not able to take the home the scoring title in any year while MJ was active except in 1986, when Michael Jordan was injured for the year.
Still, despite living in the shadow of Michael Jordan, the 9x all-star was among the most insanely gifted athletes of the 1980s and 1990s, taking his Atlanta Hawks team consistently to stellar playoff production.
6. James Worthy
Michael Jordan is often credited for bringing North Carolina State to the NCAA championship with his famous game-winning shot his freshman year of college, but it was really his teammate, distinguished NBA legend James Worthy, that carried the load for the championship team. Worthy scored 28 of the team’s entire 63 points and was widely considered the undisputed leader.
In the NBA, Worthy was the third-option for an incredibly talented, historical, and iconic Los Angeles Lakers team that not only boasted one of the greatest small forwards in NBA history in James Worthy, but also two of the greatest players ever in Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. With that crew of elite talent, Worthy brought his team to the NBA championship in 1985, 1987, and 1988, and was even named the Finals MVP over Magic and Kareem in the 1988 NBA Championships.
LeBron James plays point guard. What qualifies him as a small forward?