Published By: Akashdeep

Ranking the Top Five Small Forwards in Each Decade of NBA History Based on Their Impact

Amid the explosiveness of the shooting guard, the importance of the small forward is often overshadowed! 

The small forward position holds immense significance on the basketball court, requiring a standout scorer on the wing to remain competitive. You need a reliable three-point shooter to maintain your chances of success. Throughout NBA history, legendary players have graced this position, serving as inspirations for those who follow. Despite the abundance of top-notch small forwards, a select few have genuinely dominated their respective eras. In this piece, we'll look into the standout small forwards of each decade in NBA history.


Before Michael Jordan became a basketball icon, Julius Erving was the most influential player in the sport's history. Dr. J was a role model for kids worldwide, with everyone aspiring to emulate his crafty moves, exceptional ball-handling skills, and unmatched athleticism. Erving, a pioneer in electrifying dunking, showcased an offensive prowess that redefined the NBA. His innovative moves set a new standard for the league, with even Michael Jordan acknowledging Erving as a source of inspiration for some of his plays.

Boasting an impressive career spanning both the ABA and NBA, Dr. J's resume remains one of the most remarkable in professional basketball. He maintained averages of 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, displaying outstanding shooting efficiency with splits of 50/29/77.


Larry Bird preceded Kevin Durant as a player with similar skills. Despite the tendency of many young basketball enthusiasts to dismiss that era, Larry Bird was an exceptionally skilled and ruthless player. He pioneered three-point shooting, possessing one of the smoothest jump shots in the game. Alongside his crafty moves, superior footwork, and exceptional court vision, Bird emerged as an offensive force to be reckoned with. Aspiring young basketball players must recognise Bird's prowess. Watching Larry Bird's footage is highly recommended. His averages of 24.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.3 assists, and 1.7 steals, coupled with multiple 50/40/90 seasons, underscore his greatness on the court.


Scottie Pippen's contribution to arguably the greatest team in basketball history often needs to be more appreciated. The six NBA Championships, integral to Michael Jordan's status as the GOAT, may have materialised under Pippen's influence. While Pippen occasionally took a backseat on offence, his skills were undeniable. He displayed versatility in scoring from various parts of the court, showcasing remarkable athleticism. However, his most significant impact was felt on the defensive end. 

Pippen was a defensive force, relentlessly guarding opponents from baseline to baseline. He could shut down some of the best scorers while maintaining impressive individual statistics. Throughout his career, he averaged 16.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, with shooting splits of 47/32/70.


Since being selected as the first overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, LeBron James has maintained an unwavering level of performance. In his fourth season, he led his team to the NBA Finals, showcasing his exceptional talent and impact. Regarded as the ultimate point-forward, LeBron's style harks back to the days of Magic Johnson. His strength, surpassing most small forwards, and his ability to contend with big men beneath the rim while excelling in three-point shooting.

LeBron James took the NBA by storm in the 2000s and has sustained his dominance. Despite not securing a championship in that decade, he unequivocally held the title of the best small forward in the world by a considerable margin.

All the greats mentioned on this list are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. While their impact on the court led their teams to championships, their style of play helped assert the importance of the small forward position.