The past couple of weeks, we peeped the top point guards and shooting guards of the past three decades, so this week, we swing over to the small forward position. It’s pretty much a done deal who the top gun is on this list, but I had to put some more thought into it compared to the previous lists. I’m sure players and placement will be up for debate.

Here are the factors, in varying degrees, taken into account in making this ranking – statistics, impact on the game, awards and honors, longevity, playoff performance and my own gut instincts. Feel free to disagree and make cases for others in the comments.

10. Bernard King, New Jersey Nets (1977-79; 1993), Utah Jazz (1979-80), Golden State Warriors (1980-82), New York Knicks (1982-87), Washington Bullets (1987-1991)
874 G; 22.5 PPG; 5.8 RPG; 3.3 APG; 0.0 3PTM; 51.8 FG%; 73.0 FT%; 1.0 SPG

How could I not include Bernard King, the first player I ever rooted for as a kid? He’s probably one of the older and least known players on this list, but he was a thing to behold. Plus if Kurtis Blow can have the following lyrics in his classic “Basketball” how could you not say he belongs?

Basketball has always been my thing,
I like Magic, Bird, and Bernard King.

King averaged 20+ points for 11 out of his 14 seasons, although the 1986-87 season was basically lost as he only played six games. He was the league’s leading scorer in 1985-86, averaging an amazing 32.9 PPG. He played in four All-Star games, made four All-NBA teams (two first team selections) and finished with a career 19.2 PER and 108 ORtg.

It can be argued that King isn’t the tenth-best small forward in the past three decades because anything can be argued, but if you truly believe he didn’t earn this spot, you must agree he’s at least in the debate. King wasn’t explosive in the sense that he’d rise above rim much, but he definitely made it rain from all over the court, jumper after jumper after jumper.

9. Chris Mullin, Golden State Warriors (1985-1997; 2000-01), Indiana Pacers (1997-2000)
986 G; 18.2 PPG; 4.1 RPG; 3.5 APG; 0.8 3PTM; 50.9 FG%; 86.5 FT%; 1.6 SPG

Speaking of jumpers, Mullin had one of the sweetest Js to watch. Pull-ups, off-the-dribble, spotting up, Mullin could do it all from the perimeter. Along with his crew cut, that jumper is what made him famous. Well, that and being a part of the short-lived Run TMC with Tim Hardaway and Mitch Richmond.

Mullin played in five consecutive All-Star games (1989-93) and finished in the top 10 in scoring average in four straight seasons (1989-92). He led the league in free-throw percentage in 1997-98 (93.9 percent) and is the 24th-best shooter from the charity stripe in NBA history. Mullin was selected to four All-NBA teams, including one first team, and was a part of the original 1992 Dream Team. He finished with an 18.8 PER an excellent 115 ORtg.

He didn’t look like much — lanky and kind of goofy-looking — but Mullin was a dead-eye shot from the perimeter and could get to the basket with either hand. At one point, he was even considered a poor man’s Larry Bird. Sure, that might be because both players would fry in the sun, but make no mistake, Mullin could hold his own.

8. James Worthy, Los Angeles Lakers (1982-1994)
926 G; 17.6 PPG; 5.1 RPG; 3.0 APG; 0.1 3PTM; 52.1 FG%; 76.9 FT%; 1.1 SPG

Worthy didn’t post the greatest regular season statistics, but when the postseason hit, so did he. And, as we all us die-hard hoops fans know, the playoffs create legends. He doesn’t hold the same place in NBA history the way the other bespectacled Laker, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, does, but Worthy was all-out effort, made things happen and was a finisher.

He never led the league in any statistic other then games played during a season, but did come up big during the postseason. He upped his scoring average to 21.1 PPG while shooting 54.4 percent and also won the 1988 NBA Finals MVP. Worthy, along with Magic Johnson and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers Showtime crew won three NBA championships during the 1980s. Worthy made seven consecutive All-Star teams (1986-1992) and two All-NBA teams (both times on the third team). He finished with a career 17.7 PER and 112 ORtg.

Worthy could justifiably be moved up the list because of his titles with the great Showtime teams of the Lakers, but that’s only one of the criteria for me and I had to concede to gut instinct. However, I’ll never forget hearing people from my homebase park court decades ago that Worthy was just as important as Magic in winning those titles. To a certain degree, I’d agree.

7. Alex English, Milwaukee Bucks (1976-78), Indiana Pacers (1978-80), Denver Nuggets (1980-90), Dallas Mavericks (1990-91)
1193 G; 21.5 PPG; 5.5 RPG; 3.6 APG; 0.0 3PTM; 50.7 FG%; 83.2 FT%; 0.9 SPG

The next time you get to the court, try this: Hold the ball, raise your arms straight up at full extension and then shoot the ball. Imagine doing that for every single jumper and hitting it consistently from anywhere inside the three-point arc. That’s the unorthodox Alex English shot he hit whenever he took the hardwood. Nick Van Exel will explain.

English led the NBA in scoring one season (1982-83) with at 28.4 PPG. For nine consecutive seasons with the Denver Nuggets, he averaged at least 23.8 PPG, and for his career with Denver, he averaged 25.9 PPG in 837 games. English ranks 13th in NBA history in total points (25,613), eighth overall in field-goals made (10,659) and ninth in overall field-goal attempts (21,036). He made eight straight All-Star teams (1982-89) and was named to the All-NBA second team thrice. English finished with a 19.9 PER and 111 ORtg.

English was obviously one of the best scorers of all-time, but unlike some others, such as the aforementioned Worthy, he didn’t have much of a power game. The character he played in “Amazing Grace and Chuck” was aptly named Amazing Grace since English was one of the more graceful players the NBA has ever seen. In the movie, English plays an NBA pro that refuses to play any further until nuclear weapons are totally disarmed. Fat chance. It seems the same could be said in regards to the current lockout where its end seems highly unlikely as well. However, we’ll be positive like the movie’s message, albeit corny, and look for the rainbow lining in the sky.

6. Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics (1998-Present)
964 G; 22.2 PPG; 6.1 RPG; 3.8 APG; 1.6 3PTM; 44.8 FG%; 80.5 FT%; 1.5 SPG

Pierce will go down as one of the best Celtics ever and that’s pretty good considering the franchise we’re talking about. Part of that is the reason why I have Pierce here and really have him thisclose to taking over no. 5. It was hard to deny the numbers of the fifth-best three on this list, and maybe Pierce’s championship ring should have put him over the top, but when all is said and done, the good old switcheroo will go down eventually. There’s still some spring left to The Truth.

Pierce has averaged 20+ points per contest in eight of his 13 seasons. He’s currently ranked 25th overall for career points per game average and is 30th overall in total points for a career (21,410). Pierce has made nine All-Star games and has been named to an All-NBA team four times. He won the NBA Finals MVP when he led the Boston Celtics, along with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, to a title in 2008. He has a 20.7 PER and 110 ORtg.

Histrionics aside, Pierce can really get down with the get down. He’s the paragon of jocular and is a straight-up gangsta (allegedly) on the court (definitely). For years he basically carried the Celtics on his back and he proved worthy of being one of the most loved Celtics. I’m not a Celtics fan at all, but even I have to show respect to what Pierce’s legacy.

5. Adrian Dantley, Buffalo Braves (1976-77), Indiana Pacers (1977-78), Los Angeles Lakers (1978-79), Utah Jazz (1979-1986), Detroit Pistons (1986-89), Dallas Mavericks (1989-1990), Milwaukee Bucks (1990-1991)
955 G; 24.3 PPG; 5.7 RPG; 3.0 APG; 0.0 3PTM; 54.0 FG%; 81.8 FT%; 1.0 SPG

When I think of an old school scoring basketball player, I somehow always think of Dantley. I’ll admit that he was to some degree a ballhog, but when you shot as well as he did, could you blame him? A.D. could work the post, dribble down from the top of the key, give a spin move, sell a shot fake and had a myriad other ways to score. I personally thought he got the shaft when the Detroit Pistons traded him to the Dallas Mavericks for Isaiah Thomas’ best bud, Mark Aguirre, but such is life. Dantley was in the twilight of his career, but still scoring 20 on the regular, and the Pistons went on to win a couple of titles because no one was there to challenge Zeke’s control of the team.

Dantley led the league in scoring for two seasons (1980-81 at 30.7 PPG; 1983-84 at 30.6 PPG). He finished in the top seven in scoring average in six seasons and has the 17th best all-time PPG average. Dantley is 21st overall in total points (23,177), has the 22nd best field-goal percentage of all-time, the seventh most free-throw makes (6,832) and 11th most free-throw attempts (8,351). He was the 1976-77 NBA Rookie of the Year and made six All-Star games, as well as two All-NBA squads. Dantley finished with a 21.5 PER and 119 ORtg.

Maybe Pierce should be in front of Dantley, but check the numbers and watch that video link. They don’t make scorers like that anymore, and because I’m old, I have to give a shout-out to the geriatrics.

4. Dominique Wilkins, Atlanta Hawks (1982-1994), Los Angeles Clippers (1994), Boston Celtics (1994-95), San Antonio Spurs (1996-97), Orlando Magic (1999)
1074 G; 24.8 PPG; 6.7 RPG; 2.5 APG; 0.7 3PTM; 46.1 FG%; 81.1 FT%; 1.3 SPG

First off, let’s get it straight — ‘Nique was robbed! That said, there’s no question that Wilkins has to be considered, pound-for-pound, the best power dunker of all-time. A two-step jumper with devastating power, there’s really no question. The Human Highlight Film was an appropriate nickname for Wilkins, but he was more than just dunking. He could go toe-to-toe with the best during a game, such as this classic back-and-forth between he and Larry Bird. ‘Nique undoubtedly left an impression like one of his tomahawk dunks.

Wilkins led the league in scoring once in 1985-86 with a 30.3 PPG average. He finished in the top seven in points per game in nine seasons and scored 21+ points in 11 straight seasons. Wilkins is the 11th highest scorer of all-time with 26,668 total points. Wilkins has the tenth most field-goal makes in NBA history with 9,963 and the seventh most field-goal attempts with 21,589. He made the All-Star game nine consecutive years beginning in 1986 and was a two-time slam dunk champion. Wilkins was a seven-time All-NBA selection and finished with a 21.6 PER and 112 ORtg.

Wilkins was compared to Michael Jordan because of the dunking, which isn’t a bad thing, but they were definitely different types of players. ‘Nique had tunnel vision when the lane was clear for take-off and he didn’t make his teammates better the way Jordan did. However, he didn’t quite have the cast and specialists either. The lack of a title is the only stain on an exciting and fruitful career.

3. Scottie Pippen, Chicago Bulls (1987-1998; 2003-04), Houston Rockets (1998-99), Portland Trail Blazers (1999-2003)
1178 G; 16.1 PPG; 6.4 RPG; 5.2 APG; 0.8 3PTM; 47.3 FG%; 70.4 FT%; 2.0 SPG

Pippen has basically been known as a sidekick his whole career and that notion will live forever. It’s tough getting accolades when you’re playing next to Michael Jordan. However, knowledgeable NBA fans know that without Pippen, Jordan doesn’t win six titles. Pippen’s career numbers don’t pop out, but it would be foolish to think he didn’t affect the game almost as much as Jordan did, especially on the defensive end where he used his length, quickness and motor to stop opposing offenses. Pip was a gamer.

Pippen averaged 20+ points per game four times and led the league once in steals per game (1994-95 at 2.9 SPG), and also averaged at least a pair of steals per contest in six of his 17 seasons. He’s a seven-time All-Star, and won the All-Star Game MVP Award in 1994. Pippen made seven All-NBA teams, including three first-team selections. He also was named to 10 All-Defensive squads, which include eight first teams while finishing sixth-best in total steals (2,307). Pippen ended up with a 18.6 PER and 108 ORtg.

I’ll admit the six titles play a big role in Pippen’s place here, but six is a big deal. And even though he wasn’t the top player for those title teams, he played a very significant role. All seeming jealousy aside, Pippen’s contributions were important for Jordan’s legacy and it’s too bad Pippen feels he isn’t getting his just due. Hope being third on the list helps with that emotional boo b0o.

2. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (2003-10), Miami Heat (2010-Present)
627 G; 27.7 PPG; 7.1 RPG; 7.0 APG; 1.4 3PTM; 47.9 FG%; 74.4 FT%; 1.7 SPG

Too high? Maybe. But even the abovementioned Pippen would agree that James is pretty damn good and worthy to be placed ahead of him. We’ve all witnessed (boo to the ubiquitous use of the term) LeBron’s ability to do just about anything from the floor, except win titles. It’s that lack of a title that will render LeBron’s legacy impotent. However, once he wins one championship, he’ll be able to breath easy. Until then, he’ll continue to be the “loser” that everyone but the die-hard LBJ fans will root against.

After averaging 20.4 PPG during his rookie season and winning the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, James has never averaged less than 26.7 PPG in the following seven seasons. In 2007-08, he led the league at scoring with a 30.0 points average. He’s finished in the top four in scoring for seven straight seasons and has the third all-time highest scoring average behind Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain. LeBron has played in seven consecutive All-Star games starting in 2005, and won the game MVP twice (2006 and 2008). He’s been an All-NBA selection seven times, with five of those being on the first team. Since his dedication to improving defensively, LeBron has been named to three consecutive All-Defensive first teams. He won back-to-back MVP awards in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons. James currently has the second-highest PER in the history of the game with a 26.9 mark that follows Jordan’s 27.9, and he currently has a 115 ORtg.

No matter how many titles LeBron wins, if he should, he will always be minus-one to Dwyane Wade assuming both win titles with the Miami Heat. Regardless of that fact, if James and the Heat win two titles, maybe even just one chip, LeBron could find himself at the top of this list. But not for now.

1. Larry Bird, Boston Celtics (1979-1992)
897 G; 24.3 PPG; 10.0 RPG; 6.3 APG; 0.7 3PTM; 49.6 FG%; 88.6 FT%; 1.7 SPG

Bird has accomplished so much in the league, I’m just going to start with the statistics and awards. I won’t state how much he and Magic Johnson raised the NBA because that’s obvious (I guess I just did), but Bird’s nickname of Larry Legend is wholly valid. And I’ll end with an anecdote that shows how good Bird really was.

Bird never led the league in scoring, but in 11 of his 13 seasons, he averaged at least 20+ points each season, peaking at 29.9 PPG in 1987-88. In the two seasons that he did not score 20 or more, Bird averaged 19.3 PPG (1988-89) and 19.4 PPG (1990-91). He owns the 16th-best points average in NBA history and finished 27th in total points (21,791). He led the league in free-throw percentage four times and is tenth-best percentage-wise ever. Bird played in a dozen All-Star games, and was the 1982 All-Star Game MVP. He beat out Magic Johnson for the 1979-80 NBA Rookie of the Year award, laying the foundation for their battle for accolades. Bird made 10 All-NBA teams, including nine first teams, as well as three All-Defensive second teams. He won the MVP award three consecutive times (1983-84, 1984-85, 1985-86) and led the Boston Celtics to three NBA titles (1981, 1984, 1986), winning the NBA Finals MVP twice (1984 and 1986). Bird finished with a 23.5 PER and 115 ORtg.

And now the anecdote:

Bird then walked onto the court and told Xavier McDaniel, who was guarding him, “I’m going to get [the ball] right here and I am going to shoot it in your face.” As McDaniel remembers it, he responded by saying, “I know, I’ll be waiting.”

Then in about that exact same spot, Bird gets the ball and buries a shot right in McDaniel’s face, turns to Xavier and says, “I didn’t mean to leave two seconds on the clock.”  McDaniel said of that play, “He wanted to shoot it with zero seconds on the clock.  I just walked back to the sidelines, like damn.”

Damn, indeed.

Next week, we bang the boards and go heavy on the power forward position. In the meantime, give me a holler on Twitter if you agree/disagree with any of the above. I promise I won’t cry about it if you have a difference in opinion.

Comments (47)

  1. I haven’t gotten around to reading the list yet, but would just like to say that all of it is wrong.

  2. Too bad Grant Hill’s prime was cut short by injuries (and Detroit’s medical staff). He was better than anyone of those guys not named Bird, Pippen, Lebron or Dominique.

  3. Lebron is way too high!!! Are you kidding me? But I agree with the larry bird pick at 1.

  4. Nice pic at the top and great story about Bird and McDaniel. Hedo didn’t make the list? Ball. Pizza. Ball.

  5. Pierce is vastly overrated. Many of those 13 years he spent as a “Me First” guy who got his numbers and checked out. He didn’t magically start caring if the Celts won or lost until two+ other superstars joined the team.

  6. I totally disagree that James is in that list!

  7. At least pierce was only a me first guy for the start of his career. English, dantley, Wilkins were all one dimensional me-first scorers for their whole career. And Scottie>lebron

  8. Pippen is not better than The Human Highlight Film I think

  9. You totally crapped on Nique. And dude, if you take the second best player off any team they don’t win a championship… That’s not a measure of Pippen’s greatness.

    I miss watching Larry Bird play. Damn. Most entertaining player I’ve ever watched. You’re assertion that Lebron could ever be considered a better player is absurd in so many ways.

  10. I rarely say that, but both Danny Boy and Basketball hoop are haters.
    Pierce carried a Cs team with Walker as best help in the playoffs.
    LBJ is 2-time MVP, 2 finals appearences, 1-time leading scorer and fantastic averages.

    This list, once again, Dennis, has my “Breyzh aproved” stamp on it.

    I would only bump Worthy 1 spor higher, but I don’t know English much, so….

  11. @OBH Dantley was much more efficient than Pierce, for instance.

    @RojanRando
    Yeah, he is. I mean: best perimeter defender of all-time against 20th best wing scorer of all-time? No-contest.

    @NateJ
    So… You know the future, right? Tell me, who will be the next US pres.

    And yeah, too too bad for Hill.

  12. Paul Pierce? yikes. and Lebron is way too high. top 10 yea, but not #2.

  13. How is LeBron too high? Look at those numbers. Second highest PER ever next to Jordan? Championships are a result of team success. This list is ranking individuals and how well they’ve performed. If Pippen and LeBron traded places would we even know who Scottie Pippen is? Would he have led those Cavs to a Finals appearance and 60 win seasons? Unlikely.

  14. Larry Legend… No doubt about it.

  15. Wtf ? Am I missing something here ??? How can ANYONE take this list seriously when the writer completely omitted “The Dr. – Julius Erving” ???

    How can you even dare mention Alex English, Chris Mullin or Paul Pierce ahead of the most exciting player B.M.J. ( Before Michael Jordan) ? Seriously, you should be embarrassed !

  16. I’m with Rico on this… where the hell is Dr. J.

  17. It’s the last 30 years man. Chill.

    I disagree with Lebron surpassing Bird with just one ring. He needs multiple to do that and he has to be the Finals MVP every time it happens

  18. We all love lists.

    Yes, Lebron deserves to be up there, Wilt Chamberlain was a loser but people still rank him so high in life.

    I like the list a lot actually, bravo.

  19. @ VIlle I was a huge Grant Hill fan when he was at Duke… and I HATE Duke. Yeah, if he didn’t get hampered with injury, he would have been really really REALLY good.

    @Brezyh Thanks for the support and replying to the other comments.

    @ Pat Burke That was my thinking. I’m not a huge fan of his for the way he did Cleveland dirty (is that redundant… haha), but it’s hard to deny what he’s done on the court in eight seasons.

    @ Rico Hanes and @ Yusuf I didn’t include Dr. J because he played most of his professional career during the 1970s. It was a basic judgement call on my part, but it’s the same reason I didn’t include George Gervin on the shooting guards list. So, no diss towards Mr. Erving. On the all-time list, he’d be right behind Bird.

    Thanks for reading all!

  20. Dr. J deserves to be on a list…I just don’t know whether its a SG or Forward because he is a definition of a hybrid player. Although in those Sixers, he was basically playing the third spot but skillset wise I think he is more SG because he is more MJ or Kobe in that respect…shame he is not on the list of all-time SG.

  21. these people saying lebron is too high are high off their asses, read the freaking post, he has the second highest PER of ALL TIME. The dude has ruled the regular season for the last 3 years which counts for something, but not everything, I understand the Bird selection, but a year ago we all thought lebron would eventually be at the top of this list, he’s gotten better since then, and is on a better team. I’ve hated kobe for my entire adult life but I’m not gonna say brandon roy is a better scorer

  22. pierce 6 or 5 no doubt!! the truth is the man. in the current nba, he has to be the best shooting sf in the leauge. and he always gets underated on his athletisim, even in the last 2 years he posterised bosh”(twice) and kris humprhies that have to be some of the best dunks of the years

  23. I hate LeBum James. But, I wont’ dent deny that he is a good player. I won’t disagree of him being on this list.

  24. Oh no! You forgot Hedo!

  25. I believe that you forgot about Dr. J. Honorable mentions for those who were thought about should be included.

  26. Yeah without injuries G Hill would definitely had been top 5

  27. 1. Way to make no mention of the rebounding and assists that can help separate players with very close scoring averages (I dont count mentioning PER as actually mentioning rebounding and assisting contributions). I’m sure they were thought about but talking about them woulda been nice.

    2. Stats, when comparing players from different eras, never tell the whole story. The game is different (at least defensively) from when Larry played to Lebron/PP. Handchecking being removed open the game up alot, as well as the way the game is officiated and other rule changes. Modern players stats tend to be a little higher because of this (Just look at the league scoring average now vs. the 80s). Don’t talk about Lebrons PER as some all-telling stat when he doesn’t have to worry about getting clotheslined during a dunk and the other person only getting a normal foul from it (kurt rambis-kevin mchale).

  28. I totally agree with the last post. Bigs used to be able to camp in the paint and fouls were legit. Also, when citing Lebron’s PER as second best all time, realize that he hasn’t hit the downslope of his career yet. It’s not fair to compare his career stats to a guy who played til he was 35 or 36. Larry Birds career averages would be HIGHER if he hadn’t spent so much time in college. He averaged 21-10-5 in his rookie season and 30-13-5 over his 3 years in college. Tell me how often that would happen today.

  29. NateJ,
    I probably agree with you, but the Mavs came close to being a counter-example to your claim by losing Caron Butler and still winning a title. It’s easy to forget how amazing their run has been.

  30. one name JULIOUS ERVING…nuff said

    I do agree that ‘Nique WAS robbed’

  31. Wow, no defense considered I guess. How many had two-way games? Pierce does, Bird did, but most just looked for their shot, except Pippen. I don’t remember Mullins or Dantley or even LaQueen playing anyone tough. Steals aren’t enough of a measure to evaluate defense, and that’s where Pippen was the strongest, but he wasn’t a shut-down kind of guy. Pippen also essentially disappeared after leaving Chicago and wasn’t even half of the player he was with MJ. How Julius Erving and Charles Barkley could have been left off the list is beyond my comprehension. The author may be too young to properly evaluate players from the eighties. Not his faulty, but not within his experience.

  32. As we all know, making a flawless top 10 list of any kind is impossible. Two names that popped in my head immediately were Hill and Erving. I know that Doctor had his best years outside of the 3 decade period, but on the other hand, he was MVP in 1981 and played at a level worthy of a legend that he is until retirement. Is it too outrageous to say that Hill is ahead of Pippen on pure talent? Anyways, Hill was an awesome player for 6 or 7 years, when healthy. What squeezes him into the top 10, however, is the second part of his career. At 38, this guy can still run like a dear, dunk on people and play lock-down man to man defense. Summae summarum, I know King was a great SF of the 80s, so I’m not really complaining. I guess Hill and Erving are honorable mentions.

    What I disagree with is the position of James Worthy on this list. On one hand, I feel that the Lakers system and their star studded roster helped Worthy maximize his status as an all time great. One could oversimplify and say he was a gifted WR on a team with the best QB of all time. However, while this may partially be true, I feel that the fact that he was the 3rd (and later the second) best player on his team made him somewhat underrated. On talent alone, I feel Worthy was an amazing NBA player, an absolute legend. His footwork, in my opinion, will never ever be matched. Kevin McHale was a fake master, yes, and Hakeem was an agile beast down low, but Worthy’s footwork was exquisite. The guy just knew how to go to the basket and do it over and over again. He was physically gifted, with great athleticism and those long arms, yes, but take a close look at how he finished at the rim. That guy had the smarts and fundamentals that few could ever match. In my book, he’s ahead of Dantley on this list. I’m tempted to put him at 4, though I’m not going that far. Dominique was a special player.

  33. Kudos for making a list and including players from decades ago..

    Too often I see these lists and the person who makes them seems to think the NBA started in 1989….

  34. Don’t use the excuse that Julius Erving played MOST of his Professional career in the ABA or in the 70s – it is INCORRECT !!! he amassed over 13,000 points in the NBA since 1980. He was MVP of the league in 1981. He was an NBA All-Star EVERY year in the 80s. He was NBA All-Star MVP in the 1983 All Star game ! His team won the NBA Championship in 1983. What else do you want ? Dr. J. Has to be included, PERIOD !

  35. How can you forget RICK BARRY!?!?

  36. Rick Barry played his last game more than 31 years ago, dude.

  37. You have a nice subjective list; like others above said …Julius Erving is missing! IMO Dominique goes ahead of Scottie and Bernard King could have been as high as twelfth or as low as fifth.

  38. Thanks for including Bernard King. He’s always been on of my fav. man went back to back 50 pt games in Texas. If only he didn’t get injured and wasn’t on that snow white (allegedly) . Plus, i loved how he burnt NY at MSG with his parents in the stands while he was on the Bullets or when he took over against the pistons in the playoffs, don’t believe me ask Isiah. It’s a tragedy he’s not in the HOF.

  39. I would have taken Pierce over both Dominique and Dantley. He just a far better all-around player than those two. He worked better with teammates (even before KG and Ray arrived) and was a much superior defensive player. Then he could also score a bit.

    Dominique to me is one of the most overrated players. A straight up chucker who never evolved the ability or inclination to get his teammates involved and was a defensive sieve.

    As for Dantley, maybe I’m being ignorant about him because I only saw the latter stage of his career but he was a terrible player to watch. You could only involve him on isos and kickouts from the post because he was a horrible outside shooter with one of the ugliest shots you would ever see (not that the aesthetics of the shot matter, it also just wasn’t good). If he wasn’t directly involved in a play, he was an non-entity but to go through him was to play stagnant basketball. The numbers were great but actual overall impact was less than his impressive stats.

    I would have gone, Bird, Lebron, Pippen (1A player for 6 championship teams), Pierce and Worthy then things get murky with lots of similar players. ‘Nique, Dantley, Mullins and English were all dangerous scorers but flawed one-way players. I would take Mullins last of the foursome but just take everyone else in a tie.

  40. Sorry, no way Lebron over Pippen is accurate. Sure, Lebron has better stats. But MJ didn’t win a single title without Pippen, and that says a lot about him (who by the way, always showed up in his Finals game. Shot in the back, anyone?)

  41. @ Rico Hanes So, maybe I should have had some sort of preface or sidenote for certain players such as Julius Erving. But it IS a fact that he played most of his career in the 1970s (9 seasons) vs. in the 1980s (7 seasons). That’s just math.

    You mentioned his scoring over 13,000 points in the 1980s, specifically scoring 13,263 points in eight seasons starting in 1979 until retirement. However, in only FIVE seasons in the ABA during the 1970s he scored 11,662 points, which is only 1,601 points behind, but in three less seasons. Include the next three seasons , ending with the 1978-79 season, and all in the NBA, Erving scored 16,763 points in the 1970s. More points in the 1970s in eight seasons than in the 1980s, also in eight seasons.

    Regarding MVP awards, he won one in the NBA, but won three in the ABA. Erving was an All-Star every year in the 1980s, but he was also an All-Star every season he played during the 1970s as well, starting with the 1971-72 season. It’s an even 8-8 split in All-Star games between the decades. And regarding championships, Erving won one in the NBA, but two in the ABA.

    Of course, I’m not dumb… I know there were less teams in the ABA and that obviously played a factor. The style of play was also different. But, the numbers are what they are, including the fact that mathematically, Dr. J had more success during the 1970s as opposed to the 1980s.

    BUT DON’T GET ME WRONG… if this was an all-time list regardless of decades, as I said… I would put Erving right after Bird. No denying Dr. J’s greatness, regardless.

  42. Nice list, overall.

    I am happy to see King & English on this list. Those are 2 guys that I believe are very underrated.

    I think Pippen should drop behind Wilkins (& maybe Dantley). If you look at his numbers after Jordan left, he didn’t step up & become “the man”… he faded big time. (Not to mention that infamous game where he refused to go in the game.)

    Also, I always thought of Worthy as a PF playing out of position, so I’m not sold on his spot on the list, but there’s no doubt he was a very good player in his day.

    I have to wonder why Dr J isn’t on the list though, even if you don’t consider his ABA work… he was still a fantasic player.

    Bird is hands-down #1. Great, great, great. I sometimes wonder how Larry would fare in today’s NBA. Would he be a “tweener”, who would have a hard time finding a defensive position on th court? Or would his overwhelming smarts (& great shooting) make him a PTPer even today?

    It’s amazing how much the SF position has changed over the past 20 years. Guys like English, Dantley & Worthy never even stepped behind the arc & were still considered fantastic players.

    P.S. I’m pretty sure Kevin Durant will move onto this list in the near future.

    I’m looking forward to the PF list…. as I argued on the greatest PG article… I hope to see someone stand up & put the great Timmy D in with the centers, where he belongs. =)

  43. Complete details on the overall best top 10 list of forwards. I enjoy reading their achievements, qualifications on why they are on the list and their other skills. Great!

  44. i see you don’t have carmelo on the list :/

  45. @ Ville: he was better than anyone not named Bird. Maybe Pippen. (Actually, probably pippen)

  46. Lebron vs Pippen. Another classic great player/good playoffs vs good player/great playoffs.

    Lebron will never get the respect and credit he craves till earns it in the Finals. Wake me when Lebron has more Finals MVPs than Wade does.

    Also, bump English to 10 and Dantley to 9. I think the list would solid then but it does feel weird having so many guys in front of Worthy. How does Pierce look on a team with Magic and Kareem? Or Nique, what do his stats look like as the 3rd option? Probably not as good as Big Game James.

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