Skip to main content

Earl Monroe ”LeBron James is the greatest small forward but one guy is inches behind him”


Basketball conversations almost always end up in the endless GOAT debates. There's that unrelenting need for fans to single out that lone figure as the champion among champions. While all these talks are valid, it fails to capture the true essence of the sport: that five guys play it. Every piece has to do its part for the machine to work to its total capacity.

With this in mind, perhaps another great way to parse out the sport is by discussing the GOAT in every position. In that way, we could have a holistic view of the sport as a team game. NBA legend Earl Monroe sat down with entrepreneur and basketball fanatic Patrick Bet-David to discuss the matter. Monroe had interesting picks, particularly at the small forward spot. While he believes that LeBron James is the greatest small forward of all time, there's one guy who's inches behind him.

Patrick Bet-David: How about three? Small forward.

Earl Monroe: I'll go with LeBron.

PBD: Do you think anybody is close?

EM: A lot of guys are close.

PBD: Pretty close?

EM: Yeah.

PBD: Who'd you put after LeBron?

EM: Bird.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Monroe's answer is fascinating since when you ask old heads who they think is the GOAT, and it boils down to two types of answers. As for one, they'll mention someone in their era and diligently prove why he's the GOAT. It's a way of putting their colleagues on a pedestal. But, on the other hand, old heads — especially if they're tagged slackers of their era — will select a player from outside of their time and declare him as the GOAT. It is like a defense mechanism. Even after their playing career, old guys are still competing through their media appearances. 

Monroe is obviously not from LeBron's era. Meanwhile, Larry Bird's rookie year was Monroe's last season in the NBA before retiring. So Monroe's choice is a product of him as a keen observer with potent knowledge of the sport, its players, and its constant evolution.

Does this mean Monroe is the most objective and, therefore, correct in his reading? It isn't easy to say. But as it stands, it's another exciting way to look at the sport we all love.

Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan goes up against Utah Jazz player Bryon Russell

“There's no 'Jordan rules' when you play 1-on-1“ — Byron Russell claims Michael Jordan 'chickened out' from a 1-on-1 challenge

After being called out by Michael Jordan during his Hall of Fame speech, Bryon Russell hit back and challenged MJ to a 1-on-1 game. According to Russell, Jordan "chickened out."

Lower Merion High School senior Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant had a “kill list” of 56 players who were ranked above him in high school

Trust Kobe Bryant to make any rankings lists (that has him as an underdog) look foolish


George Gervin shares his all-time five and snubs Michael Jordan

"The Iceman" shared a great lineup with players from his era, sharing a few surprising choices.

Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley

When Michael Jordan "took things personally" on air against Charles Barkley

Charles Barkley bet against Michael Jordan and paid the price.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry

The truth about Stephen Curry’s overlooked defense

In the 2022 playoffs, one could argue that at one point, only Bucks guard Jrue Holiday was a better defender than Steph as Curry held opponents to less than 38% shooting.

San Antonio Spurs forward Dennis Rodman and center David Robinson

“It was like a zoo” — why David Robinson was relieved when Dennis Rodman left the San Antonio Spurs

Dennis Rodman caused a lot of headaches to David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs.

Orlando Magic guard Gilbert Arenas and Miami Heat forward LeBron James

“He never had that year where he says, ‘Eh, frick everybody. I’m trying to get my stats.’” — Gilbert Arenas salutes LeBron James for never chasing stats

The most impressive part about LeBron's statistical achievements, according to Agent Zero, is that he always sacrificed numbers to increase his chances of winning.