NBA legends are often asked which players are included in their top five of all-time. That is an exciting topic for discussions and debates as naming players who starred in different eras could be fun. Legends are always asked which other NBA players they admire, and one name that always comes up is Larry Bird, contrary to what others might have expected, like Magic, Hakeem, or Kareem.
Wilt Chamberlain picks Larry Bird as the best small forward.
In an older interview with Ahmad Rashad, Wilt Chamberlain named Larry Bird in his top five all-time players alongside Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, and a toss-up between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.
In the same video, another legend, Bill Russell, picked Bird with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, and Hakeem Olajuwon. These were more than five, but we could forgive these legends if they chose more than five players.
Curiously, Wilt and Bill only played in the same era with Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Oscar Robertson. One glaring omission was the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who not only played in that era but also played in the same position as Wilt and Bill.
What makes Bird the best small forward?
At his peak, Bird was unstoppable. He had a combination of high basketball IQ, ruthlessness, and skills. The Boston Celtics legend was not the highest leaper, nor was he the best passer in his team. He was not the best rebounder or blocker, but he did all of these at an elite level. He walked the talk and won rings to back up his trash talk.
In a separate interview, Wilt Chamberlain pointed out Larry Bird’s technical skills, considered elite or ahead of his time.
“Well, I think that may be in the minds of many, but this man also is very, very talented. I think he epitomizes what a forward is supposed to do, especially in the game he played because he was technically correct. He was a correct type of basketball player, and most people today don’t play the game correctly, and he did.”Wilt Chamberlain
The respect from fellow Hall of Famers reflects just how massive Bird’s contributions were in the game. He was included in almost every other top five all-time and the recognition and accolades that come with it.