The landscape of the NBA makes it the most difficult sport to win a championship. There’s more parity in other North American sports like the NFL, MLB and NFL. With the NBA, you know there’s a very small selection of teams that will have a realistic chance at competing for a ring. The reason for that revolves around the importance of superstars. You must have at least two All-Star caliber players to be a legitimate threat and teams without stars have very little chances of even sniffing a postseason appearance. Teams have also been able to build dynasties easier in the NBA.
Once a franchise has the right core in their prime, it will lead to a potential dynasty. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it with the Chicago Bulls. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant did it with the Los Angeles Lakers. The San Antonio Spurs have delivered it on and off with Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, and now with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge in the mix. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh concocted a scheme to come together literally to follow the same guidelines. The Golden State Warriors are currently in the process of it with Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson leading the way.
Recent history indicates that very few teams will have chances due to the dominant teams at the top of the league holding the fort down and it being a tough task to acquire enough talent to compete with them. This has led to various teams failing to get to the end goal of a championship parade. There are thirteen franchises that have yet to experience to ultimate joy by obtaining the golden prize. Between bad luck and poor choices, they are still desperately fighting to get off of this list. We’ll look at the teams that came closest to it as we break down the top thirteen NBA teams that have never won a championship.
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13 Charlotte Hornets
Things get tricky right off the bat as the changes between the Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans franchises makes it a bit confusing. The Charlotte Hornets adopt the Charlotte Bobcats history as the franchise just recently changed the name into the Hornets when the name opened up. Charlotte has been an expansion team since debuting in the 2004 season and has yet to be in realistic contention for a championship. Under the ownership of Michael Jordan, they are looking to build a credible team for the future but their past is laughable. The return of the Hornets name to Charlotte gives slight hope but they are a long way away from a title.
12 New Orleans Pelicans
The Charlotte Hornets relocated to New Orleans in 2002 but they’ve never won a title in any incarnation of their history. In Charlotte, they had great players like Alonzo Mourning, Larry Johnson and Glen Rice but could not contend in an East with the elite Chicago Bulls dynasty. The move to New Orleans saw Chris Paul give them a formidable team for a few seasons with their best chance coming in a great seven-game Western Conference Semi-Finals loss to the San Antonio Spurs. They could never get over the bump and are rebuilding with Anthony Davis as the face of the newly named Pelicans franchise. Davis is an absolute superstar and gives them hope at contending if they can put a good team around him.
11 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves have seen ups and downs through their history with their most memorable times coming during Kevin Garnett's peak years. They had a change to make a push at one point, but Garnett and Stephon Marbury could not coexist and Marbury would get dealt. Minnesota underachieved for a years until Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell arrived to assist Garnett in the franchise’s best season in history. The Timberwolves would fall short to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and have not been able to get close since. Kevin Love was expected to become the new star of the franchise but he has been replaced with the era of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. There is hope for Minnesota to win a title in the next decade thanks to these young superstars.
10 Memphis Grizzlies
After some difficult years, the Memphis Grizzlies have become a fixture in playoff contention for the last five years. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley have created a hard-nosed identity of tough players who leave it all on the court. Memphis has been unable to get to the NBA Finals due to the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and Golden State Warriors becoming the dominant forces in the Western Conference. From the early years in Vancouver to the current time in Memphis, the Grizzlies have not been able to capture a NBA Championship but they have created many memorable moments for their fans.
9 Denver Nuggets
The history of the Denver Nuggets is not very celebrated in the NBA due to their lack of success in the postseason. A historic 2003 Draft would have the franchise put their faith and hopes into the third overall pick Carmelo Anthony. While Anthony was a superstar that led the Nuggets to postseason play every season he was there, they were eliminated in the first round every time but once. That one trip to the Western Conference Finals was squashed by Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers. Anthony would eventually force a trade out of Denver to the New York Knicks and the Nuggets have yet to get back into contention since losing their star.
8 Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors added a NBA presence in Canada during the 1995-1996 season and they've been a fascinating team since coming into the league. The rise to stardom by Vince Carter put the franchise on the map due to the must-see superstar’s incredible dunks and great overall play. Toronto failed to put a great team around Carter and they never had a deep playoff run despite competing in a classic seven-game series against the Philadelphia 76ers in 2001. The Raptors lost Carter and treaded water until the current day. Toronto is looking to contend this season with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan leading a diehard fan base into the postseason.
7 Brooklyn Nets
With a presence in the New York area with time in both New Jersey and now Brooklyn, the Nets have failed to become a threat to the New York Knicks and are the forgotten team in the area. The only time the Nets have come close to winning a championship was in the Jason Kidd era when they went to back-to-back Finals in 2002 and 2003. Unfortunately for the franchise, their only two shots came up short against the dominant Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs teams. The move to Brooklyn saw the Nets try to build a contender with the core of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. All men were past their prime and the franchise is in disarray today after going for broke.
6 Los Angeles Clippers
Many new NBA fans have no idea just how different the reputation of the Los Angeles Clippers used to be before the current era. The Clippers were among the worst teams every season and drafted too many busts to name until striking gold with Blake Griffin. The emergence of Griffin was the first domino followed by the team acquiring superstar Chris Paul in a trade and becoming a contender in the West. Los Angeles has sadly underachieved in the playoffs every season and has yet to get to the Western Conference Finals despite having a loaded roster. Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City dominating this season will lead to another year without a ring for the Clippers.
5 Indiana Pacers
The 90s Chicago Bulls dynasty blocked so many superstars and great teams from winning a ring. Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers were among the core of teams in the East unable to get past the Bulls. The franchise has never won a title but they did have two realistic chances. Indiana fell to Chicago in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals seven-game series because of Jordan’s greatness. The Los Angeles Lakers dynamic duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant prevented the Pacers from getting to basketball nirvana in the 2000 NBA Finals. The Pacers have had many ups and downs since then but have yet to return to the finals despite having great talent during different regimes.
4 Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns are definitely one of the franchises that should have won at least one championship but have been met with bad luck. Phoenix acquired two superstars in their prime at different points and each scenario should have led to more success. Charles Barkley led the Suns to the 1993 NBA Finals but could not get past Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who were completing their first three-peat. Steve Nash arrived in Phoenix in the mid-2000s when the NBA was stagnant and boring, and the Suns' new style of play helped create new excitement. The Suns would dominate the regular season with Nash, Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion but could not get to the Finals. Between the two future Hall of Famers that have led the franchise, it’s a shame Phoenix never scored one ring.
3 Orlando Magic
No team has lucked out in drafting franchise leading centers like the Orlando Magic. The franchise built the team around Shaquille O’Neal and star guard Penny Hardaway but could never win the title everyone expected. Orlando was extremely good and was actually the only team to defeat a Michael Jordan team in the playoffs following 1990, but the Magic fell to the Houston Rockets in their only trip to the finals with Shaq. The team would disband and Orlando’s next big star was Tracy McGrady but they failed to put a good enough roster around him for playoff success. Their most recent chance at contending came when drafting superstar center Dwight Howard but they fell short in their sole NBA Finals appearance against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009.
2 Utah Jazz
Karl Malone and John Stockton are definitely the best duo in NBA history to never win a championship. The dynamic of a stellar scoring paint presence and an outstanding facilitating point guard led to a legendary partnership that fell in the finals to Chicago Bulls in back-to-back seasons. Malone and Stockton would see new challengers and the aging process prevented them from excelling following Michael Jordan’s exit from the NBA. Utah built another great squad many years later with Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer leading the way but they are still searching for their first championship banner. The Jazz are currently far away from getting back into the NBA Finals and having another chance at a title.
1 Cleveland Cavaliers
The main reason for the Cleveland Cavaliers topping list this is simple – LeBron James. Cleveland has been led by an iconic once in a generation superstar for many years but have not been able to seal the deal. James first run with the Cavaliers was always met with disappointment due to their inability to surround him with talent. The best supporting player most seasons was slightly above average guard Mo Williams. With a return to Cleveland following his four year stint in Miami, LeBron is desperately trying to bring a championship home with the help of stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The window is closing and James will have to overcome tough Western competition if he wants the Cavaliers to win their first title.
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