Michael Jordan was the main catalyst of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 1990s. The Bulls won titles from 1991-93 and again from 1996-98. When Jordan took his hiatus from the game of basketball, it opened the door for the Houston Rockets to ladn themselves two championships before MJ returned. These factors left the door closed for many great players who were trying to get their hands on the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Michael Jordan failed to win a championship his first six years, and Hakeem Olajuwon failed to win in his first eight, but both eventually evolved their game, and as their teams got better, they started racking up the trophies.
The league was not devoid of talent; many of the players from the 90s that failed to win a championship were on the iconic 1992 dream team. There just weren't enough championships to go around after the Bulls and Rockets hogged most of the trophies from the 90s.
Some of the guys on this list may have a more credible case to be in the Hall of Fame if they could have acquired an NBA championship during their playing days. The eastern conference was very good during Jordan’s reign, and teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, and Orlando Magic had playoff success before having to play Jordan’s Bulls. The Western Conference teams often had to get through hell to get to the Finals.
These are the 15 Best NBA Players From the 90s That Didn't Win A Championship. We'll be excluding names that did eventually manage to win one in the 2000s.
15 Dan Majerle, Small Forward, Phoenix Suns
Dan Majerle was an absolute sniper from three point range, and was part of a three star led Phoenix Suns team that faced the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA finals. Majerle could pull up from well behind the three point arc and still make it with regularity. He also was good at driving to the basket, and when defenders played him to closely to try and defend the three he would make them pay by driving right past them. Majerle only made it to the finals once, and Jordan snatched the Suns chances at a title. Majerle averaged 11 points per game for his career, but was scoring close to 17 points a game when playing for the Suns.
He came close in his last years with Phoenix as well. With Jordan retired, the Suns would have had a good chance in the '94 and '95 Finals, but in both years, ran into the Houston Rockets, who defeated them in the second round two years in a row.
14 Detlef Schrempf, Power Forward, Seattle Supersonics
Detlef Schrempf was a stretch 4 before the term became popular. Big men were not usually known for their abilities to shoot the basketball, but Schrempf could knock down a shot from seemingly anywhere on the court. He loved to back down defenders and then hit a fade away jump shot right before their eyes. The pump fake was a move that Schrempf used from time to time, and the defenders often times would bite on the pump fake.
His lone chance at an NBA title came with the Seattle SuperSonics against Jordan’s Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. Detlef Schrempf averaged 14 points and 6 rebounds per game in his career and his lone shot at a title was perhaps Jordan’s easiest test in the finals. Schrempf's Sonics would also suffer playoff defeats at the hands of the Lakers, Nuggets, Suns and the Jazz.
13 Penny Hardaway, Small Forward, Orlando Magic
Penny Hardaway was a true point forward in every sense of his game. He possessed extraordinary passing skills that resembled any top flight point guard and was extremely crafty when possessing the basketball. The Orlando Magic were a young blossoming franchise and actually defeated the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the 1995 NBA playoffs. Hardaway and the Magic eliminated a Michael Jordan led team for the first time since the Detroit Pistons had done so in 1990.
Hardaway’s team failed to win a title in 1995 though, as they fell to the repeating champions in the Houston Rockets. In 1996, their shot at redemption was blown when they were swept by the historic 1995-96 Bulls team.The Magic failed to get over the hump, and despite averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game for his career Penny Hardaway never could attain a world championship. His championship window essentially closed when Shaq left town for Los Angeles.
12 Larry Johnson, Small Forward, Charlotte Hornets
Larry Johnson was an absolute stud coming out of UNLV, and was selected first overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1991 NBA Draft. He had a great deal of athleticism creating posters on a weekly basis early on is his career. His first and only crack at Michael Jordan came in the 1995 NBA playoffs with the Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan had come back to the Bulls midway through the season, and the Hornets were hoping that the rust would show in their first round series.
The Hornets were bounced in four games, but Johnson would reach the finals in 1999 as part of the New York Knicks, only to lose to the beginning of another dynasty in the San Antonio Spurs. Larry Johnson could score and rebound efficiently for a small forward posting averages of 16 points and 7 rebounds per game for his career.
11 Brad Daugherty, Center, Cleveland Cavaliers
Brad Daugherty probably still thinks about the final seconds of Game 5 of the 1989 NBA playoffs. Daugherty did not have a great game, but the Cavs were in position to win the series with little time remaining. Michael Jordan had the ball, dribbled towards the foul line, and with his body shifting to the left put up a heavily contested jump shot over Craig Ehlo. The clock struck 0, and the ball had fallen through the net.
Daugherty would lose to Jordan’s Bulls in the 1988, 1989, 1992, and 1993 NBA playoffs, and despite averaging 19 points and 9 rebounds per game, Brad Daugherty could never propel his team to an NBA championship. Besides the Bulls, Daugherty's Cavs would also lose to the 76ers in the 1990 playoffs.
10 Shawn Kemp, Small Forward, Seattle Supersonics
The rain man Shawn Kemp was one of the few who defied gravity in a synonymous way to Michael Jordan during the 1990s. Shawn Kemp was the second option on a Seattle SuperSonics team that featured Gary Payton, and Kemp and the SuperSonics reached the NBA finals in 1996 to square off against the Chicago Bulls. The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls are arguably the greatest team to ever step foot on the basketball court in NBA history. Shawn Kemp seemed to put on a show every game, but it was inferior to the great team basketball of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls.
Kemp's Sonics teams came close a few other times, losing to the Suns in the 1993 Western Conference Championship, as well as suffering defeats to the Nuggets and Lakers.
Shawn Kemp for his career averaged nearly 15 points per game and 8 rebounds per game. Following his departure from Seattle, his career went down the drain, and with it, his opportunity at an NBA title.
9 Tim Hardaway, Point Guard, Miami Heat
Tim Hardaway is one of the most underrated players of the 1990s due to the lack of success that his teams achieved during his long NBA career. Hardaway was one of the first NBA players to facilitate the crossover dribble on a consistent basis and was a sample of what we would later see when Allen Iverson evolved the move. Hardaway reached the playoffs nine times throughout his career. While with the Warriors, his teams suffered multiple early exits to the Lakers, Sonics and Suns. He was traded to Miami during the 1995-96 season.
He bumped into Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the 1996 and 1997 NBA playoffs, getting swept in 1996. In 1997 the two teams faced off in the eastern conference finals, but Hardaway’s Heat team only managed to win one game in the series. Tim Hardaway for his career averaged nearly 18 points and 8 assists per game.
8 Dikembe Mutombo, Center, Atlanta Hawks
Mount Mutombo was infamous for blocking shots during his long career in the NBA. He only averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds per game during his career, but also got his teams at least 3 blocks per game and altered many others. Mutombo famously wagged his finger at opposing players after blocking their shot. Nuggets teams of the early 90s often came up short once they got to the playoffs, bowing out early.
Michael Jordan at one point dunked over Mutombo and wagged his finger back at Mutombo. The Atlanta Hawks were bounced by the Michael Jordan led Chicago Bulls in the 1997 NBA playoffs. The closest Mutombo got to a championship was with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals, but the Los Angeles Lakers took the series in 5 games.
7 Reggie Miller, Shooting Guard, Indiana Pacers
Reggie Miller is arguably the best shooter in NBA history. He was a superb scorer and had a clutch gene that was comparable to Jordan’s. The Pacers made the NBA playoffs almost every year that Reggie Miller played in the league, but Miller did not get a shot at Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls until the 1998 NBA playoffs. The Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls faced off in the eastern conference finals. Despite only averaging 17 points per game in the series, Miller's Pacers forced a Game 7. The Pacers were up 8 points at the end of the first quarter but were losing by the end of the half. The Bulls never looked back and won the series in a close battle.
Besides this memorable series, the Pacers came up short against other teams, such as Patrick Ewing's Knicks, and Shaq's Magic teams in the mid 90s.
Reggie Miller would make it to the finals in 2000, only to lose to the Los Angeles Lakers.
6 Kevin Johnson, Point Guard, Phoenix Suns
He may have played second fiddle to Charles Barkley during the Phoenix Suns run to the NBA Finals in 1993, but Kevin Johnson was one of the better point guards in the NBA during the 1990s. Johnson was an excellent passer. For his career he averaged 9 assists a game, and made it much easier for Barkley to score off of his precise passing. Kevin Johnson could also provide scoring averaging 18 points per game for his career.
Kevin Johnson holds the dubious honor of leaving John Paxon wide open in the closing seconds of Game 6 of the 1993 NBA finals. The Suns defense collapsed on Jordan, and Paxon hit an open three to win the series for the Chicago Bulls in 1993.
Besides their finals loss to the Bulls, the Suns also came up short in several series against the Portland Trail Blazers and would also lose to the eventual champion Houston Rockets in the '94 and '95 playoffs.
5 John Stockton, Point Guard, Utah Jazz
When discussing the best point guards in NBA history, John Stockton is often times referred to as one of the greatest to ever lace them up at the position. He and Karl Malone had the pleasure of making it to the NBA finals twice to face off against the Jordan led Bulls. In 1997 and 1998 the Stockton led Utah Jazz and came up just short against the Bulls and Jordan hit game winning shots and even overcame physical ailments to put away the Utah Jazz in both series.
The Jazz had an opportunity to avoid the Bulls in the '94 and '95 playoffs, but lost to the Houston Rockets in both years. In '96 they would fall in the Western Conference Finals to the Sonics. For a span of four out of five years, Stockton's Jazz fell to the eventual NBA Champions.
John Stockton is the all-time leader in assists and steals in NBA history, and despite making the playoffs every year he was in the NBA, he failed to capture an NBA championship.
4 Patrick Ewing, Power Forward, New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing’s Knicks teams may have given Jordan his most fierce battles with in the eastern conference playoffs during the 1990s. Ewing’s Knicks were swept in 1991 by the Chicago Bulls, but in 1992 he lost in seven games to the Bulls, in 1993 his team was up two games to nothing and still lost the series in seven, and in 1996 the Bulls romped over the Knicks in five games.
The Knicks got a two-year break in which the Bulls didn't have Jordan and capitalized on the opportunity, reaching the NBA Finals in 1994. Their party was spoiled by the Houston Rockets, who defeated the Knicks in seven games. Ewing would get a couple more great chances when Jordan retired in 1998, but the Knicks would lose the 1999 Finals to San Antonio and in the Eastern Conference Finals against Indiana in 2000.
Patrick Ewing is an all-time great averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds per game throughout his NBA career. Michael Jordan pestered Ewing’s Knicks, as did Reggie Miller and the Spurs.
3 Charles Barkley, Power Forward, Phoenix Suns
The NBA may never again see such a ferocious rebounder at 6-foot-6. His best chance at winning an NBA championship came against the Michael Jordan led Bulls in 1993. Charles Barkley enjoyed his best season as a pro during the 1992-93 NBA season, accumulating 25 points and 12 rebounds per game. His superb play during the season allowed him to claim the league’s MVP award, and a shot at a world title. Barkley may have given Jordan his toughest test in the NBA finals.
Despite averaging nearly 27 points and 14 rebounds a game in the 1993 NBA Playoffs, Barkley was outmatched by Michael Jordan in six games in the NBA finals and would never make it make to the finals in his career.
Barkley would eventually join the Rockets in the late 90s, but it was a little too late, as much of their mid-90s championship teams had already been dismantled. Barkley always seemed to be in the right place at the wrong time.
2 Karl Malone, Power Forward, Utah Jazz
The MailMan could never deliver an NBA Championship to himself. He and John Stockton had the opportunity to beat the Bulls in the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals but failed to do so. In 1997, Malone was honored with the MVP award, which may have fueled Jordan to prove that he was the most valuable player in the NBA that year when they met face to face in the 1997 NBA finals. During the 1998 NBA finals in the closing seconds of Game 6 The Jazz held a 1 point lead. Karl Malone was posting up on the baseline, but as he was backing down his defender he was stripped of the ball by Jordan. This led to Michael Jordan hitting a game winning shot over Byron Russell to secure his 6th NBA championship.
The Jazz came close on several other occasions, losing in the Conference Finals to the Trail Blazers in 1992, the Rockets in 1994 and the Sonics in 1996.
Despite not winning an NBA championship, Karl Malone ended his career with the second most points in NBA history.
1 Dominique Wilkins, Small Forward, Atlanta Hawks
Dominique Wilkins is one of the greatest dunkers in NBA history. He is known for his high flying windmill jams, but it is often forgotten that he was also an incredible scorer averaging over 24 points per game for his career. Wilkins began his rivalry with Jordan during the dunk contests of the late 1980s. Later Wilkins' Atlanta Hawks faced Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the first round of the 1993 playoffs, but were swept despite Wilkins scoring a combined 90 points in three games for the Hawks.
The Hawks had some stiff competition in the 90s, as they suffered multiple playoff defeats to teams like the Pacers, the Magic and even the Detroit Pistons early in the 90s.
Dominique Wilkins could never capture an NBA title because of lackluster teams built around him. He is arguably the greatest player in NBA history to never win a title.