It seems like the list of superstars that never won a NBA Championship continues to get longer and longer. One of the reasons for this is because there are only a handful of teams that are capable of winning the NBA Championship every decade. Unlike Major League Baseball, the NBA is far more predictable with its outcomes, which means that there are only a few teams that have the capacity to win a NBA Championship each and every year. This means that there are a plethora of players that will tragically never hold up a Championship trophy.
For example, take a look at some of the modern players that have yet to win a ring or even make a Finals appearance. Kevin Durant is widely regarded as the best player in the league or at the very least, the second best player in the league. Yet, he has only made the Finals once in his entire career and he lost. Chris Paul, who is considered the best point guard in the NBA has never gone past the Western Conference Finals. And former two-time MVP, Steve Nash, has made zero Finals appearances during his twenty seasons in the NBA.
There are a whole host of players that will never win a ring and may never even make it to the Finals. The reason for that is because of three players: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and LeBron James. Every decade, there are two or three players that seem to hog all of the Championship rings. In the 1980’s it was Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and in the 1990’s it was pretty much all Michael Jordan. The same is true of today.
This leaves a plethora of superstars that have never won, but deserve an honorable mention for their body of work. Below is the top-20 players that have played the game, but have never won a NBA Championship. No active players will be included because they still have a chance at the crown.
18 Walt Bellamy (1961-1975)
It’s always hard to gauge older players in comparison to modern players, especially if they are players from the early ‘60’s. However, it was impossible to leave Bellamy out, considering the kind of numbers he posted. Bellamy averaged 31.6 points per game and 19.0 rebounds per game as a rookie. Think about that for a moment. If those numbers were put up today, Bellamy would not only be the Rookie of the Year, but the MVP of the league. However, Bellamy never even made an appearance in the NBA Finals because he never had a strong enough supporting cast.
19. Chris Mullin (1985-2001)
Chris Mullin has won two Olympic gold medals and won the Wooden award as the best player in college in 1985 for St. John’s. The New Yorker moved to the West Coast after he was drafted by the Golden State Warriors and quickly established himself as one of the best shooters in the NBA. During his best season with the Warriors, he averaged 26.5 points per game, 5.9 rebounds per game, and 5.1 assists per game. Mullin was the total package, however, he was far more successful at the college level than the pro level.
17 Bernard King (1978-1993)
Bernard King was the king of New York City in the 1980’s. In 1984-85, he averaged 32.9 points per game and was basically unstoppable on offense. However, he tore his ACL that same season and he never came back the same type of player. Unfortunately for King, the injury happened when he was right at the pinnacle of his career. King should have been competing for NBA Championships during the late ‘80’s, but was never able to resurrect his career.
16 Shawn Kemp (1989-2003)
The Reign Man’s career averages aren’t that impressive because of his dramatic drop-off in his last three seasons. However, we should not penalize the rest of his career because he was trying to collect a few more paychecks before his retirement. Shawn Kemp was one of the most complete two-way players during the 1990’s. He was a six-time All-Star and even made it to the Finals before running into Michael and his Bulls. There was no team that gave the Bulls more problems than the Kemp’s Sonics.
15 Alex English (1976-1991)
The 6th pick of the second round in the 1976 NBA Draft, ended up having an excellent career for someone that was so overlooked. English played 15 seasons in the NBA and even won the scoring title in 1982-83 with an average of 28.4 points per game and currently ranks 15th all-time in points with a total of 25,613 points. However, he was never able to translate all of those points into any NBA Finals appearances.
14 Dikembe Mutombo (1991-2009)
There aren’t players more likable than Dikembe Mutombo. Mutombo didn’t start playing basketball until later in his life, which may explain his distinct style of play. Mt. Mutombo made his career in his NBA with his defense. He is the second best shot blocker in league history with a total of 3,289 blocks and led the league in blocks five seasons. Mutombo made it to the Finals twice in 2001 and 2003 with the Sixers and the Nets, but finished 0-2.
13 Pete Maravich (1970-1980)
Pistol Pete was a magician on the basketball court. He was a shorter version of Magic Johnson with his passes, but was a much deadlier scorer than Magic. Pistol Pete averaged 31.1 points per game during the 1976-1977 season. Had he not run into knee problems later in his career, it’s quite possible that he could have won a ring, but nevertheless, he still fell short of winning a title.
12 Chris Webber (1993-2008)
Chris Webber is one of the most talented big men to have ever played the game. He really had no weaknesses in his game. He could post on the block, shoot the fifteen footer, dribble the distance of the entire court, was an underrated passer, and was an above average shot blocker. However, Webber only made the Conference Finals twice, but never made it to the NBA Finals due to Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers.
12. Tracy McGrady (1997-2013)
T-Mac jumped right into the NBA from high school. The 9th pick in the 1997 draft played from 1997-2013. The seven-time All-Star had an illustrious career. He is one of the most deadly offensive weapons to have ever played the game. He led the league in scoring twice from 2002-2004 where he averaged 32.1 and 28.0 points per game. The closest that T-Mac ever got to winning a NBA Championship was two years ago when the San Antonio Spurs lost a heartbreaking series to the Miami Heat. However, T-Mac was just a spectator at this point in his career.
11 Bob Lanier (1970-1984)
Lanier finished just shy of the 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds club by finishing with 19,248 points and 9.698 rebounds. He is still regarded as one of the best big men to have ever played the game, despite never winning a ring or even making it to the NBA Finals. However, the former number one pick had a stellar career as an individual and was one of the best big men in the 70’s.
10 Artis Gilmore (1971-1988)
The left-handed big man was drafted during an era when there was still an obscene amount of draft picks. So, when he was selected with the 117th pick in the 7th round, it is pretty remarkable that he lasted 17-years in the league (ABA and NBA). Gilmore led the league in rebounding four seasons in the NBA, including his rookie year when he averaged 17.8 rebounds per game. However, he was not only a rebounder, but a scorer as well. Gilmore averaged 24.6 points per game and 15.5 rebounds per game during his 5th season in the league. He was an absolute beast, but it was not enough to earn him a ring.
9 Reggie Miller (1987-2005)
Reggie Miller will never win an award for the prettiest jumper in the league, but he is one of the best shooters in NBA history. Miller is second all-time in 3-point attempts made. Furthermore, there are only five players in NBA history that have made over 25,000 points, 4,000 rebounds, 4,000 assists, and 1,500 steals, and Miller is one of them. Miller’s Pacers made the Finals once in 2000, but they eventually lost to Shaq and Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers.
8 Dominique Wilkins (1982-1999)
The Human Highlight Film won a Slam Dunk Contest in 1985 and 1990, but he was never able to win a NBA Championship. Wilkins was pretty much just a dunker when he first got into the league, but as he developed more and more, he became a better all-around player. Wilkins had some help with Spud Webb and Kevin Willis, but he was never able to overtake Bird’s Celtics and Jordan’s Bulls.
7 Patrick Ewing (1985-2002)
Patrick Ewing was one of the hottest players to ever come out of college. Ewing made it to the Final Four three times and even won a NCAA Championship in 1984. Winning was in this Hoya’s blood. However, it was much harder to win in the NBA than it was in the NCAA. His Knicks made it to the NBA Finals twice in 1994 and 1999, but Ewing wasn’t really a factor in the 1999 series against the San Antonio Spurs because he was injured. Had he played, there is a slight chance he could have helped neutralize the Twin Towers in San Antonio.
6 Allen Iverson (1996-2010)
The 2001 MVP was the number one pick in the 1996 draft. Iverson was a misunderstood player for most of his career. He played with a bit more a street ball type of game, which didn’t always sit well with all of his coaches. However, he is still pound for pound, one of the best basketball players to ever play the game. The little man helped lead the Philadelphia Sixers to the NBA Finals in 2001, but they were too undermanned against the Los Angeles Lakers.
5 George Gervin (1972-1986)
The Ice-Man was one of the best offensive weapons that the NBA/ABA has ever seen. He led the league in scoring four different times during his ten-years in the NBA. Gervin finished his career with an average of 26.2 points per game and his patent finger roll is still one of the most unique moves in NBA history. The Ice-Man never made it to the NBA Finals due to his supporting cast, but as an individual, he was pretty unstoppable.
4 John Stockton (1985-2003)
John Stockton still ranks as the all-time leader in assists and steals and that record may not be broken any time soon. Stockton totaled 15,806 assists and 3,265 steals. Yet, despite his offensive and defensive prowess, it was still not enough to put the Jazz in the championship category. Of course, running into Michael Jordan and his Bulls can do that to everyone playing in the 1990’s.
3 Charles Barkley (1984-2000)
The MVP of the 1993 NBA season had a career average of 22.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game. At 6’6” he is still one of the most intimidating big men to have ever played the game. Barkley did make it to the Finals, but came up short to Jordan and his Bulls in the 1993 season. Perhaps, if he played during another era, he could have won a ring, but such was the fate of everyone that played during Jordan’s era.
2 Karl Malone (1985-2004)
The Mailman still has one of the most impressive resumes in NBA history; the only thing that it lacks is a NBA ring. Malone is second all-time in total points scored with a total of 36,928 (more than MJ), sixth in rebounds with a total of 14,968, and forty-eighth in assists with a total of 5,248. There are only two other players in NBA history with at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 5,000 assists: Kareem Abdual Jabbar and Kevin Garnett. During Malone’s 19-year career, he did make the NBA Finals three different times, but always managed to fall short.
1 Elgin Baylor (1958-1972)
It is hard to believe that someone could have had a more impressive career than Karl Malone without winning a championship, but Elgin Baylor made it to the NBA Finals eight times during his NBA career, yet his NBA Finals record was 0-8. Over the course of his 14-year NBA career, he averaged 27.4 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game. Yet, even those impressive numbers were not enough to help him win a ring, but you have to admire his perseverance and pursuit of a title. Most players wouldn’t have the fortitude to make it to the Finals after falling that many times.
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