MVP, Hall of Fame, Olympic Medals are all among things that basketball players strive to achieve throughout their careers, but at the end of the day, the most important thing is to win an NBA Championship, and unfortunately for all the great players in NBA history, not everyone gets to win one. On the other hand, there are players out there who ride the pine for the majority of their time with a team, yet manage to get the elusive championship ring on the back of their teams superstars, but as the saying goes, "life isn’t fair."
So have a read as we analyze 8 of the greatest NBA players of all time who were never able to bring a championship banner to their organization, and 7 players who perhaps undeservedly were able to call themselves NBA Champion.
15 Best To Never Win – Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo is the only current player featured on this list, as it’s fairly obvious that he will never win a title with his style of play, but despite that, he has been one of the most consistent and dominant scorers in the NBA this entire generation, but playing on a horrid Knicks team, Melo might not even see the playoffs again before his career is done. Sure, there are other players like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and James Harden who have yet to taste Finals glory, but they have much time left in their careers, and are all playing on Championship contending teams, and it sucks to say as a Knicks fan, but Melo isn’t going to win one. He plays a selfish style that has helped him to tremendous individual success, but as a leader on a team, Anthony has failed at every turn, and will go down as one of the best ever to not taste Finals glory, or even the Finals themselves.
14 Worst To Win – Andrew Bynum
Once upon a time, Andrew Bynum was considered one of the most promising big men in the NBA, and after contributing to the 2009 and 2010 Lakers titles, it seemed like he would go on to have a fantastic career, but since that point, he has done nothing but disappoint for any NBA team that he plays on. Sure, he was an All-Star at one point, but for the four teams he has played on since those Lakers titles, he contributed absolutely nothing, which is a major disappointment for someone who has all the tools to be a superstar. Despite winning two championships, Bynum will go down in NBA history as one of the biggest wastes of potential, and this caused him to retire at the young age of 27.
13 Best To Never Win – Reggie Miller
It doesn’t happen often in these days, but Reggie Miller played his entire 18-year career with one team, and the Indiana Pacers legend will go down as one of the best players of all time, but unfortunately most of that career was played during the time of the Bad Boy Pistons, legendary Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, and that resulted in him never winning the big one. From 1990-2005, the final 15 years of his career, Miller led the Pacers to the playoffs, but with such stiff competition, he wasn’t able to ever take them to the finals, but that didn’t mean he missed out on big moments. The “Knick Killer” had some amazing moments and game throughout his career, including an amazing flurry of points in clutch time to beat their rival Knicks, and he ended his career as the All-time NBA leading 3-point shooter (which has since been surpassed by Ray Allen). Unfortunately, he just couldn’t go on to win the ring.
12 Worst To Win – Brandon Rush
Brandon Rush came into the NBA by way of Kansas, and as a long range shooter, he had plenty of hype about him, and despite never living up to that promise, it was on the back of two of the greatest long range shooters of all time in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson that Rush was able to get a ring which eludes so many NBA players. Despite all the hype, Rush has always failed to even reach 10 points a game, and for someone with the talents that he has for a bench player, that’s not very good. Still, such weaknesses were so easily masked by the overall brilliance and chemistry of this Warriors team. At the end of the day, Rush isn’t a bad player, but he just hasn’t been able to turn his talents into results at the NBA level, and that lands him on this list.
11 Best To Never Win – Patrick Ewing
It’s safe to say that the current New York Knicks organization is the worst in basketball (perhaps the worst in all North American sports), and they haven’t had any success over the last two decades since losing one of the best Centers to ever play the game, the best player in franchise history, Patrick Ewing. Alongside Charles Oakley, the Knicks led by Ewing were the most physically imposing team since the Bad Boy Pistons of the early '90s, but unfortunately, they couldn’t capitalize on the first retirement of Michael Jordan, as they fell short to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. It’s unfortunate for everyone involved with the Knicks organization, as they couldn’t capitalize and win a title with their most dominant outfit in history, and it looks like they won’t be returning to such lofty heights anytime soon.
10 Worst To Win – Brian Cardinal
It’s often said that professional athletes in America are overpaid, and while you’d never think of Brian Cardinal as overpaid, he managed to earn over $40 million throughout his career, one which saw him average just 4.6 points a game, but despite this mediocrity, he managed to win his NBA Championship ring in 2011, with the Dallas Mavericks team led by Dirk Nowitski. Throughout his time in the NBA, Cardinal played for eight different teams, and despite making loads of money and winning that elusive Championship ring, he never managed a long stay at either team, as he was always cut or traded, but thankfully for Cardinal, he managed to time it right and right the coattails of the Mavericks to get a ring which, let’s be honest, he doesn’t really deserve.
9 Best To Never Win – Steve Nash
There have been many incredible point guards to enter the NBA over the years, and while there are two that have recorded more assists than Steve Nash, none of them have had the ability to throw the flashy passes that Nash could, and that’s what made him one of the most popular players in the league during his time with the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. Despite being on a few stacked teams throughout his time, and being one of the most clutch players in the league in the fourth quarter, Nash could never manage to lead his team to the promised land, but still remains a top 5 PG in NBA history.
We don’t see many traditional PGs in the league anymore, so it’s unlikely that we will see anyone similar to Nash entering the league anytime soon, and to still succeed as a traditional type PG in the NBA during this changing time in the game just proves how good he was, but unfortunately he could never get that elusive ring.
8 Worst To Win – Jordan Farmar
The 2009 and 2010 Los Angeles Lakers teams were very good, and led by Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Ron Artest/Metta World Peace, they were fairly deep, so deep in fact that guys like the aforementioned Andrew Bynum and Jordan Farmar didn’t look too bad in those two playoff runs, but neither of them provided much for the Lake Show in those two runs. In the little time he was given, 4.6 points a game isn’t all bad, but when your point guard has a 2-1 assist to turnover ratio, there are going to be problems. But thankfully for his legacy, Kobe Bryant was able to lead the team despite two glaring weaknesses. There have been worse players to win Championships all over sports, but Farmar just wasn’t up to scratch, and should thank his lucky stars that the Lakers gave him the opportunity.
7 Best To Never Win – Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is quite possibly the most talented player to ever enter the NBA, and he had a resume that was full of successes and incredible highlight reel plays, but after their loss to the Lakers in the NBA Finals, Iverson was never again to reach the peak of the NBA, whether playing for the Philadelphia 76ers or Denver Nuggets. AI is remembered long after his retirement for his now infamous “we talking ‘bout practice” interview, as well as his incredible crossover, but when it comes down to it, Iverson just didn’t have what it took to get the job done. He never played on the best teams in the league, so he had to carry his teams to the success they had, so he needs to be credited for that. But unfortunately for his legacy, he will never have a ring.
6 Worst To Win – Shandon Anderson
There were several below average NBA players from the Miami Heat that were carried to Championships due to a "Big 3," but Shandon Anderson instead found his lone championship during the organizations first title run, led by Dwayne Wade and Shaquille O’Neal in 2006, and while his NBA career up to this point wasn’t too bad, it was his abysmal play throughout that year that earns him a spot on this list. Throughout that season, he averaged around 3 points a game, and in 13 appearances throughout that historic run, he could only muster 1 point a game. Despite this poor play, Wade and Shaq managed to help him on the way to his one and only ring.
5 Best To Never Win – John Stockton
If not for one Earvin “Magic” Johnson, John Stockton would clearly be the best Point Guard to ever play in the NBA, but despite 19 years of solid, elite play from the Jazz backcourt, combined with Karl Malone, it’s incredibly surprising, and somewhat disappointing that Stockton never tasted NBA Finals glory. Sure, Stockton may not have had the scoring ability of Isaiah Thomas, the flashy passing of a Steve Nash or the all-around skillset and size of Magic Johnson, but he was solid in every area of the game, and was a fantastic leader, one of the many reasons why the Utah Jazz made the playoffs every year he was there. Stockton will always be remembered in history as a standout player, but like others on the list, his legacy will be somewhat hurt by never winning a ring. Still, when you come up against MJ in the Finals, history says you stand no chance.
4 Worst To Win – Ronny Turiaf
Despite playing for only 10 NBA seasons, Ronny Turiaf has played on seven different teams over that span, and while he was never anything special, he found a home as a role player during the Miami Heat “Big 3” era. Despite contributing very little to this team, he wound up winning a long championship in 2012. He did manage to start several games throughout the Heats run, but averaged a lackluster 1.6 points per game, and despite being replaced in the starting five, he still found his place in the rotation. At the end of his NBA career, Turiaf averaged just 5 points and 3 rebounds a game, making him the very definition of mediocre, and someone who definitely shouldn’t have won an NBA title.
3 Best To Never Win – Charles Barkley
When you look at the NBA today, the biggest argument in comparison to the '90s is how soft the game has become, and no one exemplified the toughness of that time than Charles “Chuck” Barkley, who was one of the most dominant and physically intimidating forces the NBA has ever seen. But unfortunately for him, that didn’t lead to championship glory. Today, we see him as an analyst with TNT, and alongside Shaq he is one of the more entertaining analysts out there, so it’s obvious why he was such a big star during his playing days, but that doesn’t always equal championship rings. With so many stars around during his playing days, it’s not surprising that a few people missed out on championship rings, but whether he was with the Rockets, Suns or 76ers, it would have been nice to see him get his ring.
2 Worst To Win – Darko Milicic
No matter where you’re drafted in the NBA, averaging 6 points a game over your career will always be considered average, but when you’re Darko Millicic who was drafted #2 overall in front of the likes of Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, it’s even worse, and added up to nothing but another disappointment for the Detroit Pistons. While some players on this list make it because of their lack of chances, Millicic was given every opportunity by the Pistons to succeed, yet in their 2004 Championship season, he managed to average less than a single point a game across eight appearances, and that’s just terrible. At the end of the day, Millicic has a ring, and neither me nor anyone reading this will ever have one, but for someone drafted so highly with so much potential, you can’t help but be disappointed.
1 Best To Never Win – Karl Malone
It’s widely believed that Michael Jordan is easily the greatest basketball player to ever step foot on a court, and with his finals record at 6-for-6, he certainly kept some great players from achieving what they deserved, and that was an NBA Championship. The greatest of those was the best player on the Utah Jazz team that the Bulls defeated not only once, but twice in their second three-peat. "The Mailman" Karl Malone is one of the most dominant and clutch power forwards in NBA history, and if not for the dominance of MJ, it’s likely that Karl would have led his team to multiple titles. Sadly, the timing was just off, and it has no doubt effected the legacy of Malone. He will still go down as one of the top 3 PFs of all time (arguably #1 over the likes of Dirk, Duncan, Kevin McHale or James Worthy), but unlike those four, he is missing that coveted ring, which has hurt his legacy to an extent.