There was a time in sports where Hall of Fame consideration barely brought up how many championships a player had. These days, it seems to be the only thing that voters and fans care about, which is why there are still some people out there that think Eli Manning is better than Peyton because the Giants quarterback has won two championships while his older brother has won just the one.
People buy into championships far too much in team sports when it comes to individual achievement, especially in our modern time when there are more teams and more parity in our professional sports leagues. Plenty of Hall of Fame players have gone their entire careers without claiming a championship, but which ones are the best?
Although some of them may have won a title in college, we are only looking at their professional resumes for this list. That means that any college championship isn’t taken into consideration. We’re also only taking American championships on the list, too, which means that Warren Moon is here despite winning five Grey Cup titles in the Canadian Football League. Here are the top 20 athletes to never win a championship.
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20 John Stockton
Before Gonzaga became one of the most notable mid-majors in basketball on a yearly basis, John Stockton was far and away the biggest star to come from the school. Stockton was drafted 16th overall by the Utah Jazz in 1984, and played with the team all the way through the 2002-03 season. Stockton never won an NBA Finals, but he did make it to 10 All-Star Games, eight All-NBA teams and holds the record for most assists in league history with 15,806, good enough for an average of 10.5 per game.
19 Tony Gwynn
A hitting machine, Tony Gwynn spent his entire 20 season career with the San Diego Padres. Gwynn hit an impressive .338 in his career with 3,141 hits, earning seven Silver Slugger awards, five Gold Gloves and 15 All-Star Game nods. Gwynn reached the World Series twice with the Padres during his career (1984 and 1998), but the team lost in both of those series. Gwynn was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, but unfortunately passed away in the summer of 2014.
18 Marcel Dionne
It seems like all of the hockey greats have won a Stanley Cup during their career, so Marcel Dionne represents the only hockey player on our list. The 1992 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee played 18 seasons in the NHL with the Red Wings, Kings and Rangers. The second overall pick in 1971 netted 731 goals and added 1,040 assists while reaching eight All-Star Games and picking up a pair of Lady Byng Trophies to go along with an Art Ross Trophy.
17 Warren Moon
Somehow, the 1978 Rose Bowl MVP went undrafted, so he had to spend the first five years of his professional football career in Canada, playing with the Edmonton Eskimos. When Moon got to the NFL in 1984, he swept the league, playing for 16 years with the Oilers, Vikings, Seahawks and Chiefs. Moon was named to nine Pro Bowls in the NFL alone, leading the league in passing yards in both 1990 and 1991. Moon never won the Super Bowl, though, and never even reached one.
16 Dan Fouts
Dan Fouts was a product of the ‘Air Coryell’ offense that made him one of the first quarterbacks in NFL history to put up big passing yard numbers. Fouts was a four time All-Pro and six time Pro Bowler, throwing for 43,040 yards and 254 touchdowns. Despite all of the offensive production and reaching a pair of AFC Championship games, the Chargers never made it to the Super Bowl with the third round pick out of Oregon as their quarterback.
15 Eric Dickerson
Eric Dickerson was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school, but was lured to SMU as part of the ‘Pony Excess’ squad that got the NCAA death penalty. Dickerson was drafted second overall in 1983 by the Los Angeles Rams, and he spent his final six seasons with the Colts, Raiders and Falcons. Dickerson led the NFL in rushing yards four times, making six Pro Bowls and five All-Pro teams. Dickerson would end up in the Hall of Fame in 1999, but the one honor that escaped him was that of a Super Bowl champion.
14 Karl Malone
We already saw Malone’s teammate, John Stockton, on this list, but the two somehow never combined for an NBA Championship. Malone was selected the year after Stockton out of Louisiana Tech and was the main event of the team. Malone was a two-time NBA MVP with 13 All-NBA team honors and 14 All-Star Games. Malone averaged a double-double in his career with 25 points and 10 rebounds per game, and tried to win a title with the Lakers at the end of his career, but came up short.
13 Allen Iverson
Six feet and 165 pounds usually isn’t the height and weight for a first overall pick in any professional sport, but that’s what Allen Iverson pulled off in 1996 out of Georgetown. Iverson played with the 76ers for the prime of his career, while also adding seasons with the Nuggets, Pistons and Grizzlies. Iverson was selected to 11 All-Star teams and six All-NBA teams, winning a combined seven scoring and steal titles. Iverson reached the NBA Finals in 2001, but his 76ers were beaten by the Lakers.
12 Ken Griffey, Jr.
Had Ken Griffey, Jr. not gone through a barrage of injuries in his career, he might have made a run at the career home run title and honor of being the best baseball player ever. Griffey debuted with the Mariners in 1989 and spent nearly a decade with the Reds before going to the White Sox, then returning to the Mariners to end his career. Griffey won the 1997 AL MVP award with 13 All-Star Games, 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Sluggers. Griffey wasn’t a staple in the playoffs, and never reached the World Series.
11 Patrick Ewing
The 7-foot Patrick Ewing is the second athlete on our list to be drafted first overall out of Georgetown. The Knicks scooped up Ewing in 1985, and it was thought that he would be the savior of the franchise. Although Ewing had a long and solid career (spending his final two seasons with the Sonics and Magic), he never won an NBA Championship. Ewing finished with 11 All-Star nods and won two gold medals with the United States Olympic team, but didn’t get the NBA ring he wanted.
10 Dick Butkus
You would be hard pressed to find someone in the state of Illinois who doesn’t think Dick Butkus is the greatest athlete of all time. Butkus was the third overall pick by the Bears in 1965 out of Illinois, and was a staple of the team’s defense for eight years. Butkus made the Pro Bowl eight years in a row, with six All-Pro first team appearances. Butkus was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1979, but his career was missing a championship that spanned across the pre-merger and Super Bowl eras.
9 Ernie Banks
Even though Ernie Banks was born in Texas, he will always be Mr. Cub to the fans of the Northsiders. Banks spent his entire career with the Cubs, knocking out 512 home runs and 2,583 overall hits. Banks was also a two time NL MVP in 1958 and 1959, and was named to an amazing 14 All-Star teams. Banks was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1977, but the Cubs still haven’t won a World Series since 1908, meaning anyone that spent their entire career with the team still hasn’t celebrated a title, with Banks being the best of the bunch.
8 Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski (or as we call him, Yaz, because it’s easier), spent his entire 22 year baseball career with the Boston Red Sox. Unfortunately for Yaz, this was during the time where the Boston Red Sox had their infamously long championship drought. Yaz made the All-Star team an incredible 18 times, winning the 1967 AL MVP award when he also hit for the triple crown, and added seven Gold Glove Awards. Yaz had his number retired by the Boston Red Sox, and he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 on his first ballot appearance.
7 Elgin Baylor
While many of the athletes on our list have either not reached their respective league’s championships or only did so a few times, Elgin Baylor made it to eight NBA Finals without bringing home a championship. Baylor spent his entire career with the Lakers (in both Minnesota and Los Angeles) where he was an 11 time All-Star and 10 time All-NBA First Team selection. Baylor would become a coach for the Jazz in the late 1970s and even won the 2006 NBA Executive of the Year title with the Clippers, but hasn’t raised a trophy.
6 Dan Marino
There were some concerns about Dan Marino when he came out of Pittsburgh as part of the famous 1983 NFL Draft class, which is why he dropped down to 27th overall. The Dolphins were able to scoop him up, and saw him become the greatest quarterback to never bring home a Super Bowl victory. Marino was a six time All-Pro and nine time Pro Bowler that reached the Super Bowl once, but they were thumped by the San Francisco 49ers in the 19th edition of the big game.
5 Charles Barkley
People who only know Charles Barkley these days for his work as an announcer and overall loudmouth don’t remember how good he was at basketball. The fifth overall pick in the 1984 draft by the 76ers played for 16 years, winning the 1993 MVP Award. Barkley was also an 11 time All-Star and 10 time All-NBA selection that was dubbed “The Round Mound of Rebound (or Sound)”. Barkley lived up to that name with his large body, trash talking and career average of 22.1 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
4 Barry Bonds
Even if you think Barry Bonds’s stats may have been increased too much with the use of steroids, it’s still hard to dispute the numbers. Bonds is the career leader in home runs in baseball history with 762, including a record 73 in one season. Bonds also gathered a ton of awards with seven NL MVP awards, eight Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers and 14 All-Star appearances. Bonds will likely never reach the Hall of Fame, and he never won the World Series with the Pirates or Giants.
3 Barry Sanders
If Barry Sanders had played more seasons, there is little doubt that he could have collected all of the major career rushing records. From 1989 to 1998, Sanders played for the Detroit Lions and reached the Pro Bowl and was named an All-Pro in every single season. Sanders also led the league in rushing four times, and his 15,269 career rushing yards are still good enough to put him at third all-time. Lions fans think he is still young enough to make a comeback to this day, even though he was inducted into the Hall of Fame more than 10 years ago.
2 Ty Cobb
Ty Cobb certainly benefits from spending his career playing in a time where it was easier to be a hitter, but there’s no denying how good he was when you look at his record .367 batting average. Cobb also knocked 4,191 hits with 117 home runs over his 23 year career, with 22 of those coming as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Cobb was the 1911 MVP that won 12 American League batting titles and he was named nearly unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936. Still, Cobb never won the World Series with the Tigers, but reached three in a row where they lost to the Cubs twice. That’s how long ago he played.
1 Ted Williams
The top athlete on our list is none other than Teddy Ballgame, who was still able to reach 19 All-Star games, win two AL MVP awards, two triple crowns and multiple other honors despite missing four seasons due to World War II. Williams had an incredible career batting average at .344 with 2,654 hits and 521 home runs. When you consider that he didn’t play in his mid 20s, that’s pretty amazing. Not surprisingly, Williams was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1966, but never won the World Series, appearing just once in 1946.
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