- John Stockton never missed the playoffs in his 19-year career
- Elgin Baylor made 8 NBA Finals appearances without capturing a ring
- Reggie Miller held the NBA record for most three-point shots made (2,560) at the time of his retirement
The old adage states that ‘no one remembers the losers, only the winners’ but this list serves to highlight and remember some amazing basketball talent that for one reason or another, failed to win it all. In the National Basketball Association (NBA), hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy is what each team strives for every year, but winning isn't as easy as some might make it seem.
Many championship dynasties have risen and fallen throughout the league’s history, like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls. These dynasties were often led by generational talents and legendary performers, and during their respective reigns, they would, in essence, establish a monopolized control over the destinies of other NBA stars, who despite successful individual careers, were unable to capture the ultimate team prize.
10. George Gervin
Despite the fact that he was a four-time NBA scoring leader and a 12-time all-star, George Gervin never won a championship, he never even made it to the finals. Gervin played for the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls during his NBA career and finished with an average of 25.1 points per game (PPG), 5.3 rebounds per game (RPG), and 2.6 assists per game (APG). In 1996, in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the league, Gervin was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association History.
9. Steve Nash
Steve Nash is a Canadian basketball legend who played for the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers during his 18-year NBA career. Known for his incredible passing ability, he really established himself in Phoenix where he captured back-to-back Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards in 2005 and 2006. Nash led the NBA in assists three times and appeared in multiple Conference Finals with the Mavericks and Suns, however, he was never able to get over the hump to win a championship.
8. Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller made his name as a clutch performer for the Indiana Pacers during his 18-year NBA career (1987-2005). Playing exclusively for the Pacers, Miller was a precision shooter, especially from three-point range and held the NBA record for most three-point shots made (2,560) at the time of his retirement.
Miller only made the NBA Finals once in his career, in 2000 when the Pacers took on the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a Lakers squad that featured Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, who would claim the title in six games.
7. Dominique Wilkins
Dominique Wilkins was a dynamic player during the '80s and '90s with the Atlanta Hawks. Known as an incredible dunker, he won his first of two Slam-Dunk Contests in his career at the 1984 All-Star Game. Wilkins finished his career as one of the highest-scoring players in league history, sitting 13th-overall with 26,668 points and 7,169 rebounds. Despite his individual success, Wilkins and the Hawks always seemed to be in tough dealing with the Boston Celtics, which featured the likes of Larry Bird, and they failed to capture a ring during that time.
6. Allen Iverson
'The Answer.' One of the best ball-handlers in the NBA, Allen Iverson was nothing short of a cultural icon during his tenure with the Philadelphia 76ers. Drafted by Philadelphia first overall in the 1996 NBA Entry Draft, Iverson would play for the 76ers for 14 seasons, where he was named league MVP in 2000-01. He also led the Association in scoring four times and made 11 NBA all-star appearances, yet he only made it to the NBA Finals once, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in five games in 2001.
5. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is one of the more recognizable players in NBA history. His playing career spanned from 1984-2000, playing with the Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Houston Rockets. Barkley is listed as one of the 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association History, with 11 All-Star appearances and he received the NBA's Most Valuable Player award in 1993. He was a member of two U.S. Olympic Gold Medal teams (1992 and 1996), including the original 'Dream Team' in 1992.
Despite leading a talented Phoenix Suns team to the NBA Finals in 1993, Barkley would ultimately come away empty-handed in his only trip to the dance, bested by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
4. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing played the majority of his 17-year NBA career with the New York Knicks and is arguably one of the best centers to ever play the game. However, like many other players on this list, Ewing is another heart-wrenching tale of a legendary talent that had to deal with the Bulls' dynasty in Chicago, led by Air Jordan.
Ewing and the Knicks had the second-best regular-season record in the NBA in 1993 (60-22) and were up on the Bulls two games to none (2-0) in the Eastern Conference Finals that year, before ultimately losing the series in six games. (The Bulls would advance and eventually win their third straight championship.) Ewing would actually make it to the NBA Finals in 1994, during Michael Jordan's hiatus, but the Knicks failed to capture the title, losing to the Houston Rockets in Game 7.
3. Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor is enshrined outside the Staples Center for his contributions to the Los Angeles Lakers organization. The Lakers' legend certainly had his chances at a championship during a career that spanned from 1958-1971. Baylor was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1959 after he led the struggling Minneapolis Lakers from the last place, just a year prior, to the 1959 NBA Finals where they were ultimately swept by the Boston Celtics in four games.
Baylor and the Lakers relocated to Los Angeles in 1960-61 and would battle the Celtics six more times in the NBA Finals over the years. In total, Baylor made it to the NBA Finals eight times in his career but never won.
2. John Stockton
John Stockton came close to becoming a champion with the Utah Jazz and arguably would have if it wasn't for Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Stockton led the NBA in assists for nine consecutive seasons during his 19-year career (1984-2003) and appeared in 10 NBA All-Star games. The Jazz never missed the playoffs with No.12 on the roster and even with his many post-season accolades, he is probably best known for 'The Shot' that he made against the Atlanta Hawks in Game 6 of the 1997 Western Conference Finals. Stockton landed a game-winning, 3-point shot at the buzzer to advance to the 1997 NBA Finals where Utah met Chicago. It was the first of two meetings between the Jazz and Bulls from 1997 to 1998, with the Bulls coming out on top on both occasions.
1. Karl Malone
Karl Malone is the second highest scorer in the Association's history, registering 36,928 career points. 'The Mailman' averaged 25.0 points per game throughout his 18 NBA seasons spanning from 1985-2004.
Malone made three appearances in the NBA Finals, the first two with the Utah Jazz (1997, 1998) as he and John Stockton took on the unstoppable Chicago Bulls. He would get another opportunity at a ring when the LA Lakers built a star-studded roster in 2004. Malone signed a one-year deal that season and would reach the NBA Finals one last time, but the Lakers ultimately lost in five games to the Detroit Pistons.