In the NBA, a player’s place among the all time greats is often determined by who many rings they have. Until they win their first championship, a player’s career seems unfinished, like they haven’t been able to fully validate their greatness.
Now, some of the best players to ever live, will never reach this historic milestone, and this can be for any number of reasons; not enough talent around them, playing in an era dominated by another dynasty, the list goes on.
Let’s have a look at 5 of the greatest players in history that were never able to get over the hump and win a ring.
Honorable Mention: Steve Nash
Finals Appearances: 0
Steve Nash revolutionized the game of basketball in his years spent with the Phoenix Suns. Under head coach Mike D’Antoni, Nash orchestrated the “7 seconds or less” offence as well as one possibly could. This up tempo style of play would just terrorize opponents and would lead the Suns on numerous deep playoff runs. Unfortunately, due to some poor management decisions, they were never quite able to break through.
Nash joined the Lakers in the summer of 2012 with the hope of finally breaking through, joining Kobe, Dwight and Pau in LA. However, Nash suffered an injury, Kobe tore his achillies, Dwight suffered through back and shoulder issues, and the team just didn’t gel.
It’s a shame, not winning a ring is just about the only stain on Nash’s legendary legacy.
5. Allen Iverson
Finals Appearances: 1
AI could be the greatest inch for inch player of all time. The 6 foot guard was able to do some incredible things on the court, averaging 27.7 ppg in his first 12 seasons. He turned the 76ers into contenders, and he did it with a very sub-par supporting cast.
In his 2001 MVP season, Iverson carried Philly to the Finals. The second best player on that team was an ageing Dikembe Mutombo, and they were facing the Lakers – one of the greatest teams in history. Despite losing the series, Allen Iverson put on one of the all time greatest Finals performances in game 1.
4. Patrick Ewing
Finals Appearances: 2
Despite never winning that elusive title, Ewing still goes down as one of the greatest Knicks ever, putting up career averages of 21.0 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 2.4 bpg, while turning New York into a perennial title contender.
He did appear in the NBA Finals twice, losing both times to the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999.
Despite that, Patrick Ewing is still one of the best big men ever.
3. Charles Barkley
Finals Appearances: 1
“Sir Charles” is one of the most dominant power forwards in history. He put up career number of 22.1 ppg, 11.7 rpg and 3.9 apg. He also prevented Michael Jordan from winning his 3rd consecutive MVP in 1993 where he averaged 25.6 ppg, 12.2 rpg and 5.1 apg.
In that same year, Chuck would bring the Suns to the Finals, where they would square off with MJ and the Bulls. Michael got his revenge, winning the series in six games.
Despite being ring-less, Barkley has secured his place among basketball legends.
2. Karl Malone and John Stockton
Finals Appearances (together): 2
Malone appeared in the Finals once more with the Lakers in 2004, where they lost to the Detroit Pistons in 5 games.
In their years together in Utah, Stockton and Malone were one of the greatest duos ever, and are still the best pick and roll combination in history. They turned the Jazz into yearly contenders and led them to 2 straight Finals appearances in 1997 and 98, losing to the Chicago Bulls both times.
Without question, the best duo to never win a title.
1. Elgin Baylor
Finals Appearances: 8
That’s not a typo. This guy really went to 8 NBA Finals and couldn’t bring his team over the top.
Baylor was selected to 10 All-NBA teams, 11 all star teams and was named Rookie of the Year, firmly establishing himself as one of the league’s best players. Unfortunately knee troubles would force him to retire early in the 1972 season. The game after he retired, the Lakers started their league record 33 game winning streak and would go onto win the title that year. Despite being inactive, the team still gave Elgin a ring, which he eventually sold for $132,000.