The National Basketball Association has been around for over 73 years. During those years, the league has allowed us to watch some of the greatest athletes grace the Earth. But what separates great players from other great players, is that elusive Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.
We have seen the image of players holding up the trophy on numerous occasions throughout the years. Out of any other professional team sport that exists, the NBA is the league where championship rings play an important factor in how a player is viewed once they retire.
But what about the great players that were a part of teams that competed for world titles consistently, but never held the Larry O’Brien? Strike 7 Sports lists and analyze the ten best players never to win an NBA World Championship. We also list three honorable mention players that deserve some consideration to be on the list.
1. Eglin Baylor
Before stars as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and the late Kobe Bryant ingratiated themselves with the “Purple and Gold.” It was greats, such as Elgin Baylor, that set the standard for becoming a Los Angeles Laker.
Baylor played 14 seasons in the NBA and was selected to the All-Star team on 11 different occasions. He was also a ten-time All-NBA first team member.
Baylor was one first-ever small forwards to transcend the game at the position. The former number one overall pick out of Seattle University led the Lakers to eight NBA Finals appearances but never won a championship during those years.
2. Karl Malone
During Karl Malone’s playing days, he was given the nickname “The Mailman” because he always delivered in the post. Malone would take that style of play to NBA and contribute at an elite level for 19 seasons.
“The Mailman” led the Utah Jazz to many playoff battles during the mid to late 90s in the Western Conference. The Louisiana native would appear in 14 all-star games and became a two-time NBA Most Valuable Player winner.
Malone would appear in the NBA Finals on three separate occasions. Two with the Utah Jazz and one trip with the Los Angeles Lakers. He went 0-3 in all three appearances to the Finals. His name always comes up about who is the most significant power forward in NBA history.
3. Charles Barkley
You cannot have a conversation about “Who is the Greatest Power Forwards of all time” without mentioning Charles Barkley. Listed at 6’5, Barkley did not have the usual attributes when it comes to height advantage as a power forward. But he did not let his lack of size discourage him from becoming one of the most significant power forwards at the position.
“Sir Charles” would be named to the NBA’s All-First Team five times and was selected to the second five times as well. When it came to all-star appearances, Barkley was no stranger. He made eleven trips to the league’s most anticipated events, not named the NBA Finals.
By far, Barkley’s best season was in 1993 when he won the league’s MVP award and led the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. During 1993 season, Barkley would average 25.6 points per game along with 12.2 rebounds. “Sir Charles” and the Suns would fall to Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals by losing the series 4-2.
4. John Stockton
John Stockton contributed to the Utah Jazz becoming a formidable force in the Western Conference for almost a decade. Stockton, along with Karl Malone, would form one of the greatest duos of all time.
Stockton was a ten-time NBA All-Star and a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (in 2009 for his career, and in 2010 as a member of the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team “Dream Team”).
He holds the record for most career steals and assists. During his tenure with the Jazz, Stockton and the team made trips to the postseason in each of the 19 years in the league.
Along with those postseason appearances were two back-to-back trips to the NBA Finals against the Chicago Bulls. His resume puts him in the conversation of being one of the NBA’s greatest point guards of all time.
5. Patrick Ewing
The 1985 NBA Draft featured greats such as Karl Malone, Joe Dumars, and Chris Mullin. But Patrick Ewing would become the number one overall pick in the 1985 draft. The selection of Ewing would usher in a new era of Knicks basketball.
The former number one overall pick out of Georgetown made 11 appearances in the All-Star Game and combined seven times to make the All-NBA First and Second Teams. Ewing was a part of some best rosters that we have seen in the Eastern Conference during the 90s.
However, he ran into a few buzzsaws known as Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Reggie Miller during the playoffs. Those three individuals made it difficult for Ewing and the Knicks to win a world title. The former Georgetown Hoya contributed to the Knicks appearing in two NBA Finals (1994 and 1999.)
6. Dominique Wilkins
Former Atlanta Hawks small forward Dominique Wilkins was given the nickname “The Human Highlight Reel” because of the skillset that he possessed when it came to performing dunks in matchups. Wilkins, along with “Dr. J” Julius Erving, became one of the early innovators of the slam dunk that we witnessed become so popular in the early 1980s.
The slam dunk contest became one of the most anticipated events during NBA All-Star Weekend because of what “The Human Highlight Reel” was capable of doing on that night. Wilkins was a nine-time All-Star along with winning the 1985-86 NBA scoring title. He contributed to the Hawks posting four consecutive 50-win seasons during his reign with the organization.
Wilkins and the Hawks had the potential to be a severe threat in the East, but never really materialized into anything for the most part. The closest the Hawks ever got to an NBA Finals was during the 1987-88 season. They would lose the series to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals 4-3.
7. Reggie Miller
Coming out of UCLA back in 1987, Reggie Miller established himself as one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history. Miller is famously known for his intense battles with the New York Knicks during the mid-to-late 90s. In Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Miller scored eight points in 8.9 seconds against the Knicks.
The “eight points in 8.9 seconds” game elevated Miller to a different level when it comes to NBA fanfare. Miller was a five-time All-Star and is second on the NBA’s all-time three-point list with 2,560 three-pointers made. He contributed to the Pacers making five Eastern Conference Finals, which includes an NBA Finals appearance in 1999-00. They were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2.
8. Allen Iverson
Whenever Allen Iverson was on the court, he would leave everything on it once the game was over. To simply put it, he played every game as if it would be the last that he would ever play as a professional basketball player. Despite battling numerous injuries, Iverson continued to perform at an all-time high level on any given night.
A.I. averaged at least 30 points or more for the season on five separate occasions. When it comes to the All-Star Game, Iverson made eleven trips to the yearly spectacle.
He was also named All-Star Game MVP in the years 2001 and 2005. The 2001 season was by far A.I.’s best season when he averaged 31.4 points per game. He carried the Sixers to the NBA Finals in which they lost to the Los Angels Lakers 4-1.
9. George Gervin
George Gervin was known as “the Iceman” because of his cool, calm, and collect behavior on the court. The “Iceman” was the NBA’s first-ever winner of the scoring title on multiple occasions.
Gervin led the Spurs to numerous playoff runs during his tenure with the team but could never advance to the NBA Finals due to facing powerhouses at the time, such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Bullets. The “Iceman” is still recognized by the league for his calm demeanor while performing on the court.
10. Pete Maravich
“Pistol Pete” Maravich became the crown jewel of the brand new New Orleans Jazz expansion team that made its debut back in 1974. The matchup seemed like a perfect fit due to Maravich playing his college basketball career at LSU.
If you ever get into a conversation about the NBA in New Orleans, there will always be a person that brings up the name “Pistol Pete.” His name still resonates with New Orleans natives to this day.
“Pistol Pete” was a significant contributor for the Atlanta Hawks as well when he was drafted with the third pick in the 1970 NBA Draft. Throughout his career, Maravich made five trips to the All-Star and was named to the All-NBA First and Second Team five times. Despite the injuries that led his career to be cut short, “Pistol Pete” is still recognized as one of the game’s all-time greats.
Photo courtesy of SI/Getty Images/NBA.Com.