The best players to have never won a championship

CameronCrazy06

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Often times, athletes' careers are defined by the championships they do (or don't) win. Through the annals of history, rings won has been used, perhaps unfairly, as a measuring stick when comparing the greatness of two players considered to be in the same tier. But not everybody can be as good as Avery Bradley. For every championship team of 12-15 winners, there are 28 other teams filled with losers. In most cases, elite players will find a way to win at least one championship over the course of their career. However, some are not quite that lucky. Now ten+ years into our great league, here is the team of the fifteen best players to never have won a championship.

NOTE: Real life championships WERE included in this analysis, meaning somebody like Dwyane Wade wouldn't be on the list.

NOTE #2: All stats were accumulated before the 2020-2021 season started.


CENTER:



1) Serge Ibaka: 841 GP, 32.3 MPG, 15 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG, 3.2 BPG

Closest: Second Round (x3) -- 2013-14 CLE (L 4-3), 2014-15 CLE (L 4-2), 2018-19 DET (L 4-2)

The seven-time (yes, you read that correctly) Defensive Player of the Year has often been described as the perfect big man for this league, but he has failed to even sniff a championship in his career. Now in his twelfth NBA season, the Congo native hasn't even played in a single Conference Finals game. With gas presumably still in the tank (perhaps due to a counterfeit birth certificate), Ibaka should a few more opportunities to earn hardware before his career comes to a close.

2) Dwight Howard: 777 GP, 35.6 MPG, 16.7 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.8 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x1) -- 2008-09 ORL (L 4-1)

Howard led the Orlando Magic to the cusp of winning championship gold in 2009 and 2010, but the turn of the century hasn't been nearly as kind. Once considered the best big man in the game, Howard has become a journeyman, as few teams are willing to commit to giving him the role he used to deserve. The league has trended towards the perimeter, and Dwight has refused to adapt. Now at 34, he has one more year under contract before he can decide just how much a potential run at a championship would mean to him.

3) Al Horford: 1016 GP, 33.2 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 11 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1 SPG, 1.3 BPG

Closest: Conference Finals (x1) -- 2012-13 MIN (L 4-3)

After thirteen seasons in the league, Horford has decided to hang up his basketball shoes and coast into the sunset. Like Ibaka, Horford never played a game in the NBA Finals, with a one-point loss in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals being the closest he ever came. While many thought Horford would stick around the league for a few more years, a rough year playing for the Clippers convinced him he was better off retiring, meaning he'll forever remain on the list of the ring-less.

Honorable Mentions: Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors

POWER FORWARD:



1) Kevin Love: 908 GP, 33.3 MPG, 26.2 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Closest: Conference Finals (x1) -- 2011-12 BOS (L 4-0)

While it's impossible to ignore Love's accolades as a scorer, critics have argued for years that his style of play isn't conducive to winning. Outside of a trip to the 2011-12 Eastern Conference Finals, Love's teams haven't done much to dispel that notion. Now facing a free agency crossroads, Love will have to determine how much he values a chance to win his way off this list.

2) LaMarcus Aldridge: 1061 GP, 33.8 MPG, 23 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1 SPG, 0.9 BPG

Closest: Second Round (x1) -- 2015-16 POR (L 4-0)

As the only player on this list to play his entire career for one team, Aldridge's loyalty was never tested. While players came and went around him, LMA remained Portland's one constant, with the closest thing to a second being the mediocrity surrounding the team throughout his tenure there. Aldridge is the only player on this list to have never won a game after the first round of the playoffs in his career.

3) Blake Griffin: 775 GP, 34.8 MPG, 22.2 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x1) -- 2019-20 SAC (L 4-2)

Griffin is the first member of this list to have made his league debut after the results of the 2010 Creation Draft. Since then, we've seen him transform his skillset on several occasions, becoming both a reliable defender and three-point shooter in the meantime. Having come just two wins away from a championship last season, Griffin remains one of the best bets to remove himself from this list in the future.

Honorable Mentions: Anthony Davis, Chris Bosh

SMALL FORWARD:



1) LeBron James: 1341 GP, 39.6 MPG, 27.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x2) -- 2006-07 CLE (L 4-0), 2014-15 ORL (L 4-2)

Perhaps the most false narrative going around the league is the perceived lack of team success LeBron James has had since the 2010 Creation Draft. It wasn't too long ago that the LeBron-led Magic made three trips to the Conference Finals in five seasons, losing to the eventual champion Knicks on two of those occasions. In the third, James may have been an Eric Bledsoe injury away from changing the narrative once and for all. Now in the home stretch of his career, it looks like the self-proclaimed "King" may fall short of ever reaching the top of the mountain.

2) Paul George: 793 GP, 34.6 MPG, 21.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x1) -- 2015-16 PHX (L 4-0)

A mere rookie during the 2010 Creation Draft, George blossomed before our eyes to become one of the best wing scorers in the league. Ironically, after losing to the Celtics in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, George was immediately traded to the champions. Unfortunately, the move to the Eastern Conference has proven to be a much more difficult path than he once had in the West. George, having just signed a massive contract before last season, still has plenty of years left to try and produce a championship.

3) Wilson Chandler: 980 GP, 34.4 MPG, 18.9 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1 SPG, 0.6 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x1) -- 2018-19 DAL (L 4-3)

Perhaps a player with more close calls than one would remember, Chandler has surprised many people with his consistent production over the past ten years. While the Mavericks' 2019 run to the Finals remains the closest Chandler has come to a championship, most will have forgotten that he was cast to the bench on multiple occasions during those playoffs in favor of the more defensive-minded Iman Shumpert (not listed).

Honorable Mention: Rudy Gay, Nicolas Batum

SHOOTING GUARD:



1) James Harden: 838 GP, 35.8 MPG, 23.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Closest: Conference Finals (x3) -- 2013-14 LAL (L 4-3), 2018-19 IND (L 4-0), 2019-20 IND (L 4-3)

Of the three losses the 2017-18 League MVP has endured in the Conference Finals, none could be more heart-breaking than last year's. Then, the Pacers team took a 3-1 lead over the Bulls and had three opportunities (two at home) to win their way to the Finals. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Harden remains a top five player in the league. Any team he's on will have a puncher's chance of winning when the playoffs come around.

2) Eric Gordon: 938 GP, 35.8 MPG, 23.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.7 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Closest: Conference Finals (x2) -- 2016-17 DET (L 4-2), 2019-20 IND (L 4-3)

While Harden was the star player of last year's Pacers team, it's impossible to not mention Gordon in the same breath, who similarly could've won his way into the Finals for the first time. Many may have forgotten that this was not Gordon's first trip to the Conference Finals, with the first coming in Detroit before he bolted after realizing how much of a tool the general manager was. Still one of the league's most capable scorers, Gordon should have more chances at winning a title in the future.

3) DeMar DeRozan: 876 GP, 34.4 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.6 SPG, 0.1 BPG

Closest: Conference Finals (x3) -- 2010-11 OKC (L 4-1), 2016-17 HOU (L 4-3), 2017-18 HOU (L 4-2)

Once considered a project on the wing, DeRozan has developed into one of the league's most reliable options over the past five seasons. Even before he had, he played in a Conference Finals with the Thunder, one of the few teams since the Creation Draft to win multiple playoff series in the same year without home court advantage (league cash to the first person who can name all the others). His tenure in Houston remains the closest he's come to ever winning a championship, but like several others on this list, he's never made it to the Finals before.

Honorable Mentions: Victor Oladipo, Lou Williams

POINT GUARD:



1) Stephen Curry: 876 GP, 38.2 MPG, 26.6 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 8.1 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Closest: Second Round (x2) -- 2015-16 ATL (L 4-2), 2016-17 ATL (L 4-1)

Perhaps the most puzzling entrant on this list, Curry has yet to even come close to winning a championship. Having played with the Hawks since the 2010 Creation Draft, Curry has failed to translate any of his regular season success in the playoffs, losing in the first round in five of his seven appearances. Whether the fault lies with Curry or the pieces around him is another debate, but until a team led by Curry breaks through, he should be labeled with the criticism that has fallen upon LeBron James.

2) Derrick Rose: 959 GP, 38.4 MPG, 25.5 PPG, 5 RPG, 8.2 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.3 BPG

Closest: NBA Finals (x2) -- 2011-12 NOH (L 4-1), 2018-19 DAL (L 4-3)

Rose took the league by storm following the 2010 Creation Draft, singlehandedly leading the Hornets to a Finals appearance in his season in New Orleans. However, it took a while for Rose to get a second bite of the apple, and a trade to the perennial power Dallas Mavericks gave him the best chance of his career. While a devastating injury sidelined him during the playoffs last season, Rose remains a good bet to get off this list before the end of his career.

3) Kyle Lowry: 1011 GP, 34.5 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 7.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.2 BPG

Closest: Second Round (x2) -- 2008-09 HOU (L 3-4), 2018-19 TOR (L 4-0)

Here comes a tidbit of information that should shock most of you: the then seventh seeded Raptors' upset of the New York Knicks in the 2019 Playoffs was Lowry's first playoff series win since the 2010 Creation Draft. Possessing all the qualities you could want from a point guard, Lowry's lack of postseason success surely comes as a surprise. Now 34 years old, it remains to be seen if he'll get another chance to flip the script.

Honorable Mentions: Mike Conley, Brandon Jennings

So there you have it, the best players at each position who have yet to reach the ultimate goal of an NBA Championship. Who do you think has the best chance of breaking that trend eventually, whether it's this season or in the future? And which future players do you foresee earning (and yet still losing) their way onto this list?
 

Pugz

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nice article. demar takes us way back.
 

kdogg

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Nice article, it’s funny that the “closest” LMA got was actually the year he got hurt lol
 

Will

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Great stuff with this, was an interesting read. Two current Kings on there, need to change that this year :)
 

bosoxlover12

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Great stuff with this, was an interesting read. Two current Kings on there, need to change that this year :)
yeah you still have like 30 days to trade him to me
 

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