This season, Kevin Durant played the best basketball of his life, won his very first NBA MVP award, and gave an incredibly touching speech upon accepting it. He’s a superstar and a class act, and unless he blows out both knees and both shoulders, he’s pretty much a lock for the Basketball Hall of Fame.
That being said, KD has still not won an NBA championship. Sure, he’s just 25 years old. Guys like LeBron James and Michael Jordan didn’t win their first championships until they were 27, and Wilt Chamberlain didn’t win a championship until he was 30. So obviously, there is plenty of time for Durant.
Then again, that’s probably what everyone on this list thought at the age of 25, too. “Bah, I’m only 25. I’m just now hitting my prime. I’ll definitely win a championship at some point.” And then they didn’t.
Am I saying that I think Kevin Durant is going to one day find himself on this list of greatest players to never win an NBA Championship? No. But if he doesn’t do it this year, I certainly wouldn’t blame anyone who started to worry.
Team(s): Warriors (1963-74), Bulls (1974-76), Cavaliers (1976-77)
Credentials: 7x All-Star, 5x All-Defense, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1967-68 (20.5 points, 22.0 rebounds, 4.2 assist per game)
Nate Thurmond was a monster on the boards who could also chip in some serious points. In fact, he was the first player in NBA history to record a quadruple-double. Unfortunately, the Warriors traded Thurmond to the Bulls prior to the 1974-75 season...when they won the NBA Championship.
15. Nate Thurmond
Team(s): Pistons (1966-75), Bullets (1975-77), Celtics (1977-78)
Credentials: 7x All-Star, 2x All-NBA First Team, 1x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1967-68 (27.1 points, 6.4 assists, 4.7 rebounds per game)
Like that of Nate Thurmond, Dave Bing's excellent career was overshadowed by the likes of Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West—two guys who only barely won NBA Championships themselves thanks to the Celtics.
14. Dave Bing
Team(s): Bucks (1976-78), Pacers (1978-80), Nuggets (1980-90), Mavericks (1990-91)
Credentials: 8x All-Star, 1x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1982-83 (28.4 points, 4.8 assists, 7.3 rebounds per game)
Ditta what I just said about Nate Thurmond and Dave Bing, only replace Wilt and Jerry with Magic, Larry, and Michael.
13. Alex English
Team(s): Pacers (1987-2005)
Credentials: 5x All-Star, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1990-91 (22.5 points, 4.0 assists, 1.3 steals per game)
Reggie Miller never led the league in any of the key per game stats. However, he did lead the league in some of the advanced metrics a few times (like "Offensive Rating") and, more importantly, he is generally regarded as one of the best pure shooters in the history of the game...and he's in the Hall of Fame.
12. Reggie Miller
Team(s): Hawks (1982-94), Clippers (1994), Celtics (1994-95), Spurs (1996-97)
Credentials: 9x All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, 1x Scoring Leader, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1985-86 (30.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game)
Wilkins won a scoring title and engaged in some epic Dunk Contest battles with Michael Jordan in the mid-80s. However, the guy never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.
11. Dominique Wilkins
Team(s): Knicks (1985-2000), SuperSonics (2000-01), Magic (2001-02)
Credentials:11x All-Star, 1x All-NBA First Team, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1993-94 (24.5 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.7 blocks, 2.3 assists per game)
Ewing's best shot at a title was definitely 1994, when he took the Knicks to the Finals after his best all-around season. However, that year Hakeem the Dream and Clyde the Glide were just too much for the Knicks.
10. Patrick Ewing
Team(s): Suns (1996-98, 2004-12), Mavericks (1998-2004), Lakers (2012-14)
Credentials: 2x MVP, 8x All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 6x Assist Leader
Best Season: 2006-07 (19.0 points, 11.9 assists, 3.6 rebounds per game)
Yeah, I know Nash hasn't officially retired yet, but the guy is 40 years old, he can't stay healthy, and even if he doesn't retire there's no way a legit contender signs him next year. So I'm calling this one. Steve Nash: all-time great, no ring.
9. Steve Nash
Team(s): Packers/Zephyrs/Bullets/Wizards (1961-65), Knicks (1965-68), Pistons (1968-70), Hawks (1970-74), Jazz (1974)
Credentials: 4x All-Star, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1961-62 (31.6 points, 19.0 rebounds per game)
There are two reasons why Walt Bellamy doesn't get the recognition he deserves from basketball fans: he played during the Wilt/West/Russell era, and his performance declined pretty steeply with age. The guy's first three seasons were insane, but by the age of 25 he started falling off.
If not for that, he very well could have won a championship somewhere.
8. Walt Bellamy
Team(s): Spurs (1974-85), Bulls (1985-86)
Credentials: 9x All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, 4x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1979-80 (33.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.4 steals per game)
George Gervin was the NBA's premier scorer in the late 70s, leading the league in scoring for four out of five years at one point. However, his Spurs never got past the second round of the playoffs.
7. George Gervin
Team(s): Sixers (1996-2006, 2009-10), Nuggets (2006-08), Pistons (2008-09), Grizzlies (2009)
Credentials:MVP, 11x All-Star, 3x All-NBA First Team, 4x Scoring Leader, Hall of Fame Inevitability
Best Season: 2000-01 (31.1 points, 4.6 assists, 2.5 steals per game)
Iverson takes crap for his relatively poor shooting percentage. However, you have to keep in mind that he was the only offensive weapon the Sixers had during the prime of his career. He had to take tons of shots.
Sadly, the guy LeBron James called the pound-for-pound best player he ever saw made it to the Finals just one time—and he had to face the Kobe-Shaq Lakers.
6. Allen Iverson
Team(s): Sixers (1984-92), Suns (1992-96), Rockets (1996-2000)
Credentials: MVP, 11x All-Star, 5x All-NBA First Team, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1987-88 (28.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks per game)
Charles Barkley was a great basketball player, but the only time he made it to the Finals—1993— he Dan Majerle, and Kevin Johnson couldn't beat Michael and Scottie.
5. Charles Barkley
Team(s): Hawks (1970-74), Jazz (1974-80), Celtics (1980)Ja
Credentials: 5x All-Star, 2x All-NBA First Team, 1x Scoring Champion, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1976-77 (31.1 points, 5.4 assists, 5.1 rebounds, 1.2 steals per game)
Pistol Pete's career was cut short by injuries, but even in the years he played we never saw him realize his true potential. Sure, he won a scoring title in '77, but the guy averaged 40 points per game in college at LSU. He was one of the most gifted offensive talents of all time, and he never even sniffed a championship.
4. Pete Maravich
Team(s): Jazz (1984-2003)
Credentials: 10x All-Star, 11x All-NBA First Team, 9x Assist Leader, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1988-89 (17.1 points, 13.6 assists, 3.2 steals, 3.0 rebounds per game)
Stockton led the NBA in assists for nine straight seasons, joining with The Mailman to form one of the greatest tandems in NBA history. However, like so many others, Stockton could not beat Jordan and Pippin, and the Jazz lost to the Bulls in the Finals in 1997 and 1998.
3. John Stockton
Team(s): Lakers (1958-71)
Credentials:11x All-Star, 10x All-NBA First Team, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1960-61 (34.8 points, 19.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists per game)
Baylor was one of the greatest players of his era. Unfortunately, Bill Russell was greater, so his Celtics won all the titles.
"But wait," you say, "Baylor got a ring, didn't he?"
And yes, technically that is true. The Lakers gave Baylor a ring when the Jerry West-led team finally won a championship in 1972. But Baylor had retired earlier that season, so he wasn't on the court when the championship buzzer finally sounded.
2. Elgin Baylor
Team(s): Jazz (1985-2003), Lakers (2003-04)
Credentials:2x MVP, 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA First Team, Hall of Fame
Best Season: 1997-98 (27.4 points, 9.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists per game)
Who was the best player of the Michael Jordan era after MJ? Well, it was probably a toss-up between David Robinson and Karl Malone. Both of them managed to snatch MVP awards away from Jordan, and both were prolific scorers who led their teams to multiple Finals appearances.
The difference? Robinson was 2-0 in the Finals, while Malone was 0-2. And, sadly, not even joining the Lakers for the final year could help Malone. The Lakers made it to the Finals in 2004, looking for their fourth title in five years...but they got swept by the Pistons.
So close, yet so far.
1. Karl Malone
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