Many people believe the legacy a player leaves on the game of basketball is largely effected by the number of NBA Championship rings they hold. This article is basically an outline of all the teams during the 1990s that had their dreams crushed over and over again by the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls, along with a few others. Without further ado, here are the 10 best NBA teams that NEVER won an NBA Championship.
1. 1997-1998 Utah Jazz
With 2 of the greatest players in NBA history, it is hard to wrap your head around the fact that this Utah Jazz team never won an NBA Championship. John Stockton’s passing ability to go along with the power and offensive ability of Karl Malone was truly something special. It will be a recurring theme in this list of top 10, but Michael Jordan practically diminished the hope for almost any team during he 1990’s. I’m sure Karl Malone would trade all of the remarkable plays throughout his career for the time he was stripped in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, which inevitably led to “the shot” by Michael Jordan – ending the hopes and dreams of this talented Utah Jazz squad.
2. 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings
This is an interesting one…you can argue that the 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings weren’t the BEST team to never win an NBA Championship, but they are without a doubt one of the most deserving. The Kings’s all-star caliber core of Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, and Vlade Divac propelled them to win over 60 games in the regular season, and made them a strong contender. While only losing a combined 2 games in the first 2 rounds of the playoffs, the Kings had the Kobe-Shaq Lakers on their heals down 3-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals before the most embarrassing and disgraceful moments in NBA History. The moment when referee Tim Donaghy allegedly fixed Game 6, forcing the Lakers to shoot 18 more free throws than the Kings in the 4th quarter alone. This eventually led to the Kings losing Game 7 as well, never getting their fair chance to win the NBA Championship.
3. 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns
Similar to the Utah Jazz team of the late 1990’s, this Phoenix Suns team was led by a dominant PG-PF duo. Two time MVP Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire ran the show, but by no means were they alone. This Phoenix team was filled with talent and athleticism with the likes of Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, and Shawn Marion. After embarrassing the Lakers in the first round, they moved on to face the Spurs in the second round. With the series tied at 2-2, the 1 game suspension of Stoudemire and Diaw allowed the Spurs to steal back the momentum in Game 5, and the Suns were never able to recover. With Nash and Stoudemire in their prime, this team would be a threat any given year – but, an NBA Championship was just not meant to be.
4. 2011-2012 Oklahoma City Thunder
Headlined by the MVP caliber play of Kevin Durant, this Thunder team was without a doubt capable of winning an NBA Championship. With debatably now the 3 best scorers in the NBA in Durant, Westbrook, and Harden, the Thunder knew how to put the ball in the basket. To top it off with one of the best shot blockers in the NBA, Serge Ibaka, protecting the paint, this Thunder squad had the full package. If it weren’t for the Miami Heat led by LeBron James, and a few injuries over the years, this team would have at least 1 championship under their belt.
5. 1992-1993 Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns unfortunately are placed on this list twice. Similar to the 2006-2007 team, this Suns team was led by an MVP player, Charles Barkley. Barkley FILLED the stat sheet with 26 points and 12 rebounds per game on their road to an impressive 62 regular season wins – the most in the Western Conference. This is the 2nd team (of many) on this list that had their dreams destroyed by Michael Jordan. As great of a player as Charles Barkley was, he was just simply no match for the 1990’s Jordan Bulls.
6. 1995-1996 Seattle Supersonics
Unfortunately, the Seattle Supersonics (the franchise that became the Oklahoma City Thunder) franchise is on a list that nobody wants to be on…twice. The 1995-1996 team was led by hall of famers Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The Supersonics finished the regular season with a Western Conference best 64 wins. Similar to many teams on this list, however, the Supersonics were refused an NBA Championship due to the great Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls 1990’s unstoppable dynasty. Most other years, this team would have been crowned as NBA Champions, but that’s not the way it works. After losing to Jordan in the Finals (4-2), they were never able to make it back to the NBA Finals.
7. 1994-1995 Orlando Magic
Previously, Shaq had been featured on our Top: 10 NBA Championship Teams of the Past 25 Years. But, before Shaq was winning titles with the Lakers and Heat, he did fall a little bit short in Orlando. This Magic team starred a fantastic front court of a young Shaq and Horace Grant, in addition to Penny Hardaway in the back court. This was a year in the 1990’s that teams could really take advantage of with Jordan going into his mid-career retirement phase, however, this Orlando Magic team still came up a bit short. Even though this Magic team was the number 1 offensive team in the league, they fell short in the NBA Finals to a more distinguished Hakeem Olajuwon, who was able to neutralize the younger and less experienced Shaq.
8. 1991-1992 Portland Trailblazers
After previously losing to the “Bad Boy” Pistons, this Clyde Drexler led Portland Trailblazers team was definitely one of the best to never win the big prize. Drexler averaged 25 points and 7 assists per game, and it seemed inevitable that they would make a run to the NBA Finals in 1992. This time they would face off against the unstoppable Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals. As we now know, nobody beats Jordan in the finals. This Portland team was deep, with 7 players averaging in double digit points per game. But, they were not deep enough, as they fell short to the Chicago Bulls in 6 games.
9. 1997-1998 Indiana Pacers
Led by sharp shooter and professional trash talker Reggie Miller, the 1997-1998 Indiana Pacers were a team to remember. They had a lot of talent to surround Miller, with Mark Jackson running the point, Dale Davis and Rik Smits to hold down the front court, and Chris Mullin as well. They had the right talent to get it done on the court, but also off of the court as well – Larry Bird (Pacers Coach) went on to win the Coach of the Year award in the 1997-1998 NBA season. Cruising through the first two rounds of the playoffs, similar to many teams on this list, the Pacers were faced with the challenge of taking on the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls. This Bulls team was getting older, looking to go for their second 3-peat. Even so, the Jordan-Pippen combination was too much for Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
10. 1993-1994 New York Knicks
With Jordan leaving the game of basketball to play baseball, this was a year that many teams saw as an opportunity to finally get over the hump. The Knicks were a physical squad led by Patrick Ewing. Patrick Ewing might have been the 2nd best big man in the league at this point…the problem is that he was the SECOND BEST big man in the league. After beating the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they had to face the Houston Rockets led by the BEST big man in the NBA, Hakeem Olajuwon. This Knicks team was 2 points away from closing it out in Game 6 of the Finals, but was unable to do so, and ended up losing Game 7 in Houston. Ewing was able to make it back to the Finals again in the 99′ season, but lost to what became a Spurs dynasty.