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Best NBA Teams That Never Won A Championship


It’s interesting that the NBA has the fewest surprises throughout the playoffs. It’s not like baseball, hockey, or football, where one player getting hot at the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) time can derail a stacked team’s title prospects. Barring poor luck with injuries, the more talented team almost always wins the NBA championship, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs, and winning so many titles was depressingly unstoppable. So, which are the best NBA teams that never won a championship?

The NBA’s playoffs are the least surprising of any league, which is interesting. A baseball, hockey, or football team’s title dreams can be crushed by luck or one player going hot at the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) time. This is usually the case: the club with the most talent wins the NBA Championship. Seeing the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors win so many titles was disappointing. 

Here is a list of teams that have never won a title and the chances that sportsbooks are willing to offer for a first-time winner. Let’s look more closely at the teams that have yet to show the basketball world that they are the best.

1. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets, previously of New Jersey, have appeared in two NBA Finals, both of which occurred in 2002 and 2003.

Their first Finals participation ended in a four-game sweep by the same Shaq-Kobe Lakers who defeated Garnett and the other title contenders. They then fell to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and the Spurs in six games. 

The 2021 Nets, powered by MVPs Durant and James Harden, as well as All-Pro point guard Kyrie Irving, who helped Cleveland win its first championship in 2016, were expected to break the curse, but they fell short due to injuries and internal issues. The following season, Harden was traded, and Irving and Durant followed suit the next season.

2. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets have an unusual story. The Charlotte Hornets were created in 1988, but they were not this franchise, despite their purported history. Instead, they were renamed the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004 after the Hornets relocated to New Orleans.

There is a saying that greatness is not achieved without sacrifice. It resonates true in Charlotte because, as amazing as Jordan was as a player, he gave up his success as an owner to lead one of the league’s poorest teams.

Jordan took over the Hornets in 2010, and they are one of the few teams to have never reached the conference finals. Plus, they have only made it to the Conference Semifinals four times, none since 2002, and Jordan has since sold his stock in the team.

3. Chicago Bulls

Despite the presence of LeBron’s Miami Heat, the Bulls were the Eastern Conference’s top seed that year because to a balanced offense, a deep bench, and 23-year-old defending MVP Derrick Rose. Despite missing half of the season just because of persistent injuries, Rose appeared to be in fine shape for the playoffs…until Game 2 of the Bulls’ first-round series in opposition to the 76ers, when his knee detonated like the Halifax Explosion.

Rose missed the whole following season (in the meantime, the Bulls attempted to replace his minutes by acquiring Nate Robinson in the winter, which is so entertaining I can’t even make a joke about it), and his career was never the same, dooming the Bulls’ long-term title chances.

4. Golden State Warriors

Warriors won three titles in four years, but this was the exception rather than the rule. This is still worth mentioning since this squad was as talented as the ones that won — and even set the record for the best regular-season record in NBA history — but they nevertheless lost a 3-1 series lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the Cavs finally won a title, but this is one of the few times in league history that a less talented team won an NBA championship.

Any team that doesn’t win an NBA title while having a healthy Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson has to be deemed disappointing. Granted, the team’s answer was to sign Kevin Durant and devastate the NBA for two years, so it worked well in the long run. However, the Golden State Warriors team is among the Best NBA Teams of 2K24.

5. Indiana Pacers

Indy won three ABA championships but has yet to break through since entering the NBA in 1976.

It was one of several teams confused by Michael Jordan’s excellence in the 1990s, but it eventually broke through and made the NBA Finals in 2000. They ran across the dynasty Lakers, who had already dashed the expectations of the other teams on this list.

Despite the best efforts of Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose, and Mark Jackson, the Pacers were defeated in a gentleman’s sweep. They have appeared in the conference finals three times subsequently, for a total of eight occasions, but have yet to return to the grand stage.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

People in Los Angeles often think of the Clippers as the little brother because the Lakers are so good and the Clippers aren’t. 

In the 2020-21 season, LAC made it to the conference playoffs for the first time in the team’s history. They couldn’t play the Suns because their best player, Kawhi Leonard, got hurt in Game 4 of the previous round and couldn’t help the team move on in the playoffs.

There is still reason for Clippers fans to be hopeful. In the last 13 years, they’ve made the playoffs 11 times, making them a major force in the Western Conference.

7. New Orleans Pelicans

The franchise has only been around since 1988 (2002 in New Orleans), hence the team formerly known as the Hornets gets a pass, to some extent. 

During their time in Charlotte, the team’s biggest mistake was handing Larry Johnson the largest contract extension in NBA history, even though his current contract still had two years left. This made it impossible to keep Alonzo Mourning, who was regarded as the better player. Johnson experienced lower back problems and was never the same again, Mourning departed to Miami (and later won a championship), and the franchise relocated to New Orleans.

The Pelicans then squandered Anthony Davis’ years, and here they are.

8. New York Knicks

Again in 1994! I don’t understand that season. There’s no doubt that this squad was stronger on paper than the Rockets that year: Patrick Ewing had a tremendous season (although not nearly as excellent as Hakeem’s), Charles Oakley was essentially a better version of Otis Thorpe, and the Rockets lacked anyone who could compete with John Starks. Anthony Mason, Derek Harper, and Rolando Blackman came off the bench for this club, but they couldn’t beat Houston! This was despite defeating Reggie Miller’s Pacers, the Knicks’ traditional rivals, in the Eastern Conference Finals. There will never be a crazier playoff season than 1994.

9. Orlando Magic

The Magic are 0–2 in the NBA Finals. They were swept by the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets in 1994-95 and fell to Kobe Bryant’s Lakers in 2008-09.

Orlando’s four conference finals appearances were in two consecutive seasons, first in 1994-95 and 1995-96 with Shaq and Penny Hardaway, and then in 2008-09 and 2009-10 with Dwight Howard.

The Magic have a bottom-10 all-time winning percentage and no positive defining postseason moment that compares to other NBA teams. It may take a cultural shift to bring greatness to Orlando.

10. Phoenix Suns

The Suns are one of the most storied franchises that has never won a championship. They have the fifth-best all-time winning percentage among current teams and the second-best among non-championship clubs. Phoenix has also had 11 Hall of Famers and two MVPs (Charles Barkley and Steve Nash).

Despite its history, Phoenix has only reached three Finals (1976, 1993, and 2021). They lost each of the series in six games.

Worse, the Suns are the oldest franchise without a championship. They began in 1968, while the next-closest title-less team, the Los Angeles Clippers, was founded in 1970.

11. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers had won the championship in 1967 with an extraordinarily packed starting lineup that included four Hall of Famers, including Wilt Chamberlain, arguably the best basketball player. The following year, Hal Greer improved even more. At the same time, Billy Cunningham and Chet Walker were nearly as good, and Wilt topped the league in assists simply to demonstrate his ability (something no other center has ever done).

But there was something psychologically missing: they lost in seven games to essentially the same Boston squad (without K.C. Jones) that they defeated in five the previous year. One year later, Wilt had left, and it was Cunningham’s team.

12. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies, created in 1995, have a strong basketball culture but have had limited postseason success. They, like several other players on this list, have never advanced to the Finals.

The squad grew in popularity during the “Grit ‘n Grind” era, which valued toughness and slow, deliberate play. Although they were competitive most years, they lacked the talent to compete for the championship seriously.

Memphis has only appeared in one conference finals, losing to the San Antonio Spurs in a four-game sweep in 2013.

13. Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves have also never advanced to the NBA Finals. The closest they came was the conference finals in 2003-04, when Kevin Garnett earned league MVP. The Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, defeated Minnesota in six games.

Garnett is the best player in franchise history, but he left in 2007 to join the Boston Celtics, where he won a championship. He later admitted he wishes he had departed sooner to compete for more titles.

Minnesota’s geography and market size make it difficult to attract stars, thus the state must cultivate its own talent. For perspective, eight of the last twenty-one Finals MVPs (38.1%) did not begin their careers with the team that won the championship.

14. New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans were previously known as the Charlotte Hornets. Confusing, isn’t it?

They switched to New Orleans in 2002 and rebranded as the Pelicans in 2013 to honour the state bird. The NBA considers them an expansion franchise that began in 2002, despite the fact that they were founded in 1988.  

Regardless of their off-court background, their on-court record is less than stellar. They’ve only made it to the second round of the playoffs twice and have never advanced to the conference finals, making them one of six teams to accomplish so.

15. Portland Trail Blazers

It’s impossible to imagine a greater tragic downfall than what occurred in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. This was an odd squad in that there was no single dominant player — but they had quality from top to bottom. The passing on this team was simply ridiculous, which is what occurs when your starters include Arvydas Sabonis, Damon Stoudamire, and Scottie Pippen, who fully embraces his point forward role, not to mention Rasheed Wallace and Steve Smith.

Then they advanced to Game 7 against Los Angeles. They led by 15 points with ten minutes to go until giving up a 15-0 run and losing, allowing the Shaquille O’Neal/Kobe Bryant Lakers to win their first championship over the Indiana Pacers. It was hard to witness, and it has not gotten any less brutal over time.

16. Seattle Supersonics

The Sonics truly had no luck in the 1990s. Maybe some people favor the ’96 team that to the finals, but I believe this was their most talented squad: Gary Payton, Shawn Kemp, Detlef Schrempf, and tremendous role players like Nate McMillan and Sam Perkins, not to mention Ricky Pierce, who may be the finest bench scorer ever. Then came the playoffs, and the Sonics created NBA history in the worst way possible.

They lost three straight to the Denver Nuggets, becoming the first No. 1 overall seed to fall to a No. 8 seed in the playoffs. The resulting image is one of the most memorable in the league’s history: Dikembe Mutombo lying on his back on the court, holding the ball above his head and screaming, “I LOVE THIS GAME!”

17. Utah Jazz

The Jazz are one of the most unlucky teams. Utah’s best opportunities to win a title came in 1997 and 1998 when they were defeated by the Chicago Bulls during their second three-peat. The final play of the second loss was Jordan’s last shot as a Bull, a stepback jumper over Byron Russell to win the Finals. Utah advanced to the conference finals five times in the 1990s and once in 2007 but has yet to win a championship.

Conclusion

The NBA is full of incredible teams, some of which win everything, while others come close but fall short of winning the championship. These near-champions demonstrate how difficult it is to win in the NBA. It’s not just about talent; everything comes together at the perfect time.  Perhaps some future stars will join this list, but these teams demonstrate that even the best can fall short. So, do you like the article about the best NBA teams that never won a championship?

FAQs

  • How many NBA teams have never won a championship?

Eleven NBA clubs have never won the title. Before becoming the Thunder, the SuperSonics won the NBA Finals. The Denver Nuggets, who were formerly on this list, won their first title in 2023.

  • Who is the best NBA player to never win a championship?

Elgin Baylor is the best NBA player who has never won a championship.

  • What is the oldest NBA team to never win a championship?

The Phoenix Suns are the oldest NBA franchise that has never won a championship. The Suns entered the league in 1968.

  • Have the Mavericks ever won a championship?

Since the Mavericks’ first season in 1980-81, they have won five division titles (1987, 2007, 2010, 2021, 2024), two conference championships (2006, 2011), and one NBA championship.

  • Which NBA player has 0 rings?

Paul George, Chris Paul, Westbrook, Lillard, Ewing, Reggie Miller, Dominique Wilkins, Vince Carter all have no rings. Vince Carter is one.

  • Who never lost in NBA?

John Havlicek, KC Jones, and Tom Sanders are invincible, having gone 8-0 in the league championship series.


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