Back in the day players earned their respect on the court. They won personal accolades, they fought hardnosed battles, and they gave it all on the hardwood so people would praise them.
Now, it seems like it’s all about winning a Championship. Obviously, winning is the ultimate goal, but if you’re playing a team sport, your greatness can’t be judged entirely on whether you’re a champion or not.
Throughout the course of history, there have been a handful of players that were never able to win a ring but are still some of the best to ever lace them up. So, who would win if we put together a couple of ringless teams? Let’s break it down:
Guard – Chris Paul
Ever since he made it to the league back in 2006, Chris Paul made it clear that he’ll be one of the best ever. He’s the greatest point guard of the past decade, and an undisputed Hall of Famer even if he never makes it to the big stage.
Paul hasn’t even played on an NBA Finals. Still, he’s lead the league in assists 4 times and 6 times in steals. He’s arguably the last greatest pure point guard. The point God.
Guard – Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is arguably the most talented player never to win an NBA Championship. He as an unstoppable scorer, had the best moves in the league and was even a far better defender than people gave him credit for, but none of that was enough.
Iverson came close to winning a ring but Shaq, Kobe and the Lakers were just too much to handle for any team in the world back then. Still, he’s a 4-time scoring champion, MVP, and 3-time steal leader.
Guard – Reggie Miller
Even though the league is way more oriented towards the perimeter right now, it seems like Reggie Miller doesn’t get the credit he deserves, as he was one of the first consistent and reliable scoring threats from beyond the arc back in the day.
Miller had a couple of solid supporting casts throughout his career but the Eastern Conference was just so packed back then, that he was never able to even make it to the NBA Finals.
Forward – Tracy McGrady
If you think James Harden is unstoppable, you should’ve seen Tracy McGrady. There just wasn’t a human being in the world capable of denying T-Mac from scoring at will, but his constant injuries and lack of playoff success tainted his legacy.
McGrady led the league in scoring twice and won the league’s MIP in 2001. He was a walking bucket and had some of the slickest moves ever. His only trip to the Finals was a bottom-of-the-bench player with the Spurs and they lost.
Forward – Karl Malone
Karl Malone spent most of his impressive NBA career with the Utah Jazz, but he was one of Michael Jordan’s favorite victims in the NBA Finals. He was the league’s most physical scorer and a huge threat in the post, but the Jazz always fell short of their goal.
Malone ended up joining the Lakers before retiring, but they lost in the 2004 Finals vs. the Detroit Pistons. He won a couple of MVPs and made it to 14 All-Star Games.
Guard – John Stockton
John Stockton could go scoreless and still contribute to 50+ points for his team. That’s the kind of point guard he was. He was physical, and while he lacked athleticism or speed, he made up for it with top-notch awareness, IQ, and passing ability.
Just like Malone, Stockton was a victim of Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the NBA Finals. Still, he led the league in dimes 9 times, twice in steals, and is the all-time leader in total assists.
Guard – Steve Nash
Everybody thought Steve Nash was a bust early on his career. However, once he got a chance to start, he completely changed the way the position was played and up to this day, point guards are still trying to replicate the way he ran an offense.
Nash never made it to the Finals, but to be fair, the refs had a lot to do with it. Still, he’s a member of the 50/40/90 club, a two-time MVP, and a 5-time league leader in assists.
Forward – Carmelo Anthony
Following a one-year hiatus, Carmelo Anthony is finally back in the league. He should’ve never gone in the first place, as we’re talking about one of the most talented and prolific scorers this game and league have ever seen.
Anthony hasn’t found success in the playoffs but is Team USA’s all-time leading scorer. He won a scoring title and was a former MVP candidate, as well as a perennial All-Star, so respect is definitely due to him.
Forward – Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley would’ve had multiple NBA Championships if he had left the Phoenix Suns earlier. Sadly for him, the league was ruled by Michael Jordan through most of his prime, so there was nothing he could do.
Barkley was undersized, but he was never going to be outhustled. He was physical, strong, and was going to get in your face any given night. At 6’6”, he led the league in rebounds in 1987, and never averaged less than 10.1 boards per game after his rookie year.
Forward – Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing saved the New York Knicks. Hell, he saved the league. Just when the NBA needed a superstar in a big market that could help save the public picture of athletes, Ewing took over the Madison Square Garden and the rest was history.
There weren’t many players capable of putting the ball on the floor and then posterizing rivals the way Ewing did. He had a lot of finesse in his moves by a big man but was also strong, and physical. He never won a ring, though.
Once these guys hit the floor, you know there’s going to be a lot of physical battles below the rim. However, the Ewing – Barkley duo would be just too much to handle down low for Karl Malone on his won.
Team A has a clear advantage when it comes to perimeter shooting, featuring 4 threats from beyond the arc that can create their own shot and score at will. Also, Miller and McGrady looming around the three-point line would open up a lot of space for Chris Paul’s drives.
Team B has the upper hand in the battle of the backcourts, at least when it comes to playmaking. However, it feels like they could be kind of clamped in the offensive end with Paul and Iverson getting their way on defense.
Believe it or not, Carmelo Anthony is actually Team B’s X-Factor. He can play in the wing, in the post, below the rim, be physical, be a pull-up jumper, slash, cut, and drive as his most versatile player.
And while Team B has far better defenders than Team A, the kind of scoring machines Team A has could get hot in no time and open up a huge lead in the blink of an eye.
Thus, if Team B is able to slow down the tempo and play at the pace of their backcourt, they could find themselves in a huge advantage, as they have a clear edge in the paint. They just can’t allow them to have many second-chance opportunities.
But if we’re playing modern NBA basketball, Team A would have a walk in the park lighting it up from downtown, as Team B doesn’t have enough shooters to play catch all night with them.
Final Score: Team A 102 – 93 Team B