Back in the day, we appreciated greatness. Players weren’t judged only for their silverware but also for their impact and influence on the game, their numbers, and how they turned their franchises around for so long. Now, it seems like all that matters are rings and Championships won.
However, there are plenty of Hall of Famers and legends of the game that never could win an NBA Championship. Either because of another dynasty, because of their loyalty or simply for bad luck, they never got to hold the Larry O’Brien trophy on their hands.
Even if that may be a tiny stain on their resumes, those guys are still some of the greatest hoopers ever. And, contrary to what players do nowadays, most of them refused to join other stars to get a free ride to the NBA Finals. That’s why today, we’re going to talk about the ringless hierarchy and the legends that never won a ring:
Grant Hill, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Derrick Rose, Yao Ming, Chris Webber, Bernard King, Penny Hardaway
Tier Five features three players that could still win a ring before retiring in Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony, and Derrick Rose. However, it seems like Davis is the only one that can pull it off and actually be an important contributor for his team at this point.
Yao Ming and his Houston Rockets often underperformed in the playoffs, while Chris Webber had the tough lock to compete vs. the Lakers and the Spurs at their peak. They ruled the Western Conference throughout his entire career.
We also find Bernard King and Penny Hardaway, two of the biggest entertainers of their generations that could never lead their teams to the biggest stage. And last, but not least we have Grant Hill, one of the biggest ‘what if’s in NBA history. Injuries derailed his career but he had it all to be the most dominant two-way player since Michael Jordan.
Reggie Miller, Tracy McGrady, Dikembe Mutombo, Vince Carter, Pete Maravich
On Tier Four we find mostly guys who were pretty close to winning an NBA Championship, except for Pete Maravich, who only made the playoffs four times throughout his 11-year career. He was an unstoppable scorer but that didn’t translate into success in the postseason.
Reggie Miller came pretty close to putting an end to the Bulls’ dynasty in 1998 but Jordan got the best of him in Game 7 of the ECF. He then led the Pacers to the Finals two years later, but Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant took them down to win their first NBA Championship.
Tracy McGrady was one of the most dominant scorers the league had ever seen. However, his proneness to get hurt and subpar performances in the playoffs cost him the chance to win a ring. He came pretty close when he joined the Spurs in 2013, but the Heat got them in 7 games.
Dikembe Mutombo is one of the league’s greatest shot-blockers ever. He was one of the few people that actually helped Allen Iverson make the Finals in 2001, but once again, Kobe and Shaq would end up on top. He also had a shot with the Nets in 2003 but they lost to the Spurs.
And finally, we find Vince Carter, who played for half of the teams in the NBA but never won a ring. However, he never ring-chased. He continued to sign with any NBA team that wanted his services regardless of their ability to contend, which is quite respectable.
James Harden, George Gervin, Patrick Ewing, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Dominique Wilkins
Tier Three features three future Hall of Famers that could still work their way to an NBA Championship, like Chris Paul, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook. Among them, Paul is the only one that hasn’t even made the ultimate stage over his career.
Westbrook and Harden made the Finals in 2012 but lacked the playoff experience to get the job done. They’re still on their primes and joined forces to make another run at the Finals, but it seems like the Rockets need more help to get past the Lakers and Clippers in the playoffs.
Patrick Ewing could have won at least one NBA Championship but, like most players from his era, he had to get past Michael Jordan to pull it off. The only time he actually had the chance to play for a ring was in 1994 during Jordan’s retirement, but Hakeem Olajuwon ended up on top.
George Gervin, on the other hand, was a fearless scorer that could get buckets against the best players on earth. Still, he played on an era dominated by the Celtics, Lakers, and Knicks, which is pretty similar to what happened to Dominique Wilkins. When it seemed like he was on the clear, Michael Jordan showed up.
Charles Barkley, Elgin Baylor, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Allen Iverson
Tier Two features only elite and influential players. Guys that paved the way and changed the game, the culture, and how their position was played. Nothing but the greatest of the greatest.
Charles Barkley is the best undersized big man in NBA history. He was the most dominant rebounder in the court, an unstoppable and crafty scorer, and even a solid playmaker. Sadly for him, Michael Jordan wasn’t letting him win a Championship.
The same can be said about John Stockton, arguably the greatest point guard to ever live, or at least the most durable. Stockton is the league’s all-time leader in assists and steals, but Jordan got the best of him and the Jazz in back-to-back Finals.
Steve Nash was the mastermind behind one of the most entertaining and explosive offenses in NBA history. Poor officiating, the Spurs, and Lakers prevented him from even making the Finals, though, although he did win back-to-back MVPs.
If you want to talk about unlucky players then you must name Elgin Baylor at the top of the conversation. He was the best small forward in the league during his entire career but his Lakers constantly fell short. They actually won the Championship the very next season he retired.
And finally, we have Allen Iverson, the most talented player never to win a ring. He carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the Finals in 2001 and handed the Lakers their only loss of that postseason, but nobody could beat Shaq and Kobe at their best.
And, obviously, Karl Malone has to sit above all of those players. He’s the greatest player to never win an NBA Championship and there’s only one guy to blame for that: Michael Jeffrey Jordan, A.K.A Black Jesus.
Karl Malone is second in the all-time leading scorer’s list with 36,928 career points. He was the most dominating power forward in the league during his prime, a physical scorer that was always going to get his way in the post.
Malone and Stockton led the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals and they looked like the team better suited to put an end to the Bulls’ historical run. Still, Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, and Kukoc got the best of them in six games in both of those series.
He would go on to pursue a ring with the Lakers in 2004 after 18 years with the Jazz, but that infamous ‘fab four’ team with Kobe, Shaq, and Gary Payton ended up losing at the hands of the Detroit Pistons. Malone retired at the end of the season and the rest is history.