In the old days, the greatness of a player wasn’t necessarily attached to his trophies, as people were more objective and judged players by their impact, their skills and their legacy and not for their Championship rings.
Nowadays things are quite different, as veterans are always chasing the trophy even if that means less money for them, or great talents like Kevin Durant are being constantly undermined because of their lack of jewelry despite being one of the best players in the world.
I mean, if rings made a player better than another, James Jones would be one of the greatest ballers of all-time, but he’s not much more than a professional groupie and close friend of LeBron James.
So, let’s take a look at the top 10 best players that never won an NBA ring, as they deserve way more credit than they get nowadays. For the purpose of this list, we’ll leave out players that are still active, such as Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul.
Honorable Mentions: Pete Maravich and Alex English
Pistol Pete was one of the game’s most fierce and prolific scorers through his entire career, and he still leads the all-time scoring list of the NCAA decades after leaving Louisiana State University, as well as owning the record for most points in a single season. Maravich was outstanding and unstoppable, but injuries stopped him from taking the next step in his career or even make an NBA Finals appearance, forcing him to retire early despite still having a lot to provide on the court.
English, on the other hand, was also one of the most versatile scorers the league saw during the late 70’s and the 80’s, while also being one of the most complete players overall through his 15-year career. Like Maravich, he never made an NBA Finals appearance, but he’ll still go down as one of the league’s fiercest scorers, and one of the best players to ever dress as a Denver Nugget.
10. George Gervin
Gervin was one of the most durable players through his 17-year career, playing in the ABA, the NBA, the CBA and even in Spain and Italy, being one of the most terrifying scorers the game has ever seen. He led the league in points in 4 different seasons, making 12 All-Star appearances, and even having his number 44 jersey retired by the San Antonio Spurs.
Nevertheless, the fierce scorer was never able to win the ring, despite winning 5 divisional titles. Besides, he owned the record for most points in a quarter with 33 before Klay Thompson scored 37 against the Kings.
9. Reggie Miller
Miller will go down as one of the best shooters in NBA history, as the trash talking shooting guard could score from pretty much everywhere on the floor in an era where teams didn’t rely as much on the 3 pointer as they do now. Of course, Steph Curry completely demolished most of Miller’s records, but that’s mostly because of how much the game has changed over the last few decades.
Reggie’s a top 10 player in the shooting guard position, and if he hadn’t had to fight against guys like Michael Jordan for the ring, or if he had a better supporting cast, he’d probably have won at least a couple.
8. Dominique Wilkins
Much people think of Wilkins as the best player in Atlanta Hawks history, as the athletic scorer and arguably the best dunker in NBA history besides Vince Carter was a complete beast on both ends of the floor with his outstanding scoring ability and athleticism.
He would have definitely scored more points than he did if he didn’t play overseas twice, but even with those tenures, he managed to put up 26,688 points through his career. Wilkins, like Miller, had to fight in the East against MJ and company, so you can tell how that turned out.
7. Steve Nash
The future Hall of Famer and former star point guard is without an ounce of doubt, one of the best point guards in NBA history, thanks to his outstanding speed, his basketball IQ, his passing ability and his shooting skills, being one of the few members of the 50-40-90 club.
Nash was a complete monster during his time with the Phoenix Suns, and even if many people believe that he stole the MVP award from Shaq, you just can’t take credit from a guy that wasn’t even supposed to succeed in the NBA. Nash eventually wound up at the Lakers trying to get a ring alongside Kobe, World Peace, Howard and Pau, but injuries forced him to retire without becoming a champion.
6. Patrick Ewing
Ewing is arguably the best player in Knicks history, being one of the most dominant guys at both ends of the floor. The former Georgetown center was selected first overall by the New York Knicks in 1985, and since making his professional debut he became a complete monster.
With lifetime averages of 21 points, 9.8 boards, 1.9 assists, 1 steal and 2.5 blocks per contest, Ewing was one of the most versatile two-way players in the league, but the championship ring just got away from his hands in 1994, losing the NBA Finals to the Houston Rockets.
5. John Stockton
Stockton is (according to many many experts) the best point guard in NBA history after Magic Johnson. His pass-first mentality and outstanding passing ability were greatly complemented by his great offensive skill and his suffocating defense, creating a huge dynasty alongside Karl Malone despite not being a starter from the very first day he made his debut.
Of all the guys in this list, Stockton was (alongside Malone) the guy that was closest to winning the championship, but some guy named Michael Jeffrey Jordan had other things in mind. So, the best point guard in the world was yet another victim of the Bulls and their incredible dynasty.
4. Allen Iverson
Iverson made millions of fans from all over the world fall in love with the game while giving the league a strong thug identity thanks to his attitude, his street clothing and his way of playing basketball as if he was in the very same yard of his house.
Allen’s crossover, scoring ability and athleticism made him completely unguardable, although his constant misbehavior, lack of discipline and poor supporting cast made him fail to achieve his dream of winning an NBA championship, losing the NBA finals against Shaq and Kobe.
3. Charles Barkley
Chuck was a complete force through his entire NBA career, but he was never able to lead the Sixers, Suns or Rockets to a ring despite being one of the most dominant, consistent and durable players in the NBA.
Even despite his questionable habits and fierce temper, Barkley was a monster on the court. Chuck lacked the size to guard most of his rivals, but he compensated that with a great competitive attitude, a physical style of play and of course, lots and lots of trash talking.
2. Karl Malone
Unlike Stockton, Malone actually wound up leaving the Jazz to try and win an NBA championship. Nevertheless, the Mailman failed in his quest once again, but that won’t stop him from being remembered as one of the best players this game has ever seen.
A dominant guy on both ends of the floor, the power forward was a scoring machine while playing lockdown defense and owning the boards on a nightly basis, and if it wasn’t for (guess who) Michael Jordan, he’d have a couple of rings to brag about.
1. Elgin Baylor
Baylor was one of the unluckiest guys in sports history, as the Los Angeles Lakers finally won the title the very next year Elgin had to retire due to an injury, starting a streak of 33 unbeaten games for the purple and gold franchise.
The Small Forward was an offensive force and constantly led his team, but he was never able to shake off the Boston Celtics dominance in the NBA Finals. Through 14 years, Baylor managed to put up an impressive 27.4 points and 13.5 boards per game, but that wasn’t enough to win an NBA championship.