The NBA playoffs are still a couple of months away but NBA stars are already getting ready to make sure they show up for their teams. After all, NBA superstars have the most pressure to perform and their performances will dictate how the season ends for their teams. Most often, superstars show up and put forth fantastic performances to spearhead their teams to victory. We crown an NBA champion every year and getting through each playoff series is the most important part of being in the postseason.
The postseason is where the best NBA players are judged because performing on the brightest stage usurps what is done in the regular season. But there are situations where stars fail to make the playoffs, which means a season essentially goes to waste. Making the playoffs is the bare minimum for any professional basketball player, but not all players managed to go through an entire career without missing a playoff appearance. Never missing the playoffs comes down to a player’s impact but also the luck of playing on a great team. Here are the 10 NBA players who never missed the playoffs in their careers, with a minimum of 12 playoff appearances taken into consideration. If you want to check the full list, you can check the article from Frank Urbina of HoopsHype.
10. Johnny "Red" Kerr - 12 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 13.8 PPG, 11.2 RPG, 2.2 APG
A 6’9” center with a capable low post game, Red Kerr averaged 13.8 PPG and 11.2 RPG over his career which included 3 All-Star Teams and the NBA title in his rookie season. The big man benefited greatly by playing on a dominant Syracuse Nationals squad that went 43-29 on the season.
Kerr never made the Hall of Fame because he only had 3 All-Star appearances in his career, but he still made the postseason every year. As a member of the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers, Kerr made the playoffs 11 times before making the playoffs with the Baltimore Bullets in his final season.
9. Sam Jones - 12 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 17.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.5 APG
A Hall of Fame shooting guard with 10 NBA championships, Sam Jones is one of the greatest winners in NBA history. The legendary scorer played on a dominant Boston Celtics side led by Bill Russell, which more than explains why He has 12 playoff appearances in 12 NBA seasons.
Jones averaged a career 17.7 PPG, nailing 45.6% of his shots from the field. The shooting guard was consistent in getting open and making shots, especially when playing alongside other Hall of Famers. The 6’4” scorer is one of the most accomplished winners ever and his playoff appearances are a testament to that.
8. Chet Walker - 13 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 18.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.1 BPG
A Hall of Fame small forward, Chet Walker was part of the Syracuse Nationals in his rookie season, averaging 12.3 PPG and 7.2 RPG while making the All-Rookie Team and playing in the postseason. The franchise would be called the Philadelphia 76ers shortly after, and Walker would go on to make 5 more playoff appearances.
Walker’s most important season came in 1967 when he averaged 19.3 PPG and 8.7 RPG while helping the 76ers win the NBA title. He spent the next 6 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, again making the playoffs every season while making 4 more All-Star Teams.
7. Bill Russell - 13 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 15.1 PPG, 22.5 RPG, 4.3 APG
How could this list not include Bill Russell? The 11-time NBA champion is known for going 11-1 in 12 Finals appearances and being one of the greatest leaders in NBA history. As a defensive star and all-time great rebounder, perhaps only Wilt Chamberlain had the kind of paint impact that Russell had.
Bill Russell was so great, that he was able to lead the Boston Celtics to 13 straight playoff appearances which included 12 Finals berths. The 12-time All-Star had a knack for leading his team every game and with the number of times he played in the postseason, he is unsurprisingly tied for 5th place with the most consecutive playoff appearances.
6. Kevin McHale - 13 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 17.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.4 SPG, 1.7 BPG
One of the most underrated stars in NBA history and arguably the most dominant post player besides Hakeem Olajuwon, Kevin McHale made the playoffs for 13 straight seasons with the Boston Celtics. The low-post star played alongside some special talents including Larry Bird, but he was just as responsible for 3 championship rings as anyone else on his roster at the time.
Hall of Famer and iconic analyst Charles Barkley always mentions how McHale was the best player he ever played against, and that should be enough evidence of how dominant the Celtics star was. Kevin McHale had a host of achievements including 7 All-Star selections and 6 All-Defensive selections, but his track record of being a consistent playoff performer might be his most impressive.
5. Magic Johnson - 13 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 19.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 11.2 APG, 1.9 SPG, 0.4 BPG
The greatest point guard of all time, Magic Johnson reached his level of fame and success because he was an obsessed winner with leadership intangibles. The dominant point guard had the advantage of being 6’9” and over 210 lbs, which allowed him to make any pass on the court by seeing over defenders with ease. There hasn’t been a point guard as dominant as Magic was in his prime.
A whopping 5-time champion and 3-time Finals MVP, Magic had a host of accomplishments that will stand the test of time. But the legendary point guard had another big part of his resume which included 13 straight playoff appearances as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. No point guard impacted winning like Magic which is why he is tied for 5th on this list.
4. Clyde Drexler - 15 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 20.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.7 BPG
Clyde Drexler was an all-time great scorer and winner, make no mistake about that. Even if the All-Star didn’t win an NBA championship until he joined the Houston Rockets led by Hakeem Olajuwon, he was an incredible winner during his prime until his retirement. A classy shooting guard with flair and scoring ability, Drexler should have been a multiple-time champion if not for Michael Jordan.
Nonetheless, Clyde Drexler never missed the playoffs in his career and entered the postseason as a 10-time All-Star. The Hall of Famer had a ton of success with the Portland Trail Blazers, making the Finals in 1990 and 1992. Losing to the “Bad Boy” Pistons and the Chicago Bulls, Drexler did not find championship success until he went to Houston in 1995.
3. Robert Horry - 16 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 7.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.9 BPG
One of the greatest role players in NBA history, Robert Horry made his name from making big shots in the most important moments. Horry was never an All-Star, as seen by his numbers, but he was a terrific outside shooter and always seemed to be in the right places at the right time before nailing game-winners. It is hard to remember a role player that was as deadly as “Big Shot Bob”.
As great as Horry was in the clutch, he was also one of the luckiest players in NBA history because he played with some of the all-time greatest players. The forward was part of the Houston Rockets team that was led by Hakeem Olajuwon, the Lakers led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, and the San Antonio Spurs led by Tim Duncan. Playing with so many top-12 players in the game helped Horry carve a legacy of being a winner, including a whopping 16 playoff appearances.
2. John Stockton - 19 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 13.1 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 10.5 APG, 2.2 SPG, 0.2 BPG
The leading assist-getter in NBA history, John Stockton made a whopping 19 straight playoff appearances and the Utah Jazz never missed the playoffs with their point guard at the helm. The superstar playmaker held solid averages of 13.1 PPG and 10.5 APG over his career, and he clearly benefited from the presence of All-Star forward Karl Malone.
Playing with a go-to scorer like The Mailman helped Stockton accumulate a ton of assists and no one did it like the former No. 16 overall pick with the ball in their hands. The Utah Jazz have yet to find a point guard that can replicate what Stockton did for them on the floor and even All-Stars such as Deron Williams and Michael Conley Jr could not come close. Stockton’s all-time assists (and steals) record will likely never be broken by any point guard, and neither will his 19 consecutive playoff appearances.
1. Karl Malone - 19 Playoff Appearances
Career Statistics: 25.0 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1.4 SPG, 0.8 BPG
Alongside superstar point guard John Stockton, Karl Malone never missed the playoffs once in his Hall of Fame career. The dominant scoring power forward made a career out of being a double-double machine that would show up brightly in big games most times. Averaging 25.0 PPG over his entire career, The Mailman is ranked 2nd all-time in points scored.
It is no surprise that Malone and Stockton headline this list for never missing the playoffs because they were exceptional leaders and performers for the Utah Jazz. It is incredible that the pair never captured an NBA title together because their reign of dominance lasted nearly two decades as they went through arguably the toughest era of basketball ever.