Ranking the best players in NBA history to never win a Finals championship ring (2024)

The ring is everything in the NBA.

The relentless pursuit of a world championship is why LeBron James first decided to join the Miami Heat, and why the Boston Celtics almost traded Jaylen Brown for Kevin Durant before the eventual 2024 Finals MVP paired with a tear-filled Jayson Tatum to win it all.

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But while Nikola Jokic already has a title and is currently the best basketball player on the planet, some of the biggest names in NBA history never won anything.

In fact, a hardwood fanatic could put together a fascinating dream 5-on-5 matchup simply by collecting the huge names who never won a ring.

Michael Jordan was a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals and basically trademarked playoff intensity.

Kobe Bryant inspired Tatum and won more rings than The King.

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But James Harden, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Allen Iverson and Karl Malone all have one big thing in common.

Here is talkSPORT's inside look at the best players in NBA history to never win a ring.

15. Russell Westbrook (21.7 average points, 8.1 assists, 9 All-Star teams)

Mr. Triple-Double is one of the most athletic and aggressive players in NBA history.

Time should be kinder to Westbrook, with future generations looking back in awe at his unbelievable numbers, which are currently highlighted by four seasons in which he averaged a triple-double.

But in 2024, Westbrook is the odd man out.

He's bounced from Houston to Washington, the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers in recent years.

Chris Webber, Bernard King and George Gervin also failed to win rings.

But Westbrook deserves at least one, considering how much he's produced in the NBA.

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14. Tracy McGrady (19.6 points, 7 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

The two-time scoring champion once had some young Michael Jordan in him.

There was a period in NBA history when McGrady was the next one, averaging a league-best 32.1 points for the Orlando Magic and consistently finishing in the top-five of MVP voting.

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Injuries and disappointing teams got in the way of McGrady's NBA dominance and he was a shell of himself in his latter years.

But in the early 2000s, it seemed destined that T-Mac would win a championship ring.

His best chance was the Magic -- he couldn't get past the second round of the playoffs with the Rockets.

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13. Vince Carter (16.7 points, 8 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

Vinsanity probably could have outdunked Air Jordan.

That's how powerful Carter was in the open air.

The 1998-99 Rookie of the Year entered the NBA with a bang.

For the next decade, Carter consistently averaged more than 20 points while trading Toronto for New Jersey.

But even though he played until he was 43 and wore eight different uniforms, an NBA Finals ring was always elusive for "Half-Man/Half-Amazing."

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12. Dominique Wilkins (24.8 points, 9 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

The Human Highlight Film has one of the greatest nicknames of all-time.

He also gave MJ a run for his money when they were both beginning to dominate the NBA.

Wilkins gradually built his game with Atlanta, increasing his scoring average from an impressive 17.5 points as a rookie to a league-high 30.3 in 1985-86.

His biggest problem was playing in the Eastern Conference with Jordan -- and playing for the Hawks.

Despite making the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team, the offensive machine never won the Finals.

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11. Carmelo Anthony (22.5 points, 10 All-Star teams)

Melo was a monster for Denver.

Then he forced his way to New York during an era when NBA superstars began deciding on their chosen teams.

During his career, the offensively gifted forward exceled at owning defenders and getting his nightly points.

Anthony, who won a national championship at Syracuse and became the No. 3 overall pick of the 2003 NBA Draft, finished with 28,289 points, 7,808 rebounds and 1,731 made 3-pointers.

He just couldn't win four games in the NBA Finals.

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10. Patrick Ewing (21 points, 11 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

Ewing is one of the best centers of all-time.

Throw in his Georgetown domination, and the native of Kingston, Jamaica helped define basketball in the 1980s and '90s, along withMichael Jordan.

The only thing missing from Ewing's highly impressive résumé is an NBA Finals trophy.

He averaged 21 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks, while making three All-Defensive teams.

Ewing was the powerful leader of theNew York Knicksand ahead of his time in many ways.

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9. Allen Iverson (26.7 points, 11 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

He was The Answer and the best pure scorer of the 2000s.

Iverson was the first pick of the 1996 NBA Draft and he more than lived up to that hype, winning four NBA scoring titles and making seven All-NBA teams.

The 2000-01 league MVP also won two All-Star MVPs and was named to the league's 75th Anniversary Team.

Iverson even made the Finals in 2000-01.

But his Philadelphia 76ers ran into the Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant Lakers, and it wasn't close.

Los Angeles won 4-1, denying Iverson his best shot at a world championship.

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8. Steve Nash (14.3 points, 8.5 assists, Hall of Fame)

Nash's bad run coaching the Brooklyn Nets has recently overshadowed how good he was on the court.

The two-time NBA MVP led a Phoenix team that revolutionized the NBA and was offensively ahead of its time.

Nash was the best point guard in the league while Phoenix won 60-plus games and wowed fans with its rapid full-court attack.

The former Santa Clara star was in the middle of it all, breaking down defenses and creating constant highlights.

Nash led the league in assists five times and entered the Hall of Fame.

Phoenix got close to the Finals but never made it with Nash running point.

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7. Chris Paul (17.5 points, 9.4 assists, 12 All-Star teams)

CP3 is one of greatest point guards of all-time.

Had a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011 not been vetoed by then-commissioner David Stern, Paul might have one -- or multiple -- rings by now.

Instead, he's 39 and bouncing around the NBA, trying to finally win a championship while already being a lock for the Hall of Fame.

Paul was at his best with the Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers.

But he almost pushed the Houston Rockets to the Finals in 2018 and made the last stage with Phoenix in 2021.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks stood in the way then, and it might have been the last time that Paul had a real shot at a ring.

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6. Reggie Miller (18.2 points, 5 All-Star teams, Hall of Fame)

One of Michael Jordan's fiercest rivals was also ahead of the time.

Miller was one of the first players to specialize in 3-pointers.

Despite hitting 2,560 during his career, he would have shot even more 3s in the wide-open modern NBA.

Miller and the Indiana Pacers reached the Finals in 2000 but ran into a familiar theme.

Another team -- the Lakers with O'Neal and Bryant -- was better.

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5. Elgin Baylor (27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds, Hall of Fame)

Baylor won Rookie of the Year when he entered the NBA in 1958-59 and only got better.

He regularly finished in the top five of MVP voting and put up huge numbers, including averages of 38.3 points and 18.6 rebounds with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1961-62.

More than 50 years after retiring, Baylor's enormous stats still stand out.

The Boston Celtics' dynasty got in the way of Baylor winning a deserved world title.

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4. James Harden (24.1 points, 10 All-Star teams, 3 scoring titles)

The Beard had a run when he was unstoppable night after night.

During his best years with the Rockets, Harden rivaled Stephen Curry as the most explosive scorer in the league.

Unlike Curry, Harden didn't specialize in 3s, and instead relied on a unique attack that mixed old-school craftiness with a smooth modern touch.

He won the 2017-18 NBA MVP but was a serious candidate in other years, including 2018-19, when he averaged a league-high 36.1 points but didn't receive the award.

Like Paul and Westbrook, Harden has bounced across the league in recent seasons.

He's still searching for a ring with declining productivity.

But the former sixth man could one day revert to that same role on a rising team that's in need of a veteran scorer.

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3. John Stockton (13.1 points, 10.5 assists, Hall of Fame)

After averaging just 5.6 points as a rookie, the Utah Jazz point guard became the definition of NBA consistency.

Paired with Karl Malone on Jerry Sloan's Jazz, Stockton helped define a pivotal era for the league.

He was selected to 11 All-NBA teams, led the league in assists nine times, won two steals titles and made five All-Defensive teams.

Jordan and the Chicago Bulls ultimately got in the Jazz's way.

But Stockton become synonymous with the point guard position and is a living legend in Salt Lake City.

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2. Charles Barkley (22.1 points, 11.7 rebounds, Hall of Fame)

When one of the most talented players in league history finally reached basketball's biggest stage, Barkley walked away humbled and depressed.

That's how toughJordanwas in 1993.

Barkley, who won theregular-season MVP, wasn't able to forget it.

"This guy might be better than me," Barkleysaid. "I never said that about another basketball player in my life, ever."

TheChicago Bullswon the 1993 Finals 4-2 when John Paxson drilled a stunning last-second 3-pointer on thePhoenix Suns' home court.

Barkley never got over it.

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1. Karl Malone (25 points, 10 rebounds, Hall of Fame)

It's hard to be better than Barkley but that's how good The Mailman was.

As the nickname says, he always delivered -- except in the NBA Finals.

Jordan's Bulls beat Stockton, Malone and the Jazz in 1997 and '98.

Malone was an offensive force, making 14 All-Star teams and winning two league MVPs.

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He also made four All-Defensive teams.

Like Harden, Paul, Miller, Baylor, Barkley and many more, Malone deserved at least one NBA ring.

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Ranking the best players in NBA history to never win a Finals championship ring (2024)

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