Greatest NBA players to never win a championship (Part I)
Not all greats can call themselves champions.
By "Mr. Basketball" Michael Illiano
Though tasting the title gold was not meant to be for some NBA players. In the game of basketball, championships measure a player's greatness more than any other sport.
In my view, championships (or lack there of) should not necessarily diminish a player's greatness. In some cases, players run into dynasties like Jordan’s Bulls. Others falter under pressure (See: Webber, Chris).
Here is my in-depth list of the NBA’s 10 greatest players to never win a championship.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know.
Honorable mentions aka the athletes that just barely missed the cut: Allen Iverson, Bernard King, George Gervin, and Walt Bellamy.
Check out Part II: 5-1.
10) Pete Maravich
I might get some flack for having this name on the list, but Maravich’s flash as a player was second to none.
He had out-of-this-world shooting and dribbling. The man dubbed “Pistol,” sporting floppy socks as his trademark, was born to score and brought a style to the NBA that was unseen before. Maravich would practice all sorts of drills that probably haven't been done for 20 years.
On one fateful night in 1977 against the New York Knicks, Maravich would torch them via 68 points.
Maravich’s on-court dominance is the stuff of legend and most of it came from hard work and practice. The five-time All-Star put up an astounding 44 points per game average over a three year career at LSU, making him the greatest scorer in college basketball history.
Those who watched Larry Bird can see the influence that Maravich had on his game. Maravich understood the art of the pump fake, perfected the dribble, and had a sweet stroke from any distance. He was the closest thing to the NBA's version of a Harlem Globetrotter.
Some may debate that the flashiness hurt his chances at a title, but he was never blessed with a great supporting cast for most of his prime; spent with the Atlanta Hawks and New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz.
For most of Maravich's career, the NBA Playoffs were something he didn't see too often, but it never stopped him from putting on a show--and putting up big numbers.
Later in his career, Maravich tore his knee up and along with the lack of playoff wins, ended up tainting his NBA legacy.
But here is a final thought on Maravich to ponder:
Maravich was known for being an expert marksman shooter, yet most of his career, there was no three-point line. In his final season, the NBA finally adopted the three-point shot. Maravich, who only played 43 games for the Boston Celtics due to injury, knocked down 10 of the 15 three pointers he attempted.
To add insult to injury, he retired one year too early, as the Celtics won the NBA Championship the following year.
9) LeBron James
LBJ, The King, Chosen One, whatever. The most hated man in sports currently ranks number nine on this list.
LeBron will have a multiple chances to get off this list in his career because he is still in his prime. But.......
His playoff failures are becoming pretty epic.
Regardless of what anyone thinks of LeBron personally, he still is a major talent. LeBron is a two-time MVP (back-to-back seasons), which is something not many greats can boast. Injuries aside, he will have 20,000 points before age 30. Perhaps his efforts are over-hyped, but his talent is not by any means and the numbers show that.
He is essentially Dominique Wilkins with a passing game and ‘Nique was no slouch.
Three times in his career LeBron had his team as the perennial favorite to win the title, but came up short. I wanted to leave him off this list, but now it is getting to the point with him as if it is "now or never." He doesn't strike me as the player that will be the savvy veteran who wins later in his career.
LeBron has to win now, while all the strong parts of his game still have their spring. It’s almost a given he is going to put up some ungodly numbers the rest of his career.
He has already won the MVP award, been selected on the All-Defense team, won the All-Star Game MVP, Rookie of the Year, and every other individual award in between.
One thing still eludes LeBron is the NBA Championship. The self-proclaimed “King” needs to be really careful because this list could be revisited in 10 years and his name could be number one.
We would then demote him from King James to Court Jester James. Yikes.
8) Steve Nash
Once the lowly third-string backup to Jason Kidd and Kevin Johnson, Nash was nothing but an afterthought.
It took about four years for Nash to come into his own and by then, he was with the Dallas Mavericks with another rising star--Dirk Nowitzki.
Nash and Nowitzki would become a force in the Western Conference Playoffs. They would reach the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs in 2003 together before losing a great six game series.
Nash left the Mavs in 2005 and came back to the Valley of the Sun, where he would win two consecutive MVP awards and make the Suns a contender almost every year since. Nash is partly responsible for the growth of Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire too.
Nash had his best chance at a ring in 2007 with those two players, but suspensions in Game 5 against the Spurs in the second round cost the Suns dearly. Just don't remind Suns fan that.
You have to have to assume the Suns beat the Jazz and later, the Cavs in the NBA Finals in 2007 without those suspensions. In 2010, Nash finally got the Suns over the Spurs hump, only to run into the defending champion Lakers, where they lost in six games in the Conference Finals.
Nash averaged over 11 assists per game five times this past decade and is one of the most underrated shooters of all-time. He is a 50-percent shooter for his career, unheard of for a point guard. Nash shot 50-percent from the field, 40-percent from the arc, and 90-percent from the line four seasons of his career.
When naming the NBA’s best point guards, we are quick to think of Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and Jason Kidd without even giving Nash a thought at times.
Nash should not only be mentioned as one of the best amongst today's players, but with the greats of the past.
7) Alex English
The former South Carolina player known as “The Blade” and as “Rob Kelly” always reminds me of the man who scored more points in the ‘80s than any other player.
That’s pretty amazing considering the greats of that decade.
English was smooth, graceful, and at times, unguardable. No disrespect to ‘Melo and Dan Issel, but most people, including myself, feel English is the greatest Denver Nugget of all-time.
English scored over 25,000 points for his career and was the main player on some of the highest scoring teams ever.
In 1985, English came his closest to winning a title by making it to the Western Conference Finals. His team lost to the Lakers, who would go on to win it all.
The eight time All-Star never seems to get the credit he deserves, playing in a decade dominated by Magic and Bird.
‘Bout time we start respecting how great English was.
6) Reggie Miller
Reggie Miller is no doubt the most clutch player of all-time to not win a championship.
Reggie's numbers in certain areas are staggering:
Over 25,000 points, over 2,500 three point field goals, shooting threes at a career 39.5-percent clip--unreal considering the volume he shot at.
His range was unlimited and his heart was immeasurable. He was brash, cocky, and a straight up assassin.
The greatest Indiana Pacer is a career 88-percent free throw shooter and shot over 90-percent eight different seasons. Sometimes I hear the word overrated when it comes to Reggie and it is quite unwarranted.
Let's break down Reggie's impact:
The majority of the Pacers’ history before Reggie was nothing but ABA success. It wasn't until Reggie came to the Pacers that they got on the NBA map in any real way. Early in Reggie's career, he teamed with “The Rifleman” Chuck Person to form one of the deadliest three point duos.
They even took Bird and the Celtics to the limit in 1991, but Reggie's legend started against the Knicks in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals. With a 25 point fourth quarter and the infamous choke sign to Spike Lee, it became the one greatest clutch moments ever produced by one player, such as......
I distinctly remember Reggie always being knocked for not being a great defender. I also seem to recall Reggie holding the great Kobe Bryant to a 4-for-20 performance in Game 5 of the 2000 NBA Finals and a 8-for-27 in Game 6. The Pacers didn't win the Finals mainly because of Shaq's unreal dominance, but Reggie beat Kobe head-to-head.
Oh, he even led one of only three teams in NBA history to push Michael Jordan to a Game 7 and the brink of elimination.
I will go out on a limb and say Reggie has more defining playoff moments than anyone outside of Jordan and Bird.
How Reggie is not a first ballot Hall of Famer is seriously questionable.
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