NBA Stars Who Repeatedly Choked Away The Postseason

Darren - November 14, 2022

NBA Stars Who Repeatedly Choked Away The Postseason

Darren - November 14, 2022

Every basketball player dreams of their team winning an NBA Championship because it’s the pinnacle of the sport. However, this is a very difficult achievement, and even some of the best NBA stars can’t pull it off. Perhaps their teammates don’t have the skills to help them across the line or they just experience bad luck. But some other times, they just can’t get it done.

So today we’ll look at some of the best NBA players never to win a ring at this point. This list includes active players who have time to turn it around and get that elusive ring. But many longtime NBA stars (even Hall of Famers) retired with a bunch of individual accolades but no championship victories. There’s no shame in that because most of these athletes had outstanding careers, so check them out here.

Jimmy Butler

Butler admits that he’s not the most gifted star in the NBA today but he possesses an incredible work ethic. His dedication and desire make him a crucial member of the Miami Heat’s roster. The six-time All-Star won the NBA Most Improved Player award in 2015 and continues to go from strength to strength.

In 2020, he played in the NBA Finals with the Heat and scored a 40-point triple-double against the Lakers. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough for the Heat to defeat them but Butler gave everything. Nobody can claim that he doesn’t put everything on the line because he is one of the most dedicated NBA players today (via Sportscasting).

Vince Carter

Carter is the first of several players on this list who never even had an opportunity to play in the NBA Finals. He played for the Nets after they reached the Promised Land for successive years. Meanwhile, he fell short with the Raptors despite playing for a fun team. Carter’s Magic made the Conference Finals on one occasion but that was the peak of his postseason history.

He became one of the most popular players in the league during his time in Toronto. Then he decided that he had enough in Canada and demanded a trade to a bigger market. The Raptors fanbase turned against him and Carter stopped putting in any effort for the team. It’s the only black mark on the eight-time All-Star’s glittering career (via Clutchpoints).

Chris Webber

Webber never even played in an NBA Finals despite his best efforts. The five-time All-Star spent his best years in Sacramento where he competed for the NBA MVP award. Meanwhile, the Kings competed with the Lakers but ultimately fell short of beating them (via Sports Illustrated).

He was the only household name that emerged from the notorious Michigan Fab Five. Sacramento had a fun team and Webber became a triple-double machine in one of the NBA’s lesser markets. They had five years where they won 50 or more games in a row as Webber’s influence and solid play took hold.

Artis Gilmore

There’s no doubt that Gilmore is an NBA legend but he never won a Finals. However, he did earn a ring when he played for the Kentucky Colonels in the defunct ABA. Then he joined the Bulls and became a notable figure in the league. He made six NBA All-Star appearances and five during his time in the ABA.

The A-Train had a magnificent on-field scoring percentage during his prime and became a fan favorite. The only time he made the NBA Conference Finals was at the tail end of his career with the Boston Celtics. We assume that the privilege of winning a ring with the ABA eases the pain of missing out later (via USA Today Sports).

Blake Griffin

Griffin began his career with the L.A. Clippers but the franchise may not win a championship even if their opponents threw the series. However, he still managed to produce fantastic numbers in the Western Conference before he joined the Pistons. Injuries curtailed his career and reduced his impact in recent years (via Boston Globe).

Detroit traded the six-time All-Star to Brooklyn as they tried to assemble a super team. That didn’t go well as Griffin didn’t receive a lot of game time before a move to Boston. The newly-revived Celtics may represent his best chance of claiming that elusive ring. It would be a shame if he never receives that opportunity.

Tim Hardaway

The UTEP legend had a great NBA career but is amongst an elite group of players who failed to win a ring. This was despite playing for some of the most historically successful franchises. These included the Warriors, the Nuggets, and the Miami Heat. None of these managed to win a championship with him on their roster.

He played in the Eastern Conference Finals but that was the peak of his postseason adventures. Otherwise, analysts judge his Hall of Fame career off on his achievements. The Olympic gold medalist was a five-time All-Star and also made the All-NBA First Team. That’s an incredible list of personal honors and he deserves respect (via The Player’s Tribune).

Dave Bing

Bing enjoyed a remarkable career as the first guard to lead the league in scoring. The 1976 MVP never won an NBA ring despite his best efforts. Unfortunately, his teams couldn’t reach the showpiece series but his record merited a place. That’s why All-Star games exist to give the best players a chance to shine amongst their peers.

The seven-time All-Star spent 12 years in the NBA as one of its best players. He spent most of his career with the Pistons as he starred for them at the tail-end of the ’60s. Furthermore, he averaged over 20 points per game as he gave everything to his teams. In sum, Bing was an outstanding athlete and deserves a place on this list (via Fansided).

Ja Morant

It may feel like cheating to include Morant on this list because of his youth but he is a brilliant player. First, he outshone Zion Williamson to win the Rookie of the Year Award. Now he’s helping the Grizzlies develop into a respectable team and hopes to take the next step shortly (via ESPN).

Meanwhile, he earned high praise from Kevin Durant who described him as a “one-of-a-kind player.” It’s rare for Durant to speak positively about an opposition star but Morant earned this. The point guard is an electric talent and has already achieved a lot in his young career. Hopefully, one day he will win an NBA ring and fulfill his dreams.

Karl Malone

Nobody will pretend that Malone is a good person but that’s not why he’s on this list. He was one of the best NBA players for a decade as he starred for the Utah Jazz. Malone never succeeded in breaking his ring duck with the franchise despite playing in two Finals with them. Unfortunately, Michael Jordan stood in his way and prevented them from achieving glory.

The two-time MVP joined the Lakers in the twilight of his career as he went ring hunting. Then he played in the Finals for the last time in 2004 but the Pistons broke his heart. It was a tough blow for the Hall of Famer but his career achievements remain amazing. However, it would have been better if he retired with the Jazz (via Salt Lake Tribune).

Trae Young

It says a lot about Young’s influence that Atlanta fans already regard him as one of their greatest players ever. That’s sensational because he only entered the league in 2018 but is already a two-time All-Star. Meanwhile, he helped the Hawks to the Eastern Conference Finals as he showed his qualities (via AJC).

Young lacks the size and towering physique of most modern NBA players but he’s still a potent scorer. The prolific point guard enjoyed an exciting college career and brought this into the professional ranks. There’s no reason why he couldn’t win a ring if he moves to another franchise because he has a high ceiling.

Adrian Dantley

Dantley came within touching distance of winning a ring with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 after he played 42 games for the franchise. However, personal disagreements between him and members of the roster saw the team trade him to Dallas. Then the ‘Bad Boys’ in Detroit went on and won that season’s NBA Championship.

It was agonizing for Dantley because he never achieved the dream of winning an NBA Finals. The six-time All-Star spent his best years with the Utah Jazz where he also won the Comeback Player of the Year award. Many fans underrate him or even forget about him but he was a top player during a great era (via Bleacher Report).

Rudy Gobert

Some people may scoff at Gobert’s place on this list but the Frenchman is an excellent player. Nobody in NBA history has more Defensive Player of the Year awards than the three-time winner. He has also led the league in blocks and rebounds in his decorated individual career. But the Jazz never came close to reaching the NBA Finals with Gobert on their roster.

Perhaps he will have better luck with the Timberwolves after Utah traded him in 2022. The towering center rubs some people up the wrong way but he is fantastic at what he does. If he retires without a ring he’ll be one of the best players without one. This may surprise some fans but it’s the truth (via Clutchpoints).

Grant Hill

Before Hill broke his foot, he was one of the best NBA players in the league. Unfortunately, this catastrophic injury changed him forever and was also a severe blow for the Magic. The resulting surgery almost killed him but luckily he survived the nightmare. Hill entered the Hall of Fame because he did enough during his glory years.

However, he never succeeded in winning an NBA ring. The closest he came to this was playing in the Western Conference finals with the Suns. Amazingly, he made his first playoff appearance after 15 years in the league and set a record in the process. They lost the six-game series against the Lakers (via

Luka Doncic

Doncic is another player who always finds himself in the MVP conversation. That’s because he is a brilliant and skillful athlete with a massive influence on the Mavericks’ fortunes. They would never have made the Western Conference Finals in 2022 without the Slovenian superstar because he’s truly elite (via Sports Illustrated).

The three-time All-Star is among the best active NBA players without a ring. He won the Rookie of the Year award after he arrived from Real Madrid in 2018. Doncic broke Magic Johnson’s record of the youngest player ever to lead the league in triple-doubles. He scores at a frightening rate and fans love watching him.

Chris Mullin

A two-time Olympic gold medalist, Mullin knew what it took to win at the highest levels. However, he never succeeded in winning a championship ring despite his best efforts. It took Mullin four seasons to kick his career into gear but then he became one of the best players in the league.

The problem was that Mullin played for the Warriors when they were nowhere near the Warriors fans love today. This was in the days before they dreamed of a Stephen Curry or a Klay Thompson. Nonetheless, Mullin would have walked into any team in the league and won five All-Star appearances in a row. That’s incredible consistency and a testament to his dedication (via Hoop Hall).

James Harden

Harden is a brilliant athlete but he is in danger of becoming one of the NBA’s ‘nearly’ men. The veteran point guard established a reputation for himself in Houston as one of the best NBA players in the league. But then he decided it was time to hunt rings and he joined the Brooklyn Nets (via CBS Sports).

This move didn’t go well for him as they failed in their effort to build a super team. Now Harden is playing alongside Joel Embiid in Philadelphia and will never have a better chance to win a championship. The 2018 MVP is a 10-time All-Star as well as a future Hall of Famer. But he is desperate for a ring and may never get his hands on one.

George Gervin

These days Gervin isn’t a household name despite being one of the star players of the 1980s. That’s because he played for the San Antonio Spurs who failed to make the Finals with him as their main star. Take nothing away from Gervin though because he was a nine-time All-Star and one of the top athletes of the era (via The Athletic).

Unfortunately, there were many top teams during this period and the Spurs couldn’t beat the best. They made the Western Conference twice and Gervin lit them up with several high-scoring displays. But it wasn’t enough for them to win and take the final step toward earning Championship glory.

John Stockton

Remarkably, an Utah Jazz team with Stockton and Karl Malone on its roster failed to win an NBA Championship. They came close with back-to-back Finals appearances but fell short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Nonetheless, Stockton is one of the best NBA players without a ring because of his remarkable individual achievements.

First, he didn’t retire until he was 41, a rarity in the modern game. Meanwhile, he continues to hold multiple records including career assists because of his long career. He also has the most steals in NBA history and was a 10-time All-Star. Stockton effectively won everything except that elusive ring (via KSL Sports).

Nikola Jokic

Jokic won back-to-back MVP awards after two brilliant seasons with the Denver Nuggets. However, the Serbian star hasn’t enjoyed the same success in the postseason. There’s no denying his excellence because he regularly sets records for the franchise. He is at the forefront of a wave of European talent taking over the league (via Denver Post).

He even earned praise from Draymond Green after the Nuggets suffered a playoff loss to the Warriors in 2022. That almost deserves a medal itself because it doesn’t happen very often. Jokic has time to win a championship but at this point, he’s one of the best NBA players without a ring. However, if anybody changes the Nuggets’ fortunes, it will be Jokic.

Dikembe Mutombo

Mutombo is one of the unluckiest NBA players on this list because he played in two NBA Finals. This makes it more difficult to handle failing to win a Championship ring because he had two opportunities. But make no mistake, this Hall of Famer had a magnificent career as one of the best centers of his era (via ESPN).

The Congolese star won the Defensive Player of the Year award four times and was also an eight-time All-Star. Statically, he’s up there with some of the best of his generation. Unfortunately, Mutombo came up against great teams like the Lakers and Tim Duncans’s Spurs. Nobody can say that Mutombo didn’t try his best because he was fantastic.

Karl-Anthony Towns

A three-time All-Star, Towns may be one of the most underrated NBA players today. If he played for a bigger franchise he may have a lot more personal accolades or even a Championship ring. Poorer athletes than Towns have played and won NBA Finals because they shared a roster with Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

In 2022, Minnesota fans called for Towns to enter the MVP conversation. There’s no denying the influence that he has on the franchise and how much they depend on him. He will have a better chance of winning a ring with another team but the Timberwolves adore him more than anyone else will (via Sports Illustrated).

Damian Lillard

There’s no denying that Lillard is one of the best modern NBA players. The Trail Blazers icon is entering the twilight of his career and will retire without an NBA ring. Many Trail Blazers fans believe that he’s their greatest player ever but that’s not surprising. The six-time All-Star also made the 2018 All-NBA First Team.

The fact that he achieved these individual accolades with a weaker franchise is a testament to his brilliance. He may have won a ring if they traded him to another franchise but he stayed loyal to Portland. Even if he never makes the Finals there’s a unique satisfaction from staying true to a single team for so long (via The Ringer).

Elgin Baylor

Baylor may be the unluckiest player on this list because he played in eight NBA Finals but failed to win one. Meanwhile, his beloved Lakers immediately won a Championship after he retired with injury. It was cruel because he was a brilliant player and didn’t hold his team back. Sometimes professional sports are kind to the greatest athletes.

Baylor was an 11-time All-Star and spent his entire career with the Lakers. He joined them when they were still in Minneapolis before moving to L.A. Then he had an excellent career as an executive as he proved that he could work in every facet of the sport. Baylor was one of the best NBA players of the ’60s (via Bleacher Report).

Paul George

A seven-time All-Star, George is one of the most visible players in the NBA. He had a decent career in Oklahoma City before the Thunder traded him to the Clippers. The franchise paired him with Kahwi Leonard as they hoped to compete with the Lakers. They didn’t succeed in that regard but there’s no denying his brilliance (via Clutchpoints).

He led the league in steals in 2019 and made the All-NBA first team during the same season. Clippers fans hoped that the team would make a strong championship run but they haven’t succeeded so far. Playoff success has been tough to find but there’s no denying that he’s one of the top NBA players without a ring right now.

Shawn Kemp

Bizarrely, many analysts and writers forget about Kemp when they discuss the greatest NBA stars without rings. Indeed, his numbers don’t match some of the other players on this list but he had a brilliant career. He was synonymous with the great Seattle SuperSonics team of the 1990s and even helped them to an NBA Finals (via Deadspin).

However, like many other great players of this generation, Kemp ran into Michael Jordan and the Bulls. Despite this, Kemp played brilliantly in the Finals and came very close to winning the MVP award. This was an exceptional achievement because it always goes to the best player on the victorious team but Kemp’s displays made it very close.

Charles Barkley

Barkley is another constant on the lists of best NBA players who never won a ring. The former Suns’ superstar was an explosive and combative player despite his lack of height. He put in the performance of a lifetime in the 1992-93 season as he won the league MVP award. Barkley also played brilliantly in the Finals but the Suns failed to overcome Michael Jordan’s Chicago.

There’s no denying that Barkley had an incredible career. Everybody associates him with the suns but he spent longer on the Sixers’ roster. The 11-time roster was one of the most popular personalities in the league and remains in the public eye. He didn’t allow his lack of championship success to define his career (via N.Y. Post).

Russell Westbrook

Westbrook averaged a triple-double per game when he played with the Wizards. Things didn’t work out for the nine-time All-Star after he joined the Lakers but he’s still had a brilliant career. The 2017 MVP had an excellent record with the Thunder, even if they didn’t come close to winning an NBA championship.

There’s no doubt that he’s one of the most decorated players without a Finals ring to his name. That may haunt him when he retires but he has achieved so much already. It’s not his fault that he joined the Lakers when they were on the downturn. Westbrook’s scoring record is beyond belief and he deserves immense respect for that (via Sportsnet).

Jayson Tatum

The Celtics came close to breaking their Championship duck in 2022 but they lost in six games. It was a missed opportunity for Taytum and his teammates after they battled their way to the Finals. However, it means that Tatum remains one of the best NBA players without a ring. He’s hoping to set that right and seal his legacy (via Boston Globe).

The three-time All-Star knows what it takes to win after learning about his trade with the Duke Blue Devils. He also won an Olympic gold medal with Team USA but he’s missing that elusive ring. Only time will tell if he can achieve his dream, but it will be a challenge because of the league’s quality.

Bernard King

These days fans immediately think of Patrick Ewing when discussing the greatest Knicks players ever. However, King held this title before Ewing entered the conversation. He never made a Finals appearance and an ACL injury curtailed his career. Despite this, he posted devastating numbers before his slump.

The four-time All-Star successfully made the Hall of Fame in 2013 after voters recognized his underrated excellence. He led the league in scoring in 1983 as he averaged almost 33 points per game. King could have been a superstar if that ACL didn’t slow him down but he was fantastic in his prime (via Bleacher Report).

Tracy McGrady

McGrady was one of Orlando’s greatest-ever players and a two-time scoring champion. The seven-time All-Star suffered because he played for weak teams that didn’t have the resources to become contenders. When he finally played in the NBA Finals, he only played for a total of 13 minutes (via Basketball Network).

His time in Orlando saw him become the NBA’s Most Improved Player. McGrady didn’t enjoy much more playoff success than this. Despite his relative lack of team success, he did enough as an individual to warrant a place in the Hall of Fame. Nonetheless, he retired without a ring as one of the best of his generation.

Joel Embiid

If Nikola Jokic didn’t exist, there’s a good chance that Embiid would have at least one MVP award by now. Nonetheless, the Cameroonian star is one of the best NBA players today and a crucial figure for the Sixers. The franchise hasn’t won an NBA championship recently but Embiid hopes to change that.

The five-time All-Star was the NBA Scoring Champion in 2022. Philadelphia suffered defeat in the playoffs after they lost their star man to injury. There’s no overstating his significance to the team because they’re a weaker unit without him. As long as Embiid stays in Philly, they can win a championship someday (via Sportsnet).

Allen Iverson

It’s easy to see why Iverson is on this list after an explosive 14-year NBA career. The 2001 MVP led his team to the Finals and delivered a scintillating Game One performance. He put up 48 points and five steals for the Sixers against the Lakers as he took the series by storm (via Basketball Network).

However, Philadelphia failed to sustain their good start and lost the series in five games. The 11-time All-Star never came closer to winning a ring despite his best efforts. Nonetheless, he was one of the most entertaining NBA players of his era. It was no surprise that he made the Hall of Fame in 2016 because he was excellent.

Devin Booker

Booker is one of the premier shooting guards in the NBA today and one of the league’s most exciting players. He had a brilliant opportunity to win his first championship ring after the Suns made the Finals in 2021. Booker had an excellent postseason but Phoenix fell short as they lost the six-game series.

This makes him one of the best active NBA players without a ring today. Booker has youth on his side but knows that a ring will define him as one of the top athletes of his generation. He has already won an Olympic gold medal and featured on the All-NBA First Team because of his consistent excellence (via TSN).

Carmelo Anthony

It’s a travesty that Anthony retired without winning an NBA ring because he was one of the best players of his generation. The 10-time All-Star had a brilliant career with the Nuggets. He helped them to the Conference Finals but never made it to the promised land of the championship (via Fansided).

Then he joined the Knicks and it all went downhill for his hopes of winning a ring. Anthony was still excellent but suffered from injuries at key points. Meanwhile, the erratic Knicks never assembled a roster that was capable of competing. He went on a nomadic tour of the NBA after this but never came close to a win.

Steve Nash

Nash’s career shares many parallels with that of John Stockton except that he played for multiple franchises. Nonetheless, Nash also enjoyed incredible longevity and overcame his athletic deficiencies. He won the NBA MVP award twice during his time with the Phoenix Suns and was also an eight-time All-Star.

But Nash never won an NBA Finals despite his best efforts. It’s fair to say that Nash wasn’t as good as Stockton, especially when it came to steals. This meant that he failed to influence the Suns’ postseasons in the same manner. While it’s less of a travesty that he didn’t win a ring, he remains one of the best without one (via New York Post).

Reggie Miller

It’s always fantastic when a player of Miller’s quality spends their entire career with a single franchise. Miller was a phenomenal sharp-shooter whose loyalty to the Indiana Pacers deserves immense respect. He earned a fortune playing for them but he sacrificed his dream of winning an NBA Championship (via Forbes).

However, the Pacers made the Finals once in his 18-year career in 2000. This was also the first and only time in franchise history that they achieved this landmark. Unfortunately, they came up against the Lakers at the peak of their powers. Miller had a good series but couldn’t outpoint Shaq and Kobe Bryant.

Chris Paul

It’s astounding that Paul has failed to win an NBA Finals after such a long career. However, he faces retiring without the coveted prize after he missed a golden opportunity with the Suns. The Bucks ended their long drought but inflicted pain upon Paul and his teammates. Nonetheless, he is one of the best point guards of all time and a true modern great.

Paul passes the ball brilliantly and is a conductor for his teams. The 12-time All-Star led the league in assists for five seasons. He went one better when it came to steals but has a mixed record in the postseason. If he played for the Lakers he might be a multiple-time NBA champion but that never happened (via The Sports Rush).

Pete Maravich

Maravich enjoyed 10 seasons in the NBA and made the postseason four times. However, he only appeared in the Conference Finals once and failed to win. This means that he’s one of the greatest NBA players who never won a Championship ring. The five-time All-Star also became a Hall of Famer.

Tragically, he died at the age of 40 due to a a heart condition. He had so much more to give to basketball and could have been a brilliant coach. There’s no way to overstate his offensive capabilities because his talent was immense. Maravich was a prolific scorer and led the NBA in scoring in 1977 (via Sportscasting).

Patrick Ewing

Nobody personifies the New York Knicks like Ewing because he is their greatest-ever player. The brilliant center never won an NBA Championship despite playing in two Finals. However, Ewing was one of several great NBA players who missed the opportunity to claim a ring (via The Spun).

That’s primarily because of the Jordan-led Bulls’ dynasty that dominated the ’90s. Ewing was an 11-time All-Star and also made the 1990 All-NBA First Team. His best opportunity to win a ring came against the Rockets in 1994. But the Knicks failed to sustain a series lead and threw the chance away.

Dominique Wilkins

Wilkins is a classic example of a brilliant player on a garbage team. He starred for the Atlanta Hawks during an era when they had no real chance of competing against stronger rivals. This was when the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” era was at its peak and the Celtics had a good run too. Despite this, Wilkins stood out as a diamond in a bed of coal (via Sporting News).

He averaged 27 points per game across his 11-year career as one of the top NBA players of his day. Unfortunately, the Hawks failed to build a roster around the nine-time All-Star. One player can’t do everything by himself but Wilkins tried. Many people don’t immediately think of him because he played for Atlanta but he was a modern great.