The best NBA players who never won a championship – NBC Los Angeles

What do Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Steve Nash all have in common? These Hall of Famers lead a long list of players who have never won an NBA championship.

Al HorfordJayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown checked their names off that list Boston Celtics’ 2024 NBA Finals won Dallas Mavericks. Horford is second in NBA history with 185 playoff games without a championship, trailing only Malone, but he reached the milestone in his 186th regular season. Tatum and BrownMeanwhile, each logged more than 100 playoff games before winning their first title.

While those players have etched their names into championship stories, Luka Doncic is one of those who will have to wait until next season and try to earn their first rings.

This list only includes players who have completed at least five seasons in the league, as it doesn’t seem fair to expect a player who is under a new contract.

Will next season be the season where one of these NBA stars finally checks a championship off the list?

James Harden

Career playoff games: 166

James Harden has made the postseason in each of his 15 NBA seasons, but he has a troubled playoff history.

From his rookie season in Oklahoma City, Harden made an immediate impact as he joined Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. In three seasons with Harden in the lineup, the Thunder made their postseason debut since moving to Oklahoma City (2010 playoffs), advanced to the conference finals in 2011 and the NBA Finals in 2012.

He then moved to Houston, where he averaged 28.4 points per game in 15 series with the Rockets and scored 30 points or more in nearly half of his 86 playoff games. However, the Rockets never reached the Finals with Harden as a juggernaut Golden State Warriors They were eliminated from the postseason four times in a five-year span.

His struggles followed him to Brooklyn, where he spent a full season with the Nets alongside Durant and Kyrie Irving. He was injured early in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 second round and missed the next three games of the series. The Nets were able to force the series to seven games, allowing Harden to re-enter the lineup, but ultimately Milwaukee came out on top en route to the NBA title.

Along with Harden’s two playoff runs Philadelphia 76ers As the team fell, it ended in the second round Miami Heat in 2022 and the Celtics in 2023.

He now finds himself in LA with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the Clippers. Their 2024 playoff run ended in six games against the Mavericks in the first round in another injury-plagued Leonard postseason.

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Russell Westbrook

Career playoff games: 122

As a lifelong Thunder fan, this pains me to add. But Russell Westbrook continues to climb the list of veterans without a championship to his name.

Westbrook was one of the original pieces of a young Oklahoma City corps that lost three conference finals and one NBA Finals from 2011 to 2016. Even if Durant jumped ship to Golden State, Westbrook still gave Thunder fans plenty to cheer about with a triple-double. -Double and won the 2017 MVP award.

Westbrook is the epitome of taking the good with the bad, and that’s never truer than in the playoffs. Whether the Thunder rallied from a 25-point deficit in the third quarter against the Jazz by 45 or demanded the ball in the final seconds to force a costly turnover for the Houston Rockets, Westbrook can be unpredictable.

Now in LA, he, George and Harden must work together to earn their first rings.



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Chris Paul

Career playoff games: 149

Despite not having a ring to show for it, CP3 has earned a reputation as a clutch performer.

Ball has been to the playoffs in 15 of his 19 seasons in the league, and his Phoenix Suns have advanced to the conference semifinals six times and the NBA Finals once since losing to the Bucks in 2021.

The 39-year-old veteran isn’t just showing up in the playoffs — he’s showing up. Paul had 35 points, 10 assists and four steals since his postseason debut in 2008, and he continued to be a force of nature, posting double-doubles in 56 of his 157 playoff games.

Currently third in the all-time record books for assists and steals, Paul’s legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history is cemented. That said, a little bling never hurt.

Jimmy Butler

Career playoff games: 119

After spending five seasons in Chicago, Jimmy Butler spent a season-plus in Minnesota and a year in Philadelphia before settling in Miami. Since then, he has taken over the vacancies of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and helped the Heat reach two NBA Finals.

His closest brush with NBA glory came in the 2020 bubble, when Miami lost. Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the NBA Finals. Three years later, they were on the wrong end of a gentlemen’s sweep in the Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

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Butler suffered a knee injury in the Heat’s play-in loss to the Sixers and is out for the team’s 2024 first-round series against the Celtics.

Paul George

Career playoff games: 114

The nickname „Playoff B” is something Paul George can’t escape, for better or worse.

George made his postseason debut with the Indiana Pacers in 2011, posting modest numbers as a solid role player. His breakout campaign came two seasons later when he led Indiana to the Eastern Conference finals, taking the Heat to the wire both times, but falling just short of a conference championship. Thus, a Playoff B legend was born.

His next four seasons — split between Indiana and Oklahoma City — ended in first-round exits and general disappointment. He then famously moved back to Los Angeles, effectively gutting the Thunder roster in a blockbuster trade with Leonard on the Clippers.

As for George, injuries to him and Leonard sidelined both superstars throughout their time in Los Angeles, contributing to the team’s regular early playoff exits.

Damian Lillard

Career playoff games: 65

Damian Lillard has brought dame time to the playoffs with many iconic moments, but he hasn’t made it to the NBA Finals.

While there have been plenty of playoff moments in Lillard’s career, none have been more memorable than the 2019 postseason. He opened the first round with a dagger 3-pointer from Logo, leading Portland to a seven-game sweep against Denver, which eventually lost to the Warriors in the conference finals. His highlight reel includes another series-clinching buzzer-beater against the Rockets in 2014.

Lillard and the Blazers last parted ways last summer when he was traded to the Bucks. He and Giannis Antetokounmpo enjoyed a roller-coaster first season that included a midseason coaching change and an injury-riddled, first-round flameout against the Pacers.

DeMar DeRozan

Career playoff games: 63

DeMar DeRozan’s playoff career is often defined by what could have been.

After back-to-back first-round losses in 2014 and 2015, the Toronto Raptors began to establish themselves as a force in the Eastern Conference with DeRozan at their helm. Unfortunately for DeRozan, their rise coincided with James moving back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland eventually ended the Raptors’ season three years in a row — once in the conference finals and twice in the conference semifinals.

Despite the disappointing playoff results, Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri’s decision — sending DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Leonard and firing Dwane Casey, one season after he was voted NBA Coach of the Year — came as a shock to everyone, including DeRozan. To add salt to injury, Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA Championship in his only season in Toronto.

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DeRozan returned to the Eastern Conference Chicago BullsBut they have won just one playoff game since he joined the team in 2021.

Joel Embiid

Career playoff games: 59

Joel Embiid has an elusive MVP trophy in 2022-23, but the Sixers star has yet to experience a conference finals appearance.

A member of the same 2014 draft class as Nikola Jokic, Embiid sat out the first two seasons of his NBA career with leg injuries. When he finally debuted in 2016, he immediately made a splash, averaging 20.2 points per game and 2.5 blocks per game, but he was quickly sidelined around the All-Star break with a torn meniscus.

Despite rumblings of a potential draft bust as a result of his injuries, Embiid responded and became a staple of the 76ers franchise, as well as a perennial MVP candidate.

Embiid has emerged as a consistent force Philadelphia, the same cannot be said for some of his teammates. The revolving door of trades and locker room tension often plagued the Sixers and kept them from reaching the conference finals.

One of Embiid’s most enduring playoff images is one he might want to scrub from his memory — Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer-beater that soars over Embiid’s outstretched arm to lift the Raptors to the conference finals en route to their first NBA championship. The Sixers lost in Game 7 of the second round in Boston two seasons ago. New York Knicks.

Devin Booker

Career playoff games: 50

Believe it or not, Devin Booker just finished his ninth season in the league.

A late lottery pick out of Kentucky, Booker joined the Suns at age 18, quietly emerging as one of the biggest young names in the game. The pieces finally came together, with Monty Williams being retained as head coach and Paul joining the Suns from Oklahoma City.

In his first playoff appearance, Booker almost went all the way, losing to the Bucks in six games in the NBA Finals. The Suns revamped their roster with Durant, but Booker and co. They have experienced some brutal playoff exits since reaching the 2021 Finals, including a Game 7 home disaster against the Mavericks, a second-round loss against the eventual-champion Nuggets and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.



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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article has been published May 2022.

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