Who are the 50 greatest players in NBA history without a championship ring to their credit?
Updated June 24, 2016.
Over time, greatness in team sports has become almost inexorably linked with one key question: Have you won a championship and how many have you won?
Dan Marino in the National Football League is a prime example.
Marino, in his career from 1983-1999, rewrote the NFL record book in most major passing categories (records since surpassed by Brett Favre and later Peyton Manning).
But when fans or pundits alike start tossing around names of the “greatest quarterbacks ever,” the mention of Marino is invariably met with, “Yeah, but he never won a ring.”
Never mind that football is a team sport and quarterbacks have never stopped an opponent from scoring, success is often measured simply by the number of titles won.
The NFL, which expanded its playoff field to 12 teams in 1990, also has a more restrictive playoff system, one in which 37.5 percent of its teams make the postseason each year.
Playoff opportunities have never been that rare in the NBA.
In fact, right now—with 16 of 30 teams qualifying for the postseason each season—the ratio of 53.3 percent of the league making the playoffs is the lowest it has ever been.
In the 1950s, six of eight teams—75 percent of the league—were playoff teams, so at the very least, there were ample opportunities to get to the postseason.
But opportunity has not always equaled a title for some of the best players in the history of the NBA. There are several Hall of Famers that were never able to get over the championship hump.
When putting together a list of the greatest NBA players who never won a ring, there have to be some ground rules.
To be considered for this list, a player had to have at least 10,000 career points—showing some duration and thus eliminating many of today’s young stars—and they had to have never played for a team that won a title.
Gary Payton was a superstar with the Seattle SuperSonics, for example, but never won a championship. However, he was on the Miami Heat’s title-winning team in 2005-06 as a reserve—enough to knock him off this list.
Incidentally, none of the players from the newly crowned champion Cleveland Cavaliers was eliminated from this countdown; however, veterans Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams and J.R. Smith were taken out of the database of potential candidates.
So with that, here are the 50 greatest NBA players to never win a championship.