NBA: Who are the greatest NBA players to fall short in the playoffs?

Utah Jazz(Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images)
Utah Jazz(Photo by GEORGE FREY/AFP via Getty Images) /
1 of 7
NBA (ROBERT SULLIVAN/AFP via Getty Images) /

Among team sports, the NBA is the most individualistic, where one superstar player can come in and take over the game. Sometimes however even the greatest NBA stars can’t win it all.

Each of the players on this list is highly accomplished but met a barrier that they simply couldn’t cross in the playoffs. To avoid choosing talented young players who haven’t made it very far yet, I only looked at players who were retired or have played at least 10 years in the NBA. For some of them, it’s surprising to see that they never made a deep run despite their immense star power.

Who are the greatest NBA players to not: Win a Finals MVP, win an NBA championship, make the Finals, make the Conference Finals, make the Conference Semi-Finals, or make the NBA Playoffs?

To determine the greatest players who fell short at each juncture, I prioritized MVPs, All-Stars and All-NBA selections. Beyond that, I looked at their playoff success and general longevity rather than focusing on their peaks. Raw stats didn’t factor as much because it’s hard to compare players from different eras going solely by it. I did use it as a tie-breaker as appropriate.

For example, when choosing the best player to not win a championship, it came down to Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Elgin Baylor. Malone was selected because he had more longevity than both players and more MVPs.

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look back at some of the legends who fell just short.