The Larry O’Brien Trophy, also known as the NBA Title and NBA Championship, is the most prestigious trophy in basketball.
All the teams in the NBA fight to win the championship to be recognized as the best in the NBA and be famous around the globe.
Many notable players have won championships, like Kevin Durant and Kevin Garnett, but several amazing players have never won the NBA title? How is that possible?
In this article, I will be discussing the many players and teams who have never won the NBA championship, despite having wonderful basketball careers.
The NBA Teams Without A Championship
I have followed the NBA for a long period of time. In this section, I will enumerate the NBA teams without a championship in league history.
This means that the teams below have either reached the NBA finals or haven’t, but they lost along the way.
The list is exclusive to the teams, so players who have won a title during their careers and have been a part of these teams will still be included. This article has been updated to exclude the Denver Nuggets which has won their first franchise title on June 12, 2023.
1. Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz is one of the most consistent playoff teams in the NBA.
Since the 1990s, they have been a regular playoff participant in the Western Conference.
You can argue that their peak was during the 1990s when they had the dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
What stopped them from winning the NBA championship with that dynamic duo? The answer is obvious: they were defeated by the great Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
NBA Finals Against The Chicago Bulls
In the entire history of the Utah Jazz, they have faced Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the NBA finals multiple times, specifically two times, and lost on both occasions.
Before reaching the NBA finals in both 1997 and 1998, the Utah Jazz beat the Houston Rockets in a 4-2 playoff series, while they defeated the Lakers in a 4-0 playoff series.
Both series were in the Western Conference Finals, again led by the awesome tandem of John Stockton and Karl Malone.
They could not win the NBA Finals because the Bulls defeated them in both finals in a 4-2 playoff series.
Jordan and the Bulls were too good and would always find a way to beat them.
2. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic is one of the few teams on this list that have made multiple NBA Finals appearances but have lost every chance to win the NBA championship.
The organization started as an expansion team in 1989 and went on to become one of the more popular teams in the NBA.
The first appearance in the Finals for the Orlando Magic was in 1995 when they were led by Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, against the Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon.
The Shaq-led Orlando Magic would yield the Finals series to the Rockets in a 0-4 loss, resulting in a clean sweep victory for the Olajuwon-led Rockets.
The Orlando Magic made the NBA Finals again in 2009, led by Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, against the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol.
They had to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron James, in the Eastern Conference Finals to get to the finals.
They would lose the finals against the Los Angeles Lakers in a 1-4 defeat in the series.
3. Phoenix Suns
The Phoenix Suns have a wonderful history in the NBA, being one of the best organizations in the league yet not having won an NBA championship under their belt.
The Suns have made it to the Finals 3 times – in 1976, 1993, and 2021.
In 1976, their first NBA finals against the Boston Celtics were led by the legendary Alvan Adams. They faced off the Celtics, where they lost in a 6 game series, ending in a 2-4 defeat.
In 1993, the Suns made another finals appearance with the team led by Charles Barkley. However, they faced off against arguably the greatest player, Michael Jordan.
They couldn’t beat Michael Jordan the Bulls and lost the finals series in a 6 game series, ending in 2-4.
The Suns are known for being the team Steve Nash spent his peak years with. They even had a winning season with him; they were the best team in the Western Conference.
However, even with a great player like Nash, they couldn’t reach the finals with him until later on.
Recently, the Suns are back to being a threatening team, with the addition of Devin Booker and Chris Paul. They are now consistently making playoff appearances.
They made it to the Finals in 2021 and fought the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, only to lose the series in 6 games, ending in 2-4 defeat yet again.
Nowadays, they look like the new NBA champion with the way they’ve been playing, and it’s only a matter of time before Booker, Paul, and the Phoenix Suns win their first-ever title.
4. Brooklyn Nets
The Brooklyn Nets have always been playoff contenders ever since the organization’s creation.
The organization has reached the Eastern Conference Finals and the NBA finals multiple times but has yet to win it all.
One of the biggest moments in NBA history was the trade of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from the Celtics to the Brooklyn Nets, essentially breaking the Big 3 of the C’s.
This Nets team’s furthest was in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they would face the Miami Heat and would always fall short against them.
With the consistent failure to defeat the Heat, the Nets decided to trade off Garnett and Pierce and go into a rebuild.
As years go by, they’ve acquired their current stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Before moving to the Brooklyn Nets, Durant would win multiple championships with the Golden State Warriors and earn two NBA championships,
With their current roster now, time will tell when the organization will finally get its hands on the prestigious NBA championship.
5. Indiana Pacers
The Indiana Pacers have a similar story to the Brooklyn Nets, wherein they are consistent playoff contenders, only to lose to the Miami Heat every time they face each other.
In the early 2010s, the Indiana Pacers acquired young star Paul George and quickly became one of the best teams in the East.
The Indiana Pacers were good enough to reach the Eastern Conference Finals, only to lose to the Heat, led by LeBron James.
As the years went by, the Indiana Pacers would suddenly lose Paul George and their roster and go on to a complete rebuild.
Nowadays, the Indiana Pacers have become a low-key team acquiring the right players over time and training them to be consistent and good.
Only time will tell when this team will become a threat to every team in the league and eventually win an NBA championship.
6. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves is one of the few teams to not be a consistent playoff contender.
Despite not being a playoff contender, the Minnesota Timberwolves reached the Western Conference Finals when Kevin Garnett starred for the team from 2003 to 2004.
It is known in the NBA community that the Kevin Garnett-led Timberwolves were not the best team, but everyone knew how amazing Garnett was.
They would eventually lose to the Lakers, led by Kobe Bryant, and have yet to reach the Conference Finals.
With Karl-Anthony Towns leading the team, they hope to reach the Conference Finals, maybe even the Finals, if they keep improving.
7. Memphis Grizzlies
The Memphis Grizzlies have turned out to be one of the most competitive teams in the league, and they started as an expansion team, similar to the Orlando Magic.
One of the most popular upsets in the NBA was during the first round of the playoffs when the Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs in 2011.
They reached the Western Conference Finals that same year, only to be defeated by Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Memphis Grizzlies are still very competitive, especially with the addition of Ja Morant. I really hope to see them progress further in the playoff rounds.
8. Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers have always been title contenders for the longest time, yet they remain one of the NBA teams without a championship.
That statement proved more true when they acquired Kawhi Leonard, who has won multiple NBA championships with his former teams – the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors.
They were the favorites to be the 2020 NBA champions; that does not ring true as the Denver Nuggets eliminated them in the Conference Semifinals of that year.
The Los Angeles Clippers were infamously known for never appearing in the Western Conference Finals ever since the organization’s inception.
However, they managed to pull through in 2021 when they defeated the Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semifinals.
It was the first time the organization reached the Western Conference Finals, marking it as a crowning achievement for the team. However, they would lose to the Phoenix Suns.
9. New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are an interesting case wherein they were never a bad team, but they somehow never reached the Conference Finals.
When they were the New Orleans Hornets with Chris Paul, they won a division title and were a consistent playoff team.
As the organization rebranded to the New Orleans Pelicans with Anthony Davis, they suddenly weren’t a regular playoff team.
However, that does not seem to be the case with their newly rebuilt team with Brandom Ingram and CJ McCollum. I am hoping that they will win their first NBA title soon.
10. Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets have been a notable presence for all the wrong reasons.
They’ve always been one of the NBA teams that never have a winning record and are always at the bottom of the Conference, even when Michael Jordan became the team owner of the organization.
The Hornets have never won a conference title and have yet to win a playoff series, but that could change with LaMelo Ball.
The gradual improvement of the roster and management could spell the start of a dangerous Hornets squad that can win.
Is There A Team That Has Never Made It To The NBA Playoffs?
All 30 NBA teams and organizations have reached the NBA playoffs at least once during their entire tenure in the NBA.
However, the organization that has yet to reach the playoffs for the longest time is the Sacramento Kings.
It is noted that the last time the Sacramento Kings made any playoff appearances was way back in 2006.
Another interesting fact is that the team with the longest time to win a playoff series is the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets haven’t won a first-round series since 2002.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
I have collated some of the most frequently asked questions about the topic.
Which NBA Team Has Won The Most NBA Titles?
The team with the most NBA titles is tied between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, both organizations winning 17 titles.
This is likely due to the early days in NBA history when there weren’t too many teams, and most good players were playing for the teams, as mentioned earlier.
Led by Bill Russel and Wilt Chamberlain, these two teams are famous in the league for being the rivals in the NBA.
Today, they are tied with the most titles won in the NBA. Eventually, that tie will have to break, and it will be decided whether or not these teams are good enough to win.
Which NBA Teams Have Never Reached The Conference Finals?
The Charlotte Hornets and New Orleans Pelicans are the only teams in the NBA to never reach the conference finals during their entire stay in the league.
The Los Angeles Clippers would have been included in this list of teams. However, they broke their drought in 2021.
Before moving to the Lakers, Anthony Davis, as good as he was back then, never made the Western Conference Finals with the Pelicans, and it was infamous in the NBA community.
What Is the Highest-Rated NBA Finals Game?
The highest-rated NBA Finals series is the 1998 NBA Finals series between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.
The entire series averaged around 29.04 million viewers every game, and a record-breaking 35.89 million people watched the final game of the series, which was Game 6.
Game 6 is likely the most-watched basketball game in history because it is Michael Jordan’s last game as a Chicago Bull and he secured the 2nd three-peat for the organization.
You will never know who will win the championship in the NBA. It all depends on how the teams adapt to one another and who comes out on top.
Unless you’re Michael Jordan and have that unbelievable competitive spirit, basketball is an unpredictable sport, making it extremely enjoyable.
Now you know the NBA teams without a championship.
Whether they’ve made the NBA finals or not, I really hope that these teams will finally earn their title in the coming years.
Thank you for reading, and let’s enjoy watching LeBron James in his late thirties, still rocking the league.