While not the only metric used to qualify a player’s greatness, the number of rings a player has is often used as a trump card in basketball debates. All-time NBA greats like Bill Russell and Michael Jordan consistently led their teams to championship wins and have their resumes boosted because of it.
However, while winning a championship is the obvious goal for all players, basketball is a team sport after all and there are many NBA legends to never hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
15. Dikembe Mutombo
Arguably the best defensive big man in NBA history never willed his team to the Finals. They say defense wins championships, but things didn’t turn out that way for the 7-foot-2 shot-blocker.
A four-time Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time All-Star, Mutombo made two Finals appearances in 2001 and 2003 but would fall to the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively.
14. Tracy McGrady
Injuries ruined his ability later in his career, but a healthy T-Mac was nearly unstoppable. In his final two seasons in Orlando, McGrady averaged 30.2 points, 5.5 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game.
T-Mac struggled to get past the first round of the playoffs but did make one Finals appearance with the Spurs in 2013; however, it was well past his prime by then and McGrady was a non-factor.
13. Reggie Miller
One of the best shooters of all time, Miller would lose three Eastern Conference Finals game sevens to three different teams throughout his career.
Miller made one Finals appearance in 2000, but the 10-time All-Star would shoot 1-of-16 in Game 1 and lose to the Lakers in six bouts.
12. Dominique Wilkins
One of the best scorers in NBA history, Wilkins and the Atlanta Hawks were exciting but never even reached the conference finals thanks to the dominance of teams like the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons.
Still, Wilkins’ nine All-Star appearances are the most of any player never to reach the conference finals.
11. Chris Paul
I’m going to put it out there that, while I think CP3 is one of the best point guards in NBA history, I am de-valuing current NBA players on this list as they still have time to make the Finals.
Still, as dominant as Paul has been in his 15-year career, it’s crazy that he’s never even made the Finals. He was one game away in 2018 but the Rockets blew a 3-2 series lead.
10. Russell Westbrook
Isn’t it crazy that Russell Westbrook averaged a triple-double for three straight seasons and no one really blinked an eye? Yes, clearly stats aren’t everything but you can’t deny how good he has been throughout his career.
His only Finals appearance came in 2012 but at that time, the future MVP was only beginning to become the player he is now.
9. Patrick Ewing
Ewing is one of the best centers of all time, but the 11-time All-Star just could never get past Michael Jordan in the Bulls. Ewing and the New York Knicks lost to Jordan in five different playoff series.
Ewing did make a title run in 1994 with Jordan retired, but the center would be out-dueled by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Knicks would lose in seven games.
8. George Gervin
One of the most under-appreciated scorers in NBA history, the Iceman led the NBA in scoring four times and was a 12-time All-Star.
Gervin got close in 1979 when he dropped 42 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Washington Bullets but things weren’t meant to be.
7. James Harden
Harden still has plenty of time to win an NBA title but with how tough the Western Conference is, that is always going to be a tall task. Like Westbrook, Harden made the 2012 Finals with OKC but Harden was a sixth man at that time.
Now, Harden is arguably the best scorer in the NBA today and still has plenty of great years left in the tank.
6. Allen Iverson
In his prime, Iverson was arguably the best player in the league. However, that didn’t lead to any rings. Iverson never had a ton of help in Philadelphia and willed his team to the Finals in 2001 where they were simply outmatched by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
Still, AI is a four-time scoring champ, seven-time All-NBA selection and former league MVP.
5. Steve Nash
A two-time MVP, Nash may not have the scoring numbers that other players on this list have but make no mistake, the Hall of Fame point guard is a certified legend.
Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion led the Phoenix Suns to a few Western Conference Finals in the early 2000’s, but it never translated to anything more. A veteran Nash joined the Lakers in 2012 with the hopes of winning his first ring but to no avail.
4. John Stockton
An elite defender and the best passer in NBA history, Stockton was one part of the ultimate pick and roll duo for the Utah Jazz of the late ’80s and ’90s.
The ultimate floor general, Stockton led the Jazz to two consecutive Finals appearance but were bested by Jordan and the Bulls in six games both times.
3. Elgin Baylor
I feel bad for Baylor. If not for Bill Russell and the Celtics, Baylor would have at least a couple of rings. No player in NBA history has more Finals appearances than Baylor without winning a ring.
Despite being an absolutely dominant force on the court, Baylor was 0-8 in Finals appearances throughout his career—seven of which came at the hands of the Celtics dynasty. (Baylor would retire a handful of games into a Lakers season that ended in a long-awaited championship run.)
2. Charles Barkley
Barkley was listed at 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds for most of his career and, in an era dominated by big men, the undersized power forward more than held his own.
In fact, Barkley is one of the best rebounders of all time, an 11-time All-NBA selection and 1993 league MVP.
Barkley took the Phoenix Suns to the 1993 Finals and, despite strong efforts from the former Auburn Tiger, Jordan and the Bulls would win in six games.
1. Karl Malone
The NBA’s second all-time leading scorer, Malone, like Stockton, was just never able to lead the Jazz to more than a few Western Conference championships.
Undoubtedly one of the best big men to ever grace the NBA, Malone, like many others on this list, would likely have a few rings if it weren’t for Michael Jordan.
A 40-year-old Malone joined the Lakers in 2003 during his final season to try and finally win a ring but that team was dominated by the Detroit Pistons in the ’04 Finals.