The NBA has been a league of dynasties that last for the better part of a decade (or longer). The Boston Celtics ruled the 1960's and early 70's, the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics ruled the 80's, the Chicago Bulls in the 90's, and the San Antonio Spurs since the turn of the century.
Because these franchises kept winning, there were a lot of other great teams that just couldn't get over the hump and win an NBA Championship. Here are the 10 best teams that don't have their names etched in history.
*This list is for teams that never won a title at any point with their core players. For example, all of the Jerry West/Elgin Baylor/Wilt Chamberlain Laker teams are disqualified since they managed to win a title in 1972.*
The core of Kevin Durant/Russell Westbrook/Serge Ibaka still aren't done playing together, but they've already done enough to be known as one of the best teams that hasn't one a championship. 2012 was the best iteration of that team with James Harden coming off the bench, but they ran into the Miami Heat's 'Big 3' in the Finals. Durant was the scoring champion and MVP candidate, and Westbrook scored the second-most points in a Finals game ever (48 points came in a Game 4 loss). If this team can't get over the hump at some point, they'll be much higher on this list.
The Gary Payton/Shawn Kemp Sonics teams were a threat to win the West every year in the mid-90's, but they finally got through to the Finals in 1996. Kemp was dominant (19.6 ppg, 11.4 rpg), and Payton was a lockdown defender. They were one of the league's most dominant duos, but ran into Michael Jordan and the Bulls in MJ's first full year back from retirement.
Seattle fell behind 3-0, but Kemp had two monster games in Games 4 & 5, forcing the Bulls to win in six games. It looked like the start of a Sonics dynasty (similar to OKC in 2012), but they never got back to the Finals.
90's teams are going to start becoming a theme on this list. The Blazers had the best team in the Western Conference, led by Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler, and cruised into the Finals without really being tested. There they met the Bulls, but Drexler went toe-to-toe with Jordan through the first four games as the series was tied 2-2.
However, Drexler's play dropped off drastically in the last two games of the series and the Bulls won their second championship in six games.
The Eastern Conference was wide open in 1994 with Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls to play baseball, and it looked like the Knicks finally had a window to get in to and win the Finals. Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing led a tough, physical squad coached by Pat Riley, and managed to squeak past the Indiana Pacers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Then they faced a Houston Rockets team that added veteran Clyde Drexler to try and help Hakeem Olajuwon win his first championship. The series went all the way to Game 7, where Olajuwon's monster performance (25 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists) proved to be the difference in a six-point Houston win.
New York made the Finals again in 1999, but lost to the San Antonio Spurs in what started the Spurs' current run of dominance.
This was Indiana's best team of the 1990's, adding sharpshooter Chris Mullin to their core of Reggie Miller/Mark Jackson/Rick Smits. Larry Bird was now coaching this team, and he led them to the East's second-best record while winning coach of the year.
Unfortunately, they ran into the last installment of Jordan's Bulls, but the Pacers gave them as good of a test as anyone. The home team won every game in that series, with Indiana ultimately falling to Chicago in Game 7 by five points.
Orlando was led by a dominant young big man named Shaquille O'Neal and young point guard named Penny Hardaway, both of whom wreaked havoc on the league in the mid-90's. They had posted the second best home record in NBA history (39-2), and are the only team on this list that beat a Michael Jordan-led Bulls team in the playoffs (Eastern Conference Semifinals in the year MJ come back from retirement).
They met the defending champion Houston Rockets in the Finals, who they proved to be no match for. Hakeem Olajuwon was able to limit Shaq, and the Rockets swept the series.
Charles Barkley was convinced he was the best player on the planet in 1993, averaging 25.6 ppg and 12.2 rpg in his first year in Phoenix while winning the MVP. He led the Suns to 62 wins and the Western Conference crown, but ran into Jordan's Bulls, who were looking for their first three-peat.
Barkely averaged 27 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists a game in the Finals as the Suns managed to win two of the three games they played in Chicago, but the Bulls swept the three games played in Phoenix as they won in six games.
The Suns had arguably the most exciting team in NBA history in the mid-2000's. Steve Nash as a 2-time MVP running the point, young power forward Amare Stoudemire was a scoring machine, and Shawn Marion did a whole lot of everything.
However, the Spurs or Lakers has always managed to get in their way - but 2007 looked different. This was the year the Suns would get over the top and win their first championship. Phoenix went 61-21 during the season - including winning streaks of 15 and 17 games - and blew past the Lakers in the first round.
Trailing 2-1 to the Spurs in the second round, the Suns were on their way to winning Game 4 when San Antonio's Robert Horry checked Nash into the scorers table. A skirmish ensued, and due to NBA rules at the time, Stoudemire and fellow Suns starter Boris Diaw were suspended one game for "technically" leaving the bench area (they stepped out to see if Nash was alright). Phoenix lost Game 5 because of the that, and the Spurs won the series in Game 6 in San Antonio.
The Jazz were the best team in a loaded Western Conference, winning 62 games behind the duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton. After losing in the Finals to the Bulls the previous season, many thought this would be the year where Utah finally unseated Chicago at the top of the NBA.
They won eight of their last nine playoff games agains the Spurs and the Lakers to get into the Finals against the Bulls, where every game was competitive. Unfortunately, the ending of Game 6 will live on forever in NBA history.
Sacramento was the biggest challenge the great Lakers teams in the early 2000's, as their core of Mike Bibby/Peja Stojakovic/Chris Webber/Vlade Divac looked like the group that would overtake Shaq and Kobe.
The Western Conference Finals proved to be one of the best series in NBA history, though it was marred by disgraced refereee Tim Donaghy, who fixed Game 6 of the series. The Kings were up 3-2 and looked like they were on their way to winning in six games, but the Lakers were awarded 18 more free throws than Sacramento in the 4th quarter alone to force a Game 7, which Los Angeles won in overtime.
Who do you think was the best team that never won a NBA Championship? Tweet your thoughts to @brauf33 and leave a response in the comments!
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