NBA history is filled with great duos that didn’t win an NBA championship together. Here’s a list of 10 pairs of the best players, and their respective teams: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale; Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant; Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars.
The “most nba championships player” is a list of 10 NBA duos that never won an NBA championship together. This list includes the top 10 most successful duos in NBA history.
Most teams need at least two players to steer them in the right direction, a dynamic tandem if you will. In the last five decades, we’ve seen legendary duos guide clubs to dynastic status. LeBron James and Steph Curry, two modern-day champs, required assistance. They couldn’t win the championship by themselves.
There have been a lot of superstars in this league. When it comes to winning, two heads are better than one, which is why teams like the Warriors and Heat have won several championships with the aid of a second player. Some couples, on the other hand, battled tooth and nail and never came out on top. These two have a place in history, but their names aren’t on the list. These are the top ten finest duos that have never won a title.
10. Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon
Houston Rockets, three seasons (1984-1987), one 50-win season, three NBA Playoffs
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1986)
The Rockets had only 14 wins after losing their reigning MVP, Moses Malone, to the 76ers. This contributed to the team’s good fortune in winning the lottery for the No. 1 overall selection in consecutive seasons in 1983 and 1984. This resulted in Ralph Sampson, the NCAA Player of the Year, and Hakeem Olajuwon, who was almost dealt to Portland for Clyde Drexler and the No. 3 selection, which eventually became Michael Jordan. The Rockets, on the other hand, maintained both and dubbed them the Twin Towers, which terrified the rest of the league.
Following a first-round defeat to Utah, the combo exploded the next season, averaging 42.4 points, 22.6 rebounds, and 5.0 blocks per game. Their success carried them to the Conference Finals, where they defeated the Showtime Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the height of their powers. The Twin Towers combined for 51.4 points, 20.0 rebounds, and 6.6 blocks throughout the series.
The Celtics upset the squad in the NBA Finals. Then, the following year, Sampson’s potential decade-long reign was shattered when he suffered a season-ending knee injury and was moved to Golden State. Given that Sampson was just 27 at the time and Olajuwon was 25, the “what if” situation was much discussed.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are ranked 9th and 9th, respectively.
Los Angeles Clippers, 6 seasons (2011-17), 5 50-win seasons, 6 NBA Playoff appearances, All-NBA Teams (4 – 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
Western Conference Semifinals have the best playoff records (2012, 2014, 2015)
Golden State, OKC, San Antonio, and Houston were all regular flyers in the Conference Finals from 2011 to 2017. Despite being a perennial challenger in the rankings, you won’t see the Los Angeles Clippers. Despite having two players named to the NBA All-Star team four years in a row, the Clippers were never able to go on a long postseason run.
Lob City was a huge hit all around the globe. Fans were enthralled by the Paul-Griffin combo, which resulted in spectacular dunks. The Clippers won at least 56 games from 2013 through 2015 and seemed to be a championship contender. Paul has the potential to be the league’s third-best player, after LeBron James and Kevin Durant. His third-place result in the MVP vote in 2014, behind only Durant and LeBron, validated this. The squad was unable to advance to the Conference Finals for any reason.
The Clippers had a 2-0 lead against the Grizzlies in 2013, but they lost four straight games. The Clippers lead the Thunder by seven points with 50 seconds remaining in a 2-2 series tie the following year. The Clippers would have had home court advantage in Game 6, but two turnovers by Paul led to the Thunder winning the game, and the season would end with a Game 6 loss. The Clippers saved their biggest choking incident until 2015. In the playoffs, the club led the Rockets 3-1, but who can forget Game 6, when the Rockets outscored the Clippers 49-19 in the last 13 minutes, blowing a 17-point lead.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash
Phoenix Suns, 6 seasons (2004–10), three 50-win seasons, two 60-win seasons, five NBA Playoffs, and five All-NBA Teams (4 – 2005, 2007, 2008, 2010)
Western Conference Finals had the best playoff records (2005, 2006, 2010)
Mike D’Antoni’s “seven seconds or less” offense comes to mind. The Suns’ offense, while never reaching the NBA Finals, was the cornerstone of the Pace and Space era. From 2005 through 2010, the Suns were one of the top teams in the NBA, led by two-time MVP Steve Nash. Nash was the show’s Batman, but he had one helluva Robin in the form of Amar’e Stoudemire.
The Suns reached the Conference Finals in both of his MVP seasons. In 2005, the club won 62 games, with Stoudemire averaging figures similar to those of Hakeem Olajuwon (26.0 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG). With that said, the Suns were destroyed in the second round when Joe Johnson suffered a season-ending injury. Stoudemire averaged 37.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the Conference Finals, but Tim Duncan and the Spurs got the last laugh.
After losing Stoudemire to season-ending knee surgery the following year, Nash went on to earn his second consecutive MVP award after guiding Phoenix to 54 victories. If Amare Stoudemire had been healthy, the Suns may have beaten the Mavericks in two games to get to the NBA Finals. In 2007, the two were named to the All-NBA First Team, but they were once again defeated by the Spurs, who were responsible for the memorable Stoudemire-Boris Diaw bench-clearing incident.
Patrick Ewing and John Starks are ranked 7th and 7th, respectively.
New York Knicks, 8 seasons (1990–98), five 50-win seasons, one 60-win season, and eight NBA Playoff appearances
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1994)
Michael Jordan’s dominance in the 1990s claimed the life of Patrick Ewing. Ewing never earned an MVP award during this period, as opponents like Jordan, Charles Barkley, and David Robinson surpassed him. Jordan was not in the league the two times Ewing reached the NBA Finals. It’s easy to forget that Ewing is a Hall of Famer for these reasons. The Knicks were one of the top teams in the NBA at the time because of this.
The combination of Ewing and Starks led the Knicks to four 50-win seasons, two trips to the Conference Finals, and a trip to the NBA Finals in 1994. Despite never being named to the All-NBA team, Starks was regarded as one of the league’s best guards.
The Knicks had additional postseason possibilities as well. The Bulls won a seven-game series against the Knicks in 1992. The two teams met again the following year, with the Knicks losing in six games after blowing a 2-0 series lead. Overall, it is New York’s most recent successful reign, and they are still waiting for their next trip to the Finals.
6. Terry Porter and Clyde Drexler
Portland Trail Blazers, 9 seasons (1985-1994), five 50-win seasons, one 60-win season, and nine NBA Playoff appearances
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1990, 1992)
Drexler and Porter are the finest partnership in Portland history, much better than Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum’s current patchwork pairing. While both Lillard and McCollum will be remembered for their individual achievements, they have only made one trip to the Conference Finals and have never been in the NBA Finals. The combination of Drexler and Porter almost defeated Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Finals in the 1990s.
Drexler, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, and Porter, the franchise’s all-time assist leader, have led Portland to nine consecutive playoff appearances. Three years in a row, the squad reached the Conference Finals, as well as the NBA Finals twice. Isiah Thomas and the “Bad Boys” Detroit Pistons defeated the club in 1990. Jordan and the Bulls beat the squad for the second consecutive championship two years later.
In 1992, Portland was on the verge of overtaking Chicago. The series was 2-2 in favor of the team. Drexler scored 30 points in Game 5, but the squad was defeated 119-106 by the Bulls, who were led to victory by MJ’s 46-point outburst. Drexler and Porter combined for 46 points in Game 6, but Jordan and Scottie Pippen combined with 59 points to win the game 97-93.
5. Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton
Seattle SuperSonics, 7 seasons (1990–1997), 50 victories (5), 60 victories (2), 7 NBA Playoffs, All-NBA Teams (3 – 1994, 1995, 1996)
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1996)
While the Portland Trail Blazers reached the NBA Finals in 1990 and 1992, there is a case to be made that the Seattle SuperSonics were the superior club overall. Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp’s combo was a big component of it. Kemp’s drug background, as well as poor refereeing in Game 7 of the 1993 Conference Finals, were among the issues that hindered Seattle from winning the prestigious championship.
Perhaps the squad would have had a better chance if head coach George Karl had permitted Payton, the Defensive Player of the Year, to defend Jordan early in the 1996 NBA Finals, but that is also debatable. Nonetheless, the squad had a period of dominance from 1993 to 1997. Given what occurred, the 1993 Conference Finals are a hotly debated matter. With 64 free throws made, the Suns won by 13 points. Some believe that the NBA conspired to pit Jordan against MVP Charles Barkley in the NBA Finals.
After that, Seattle won 63 games yet lost to an eighth seed for the first time in franchise history. Seattle won a league-best 64 games two years later, and Kemp defeated previous Finals MVP Hakeem Olajuwon in the playoffs. Before losing to Jordan in the NBA Finals, Payton limited John Stockton to 9.9 points and 7.6 assists throughout the series. Both Payton and Kemp were All-NBA for three years in a row but were unable to capitalize on their achievements.
Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway are the fourth and fifth players on the list.
Orlando Magic, three seasons (1993–96), 50 wins (2), 60 wins (1), three NBA Playoffs, and All-NBA Teams (2 – 1995, 1996)
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1995)
Would you put Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain together if you had the chance? For three seasons, the Orlando Magic used their version, which resulted in the team’s finest run in club history. Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway, both seven feet and six feet nine inches tall, dominated the NBA in the mid-to-late 1990s. They grabbed a rebuilding Orlando squad and turned it into a championship contender.
Shaq was a dominating figure at 22 years old, averaging 29.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game, while Hardaway was an All-NBA selection with 20.9 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 7.2 assists. The squad reached the playoffs together, but it was the next year that they made their true breakthrough, reaching the NBA Finals. On their journey to the Finals, Orlando defeated Jordan’s Bulls in 57 games before succumbing to Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets.
Despite falling to the Rockets in the first round, the Magic went on to win 60 games the next season and get to the Conference Finals, going 7-1 against the Pistons and Hawks. The Bulls, who had a 72-win season, avenged themselves by sweeping the Magic in four games. Nobody remembers Shaq and Penny averaging 52.5 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 8.3 assists because of the sweep. Following that, Shaq signed the Lakers, leaving Orlando with the largest “what if?”
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are three of the best players in the NBA.
Oklahoma City Thunder, 8 seasons (2008–16), 50 victories (5), 60 victories (1), 6 NBA Playoffs, All-NBA Teams (6 – 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (2012)
In the 2010 playoffs, the youthful combination came close to pushing the Lakers to a seventh game, but they made up for it the next year by taking a significant step forward. Durant won the scoring championship for the second year in a row, while both Durant and Westbrook were named to the All-NBA team for the sixth year in a row. The tandem led OKC to the Conference Finals at the age of 22 before losing in five games to the Dallas Mavericks.
The club swept the reigning champs the next year, outlasting Kobe’s Lakers. The Thunder reached the NBA Finals only a few years after moving from Seattle to Oklahoma, after winning four consecutive games against the Spurs. The Thunder won Game 1 against LeBron James and the Heat, but lost the series in five games. James Harden was forced to retire as a result of the defeat, but the tandem was able to return to the Conference Finals two more times.
In 2014, Durant earned the MVP award and came within two games of reaching the NBA Finals before falling to the eventual champion Spurs. Durant’s knee troubles plagued the Thunder the next year. The Thunder had a 3-1 series lead against a Warriors squad that had won 73 games in the regular season the previous year. The squad squandered the advantage, prompting Durant to join the Golden State Warriors, where he earned two Finals MVP awards with the superteam.
2. Elgin Baylor and Jerry West
Los Angeles Lakers, 11 seasons (1960–71), four 50-win seasons, 11 NBA Playoff appearances, and All-NBA Teams (9 – 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970)
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1962, 1963, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970)
In the same season, 12 pairs of teammates were named to the All-NBA First Team. Six of the pairs have completed it once, while two have completed it twice. Shaq, Kobe, Kareem, and Magic were all mentioned three times. Outside of them, Bob Cousy and Bill Sharman had the greatest run from 1956 to 1959. Then there’s Elgin Baylor and Jerry West at the top, who were chosen to the first team six years in a row from 1962 to 1967.
Despite having two of the greatest five players in the league for over a decade, the tandem was never able to break through. The Lakers were 0-7 in seven appearances to the NBA Finals over the course of nine years. Four of these series went to seven games, with the Boston Celtics losing three straight Game 7s by a total seven points.
The Lakers were defeated 110-107 in Game 7 in 1962. The club then went on to lose Game 6 95-93 in 1966 and 108-106 in 1969. No other pair has come close to winning a ring as Baylor and West have. The Lakers and Celtics were the best teams at the time. Only one tandem could eventually exceed this combination as the league grew with more quality players and clubs.
1. John Stockton and Karl Malone
Utah Jazz, 18 seasons (1985–2003), 11 50-win seasons, three 60-win seasons, 18 NBA Playoffs, and All-NBA Teams (9 – 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996)
NBA Finals: The Best Playoffs Records (1997, 1998)
Looking back on the game’s history, the Jazz have two of the top-30 players of all time. When it comes to longevity, no team has ever had such consistent success over such a long period of time. For 18 years, the Jazz used Malone and Stockton as a pair. They made the playoffs in 18 of the 18 seasons they competed in. The Jazz have won 50 games or more 11 times, including nine times in a row from 1988 to 1998. Despite this, we tend to focus on their two appearances in the NBA Finals.
In a minute, we’ll talk about the NBA Finals defeats. If you look closely at this duo’s accomplishments, you’ll see that it’s a real dynasty; but, their defeats are a complete sham. The Jazz were eliminated in the first round five times between 1986 and 1996, notably in 1989 when they were swept by the No. 7 seed Warriors. Then, in 1995, the Jazz, who had a 60-win season, let a 2-1 series lead against the No. 6 seed Rockets slip away.
They were beaten twice in the Finals by Michael Jordan and the Bulls, notably in 1997, when Malone earned MVP against MJ. There’s a case to be made that Malone and Stockton were better than Jordan and Pippen. Malone concluded his career as the second-highest scorer in NBA history, while Stockton holds the record for most assists. However, their reputation is marred by the fact that they never won a title, falling in the playoffs to other great duos on this list. Given all of this, Malone and Stockton have delivered the league’s most disappointing tandem in terms of championship status.
The NBA’s 10 Most Disappointing Superteams: Without a ring, ’73-9 Don’t Mean A Thing’
GOAT Squad is an acronym for “Greatest Of All Time.” Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, by position
NBA Finals MVPs by Position: This Is A Small Forward League
The Four Greatest Lakers Centers Of All Time Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar set the bar high.
The 2014-15 Warriors were the first team of the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty.
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