What do Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, John Stockton and Steve Nash all have in common? These Hall of Famers lead a long list of players who never won an NBA championship. Among that list are a number of current players eager to leave.
Some of them will have a chance to capture their first NBA title in the coming weeks, while others have already been eliminated from playoff contention and will have to hope for a better outcome in the future.
This list only includes players who have completed at least five seasons in the league because that doesn’t seem fair to expect of a rookie contract. Luka Doncic and Donovan Mitchell, you’ve got a little more time to secure a ring before you join this club.
Will this be the year that one of these NBA stars finally checks a championship off the list?
Players competing in the 2022 NBA playoffs
Despite not having a ring to show for it, CP3 has rightfully earned the reputation as a clutch performer.
Paul has made it to the playoffs in 14 of his 17 seasons in the league, advancing to the conference semifinals five times, the conference finals once and most recently in 2021, the NBA Finals where the Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks 4-2.
The 36-year-old veteran doesn’t just appear in the playoffs -- he shows up. From his postseason debut in 2008 when Paul dropped 35 points, 10 assists and four steals, he’s continued to be a force of nature, recording a double-double in 52 of his 130 playoff matches.
Currently ranked third for assists and fourth for steals in the all-time record books, Paul’s legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history is cemented. That said, a little bling never hurt. The Suns enter the postseason with the best record of any team in the league and are poised to chase down a championship.
Blake Griffin just logged his least productive season of his career -- taking on more of a supporting role with the star-studded Brooklyn Nets -- but there’s no denying his history in the league has been nothing short of impressive.
Since going to the Clippers with the No. 1 overall pick in 2009, Griffin has racked up a treasure trove of awards including Rookie of the Year, six All-Star nods and five appearances on the All-NBA team.
Unfortunately for Griffin, that success hasn’t always translated into the postseason. He’s made it to the second round three times in his career before eventually falling short of the conference finals. If the pieces come together for Brooklyn, they might have a chance to upset the field and deliver Griffin his first ever championship.
James Harden is synonymous with deep runs in the playoffs, making the postseason in each of his 12 seasons in the NBA.
From his rookie season in Oklahoma City when he joined forces with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Harden immediately made his impact known. For the three seasons with Harden in the lineup, the Thunder made their postseason debut since relocating to Oklahoma City (2010 playoffs), advanced to the conference finals in 2011 and made it all the way to the finals in 2012.
He then moved on to Houston where he averaged 28.4 points per game in 15 series with the Rockets and scored 30 points or more in nearly half of his 86 playoff appearances. His struggles followed him to Brooklyn where he spent one full season with the Nets, getting injured early in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks and missing the next three games of the series. The Nets did manage to force the series to seven games which allowed Harden to reenter the lineup, but Milwaukee ultimately came out on top en route to an NBA title.
He now finds himself playing under Doc Rivers following a trade that sent Harden and Paul Millsaps to Philadelphia in exchange for Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond and two first-round picks. The 76ers are up 2-0 on the Raptors and now have to head to Toronto, hoping to close out the series.
DeMar DeRozan’s playoff career is largely defined by what could have been.
After suffering back-to-back first-round losses in 2014 and 2015, the Toronto Raptors started to establish themselves as a force in the Eastern Conference with DeRozan at their helm. Unfortunately for DeRozan, their rise coincided with LeBron James’ move to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland ultimately ended the Raptors’ season for three consecutive years -- once in the conference finals and twice in the conference semifinals.
Despite disappointing playoff outcomes, the decision by Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri to essentially blow up the roster -- sending DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and firing Dwane Casey, who was coming off a season where he was named NBA Coach of the Year -- came as a shock to everyone, including DeRozan. To add salt to injury, Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA championship in his only season in Toronto.
DeRozan once again finds himself back in the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls were the team to beat through the All-Star break, but a number of injuries to key players and an unlucky draw with the reigning NBA champs, the Milwaukee Bucks, mean DeRozan’s odds of finally capturing the Larry O’Brien Trophy have taken a heavy hit.
Jokic is at the top of his game, but he doesn’t seem to have the supporting pieces to make a deep run this season.
After being named MVP of the 2020-21 season, becoming the first second-round draft pick to do so in the modern era, the Serbian big man is in position to defend his title. However, not even his stat-stuffing season -- 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists -- is enough to beat the top of the league and he’ll need a lot more help from the Nuggets front office if he wants to win a championship in Denver.
The Nuggets currently find themselves down 2-0 and with little signs of stopping the Golden State Warriors' offensive avalanche. They will have to hope home-court advantage pulls through in these next two games to avoid an early exit.
After spending five seasons in Chicago, Jimmy Butler bounced around, spending a season in Minnesota and Philadelphia before settling in Miami. Since then, he assumed a vacancy left by LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade and helped the Heat return to Eastern Conference supremacy.
His closest brush with NBA glory came in the 2020 bubble when Miami lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the NBA Finals. Miami’s two wins came behind a 40 and 35-point performance from Butler. Two long years later, they’re back on top and will be hungry for redemption.
Believe it or not, Devin Booker is about to wrap up his seventh season in the league. A late lottery pick out of Kentucky, Booker joined the Suns at 18, quietly emerging as one of the biggest young names in the game. The pieces finally came together these past couple years as Monty Williams settled in as head coach and Chris Paul joined the Suns from Oklahoma City.
In his first playoff appearance, Booker nearly went all the way, losing to the Bucks in six games in the NBA Finals. The Suns are back with a loaded roster, the best record in the NBA and one more year of experience under their belt. However, a hamstring injury in Game 2 of the first round against the New Orleans is expected to keep him out at least the next two games. Can Booker return to cap off his meteoric rise with a championship? Only time (and medical expertise) will tell.
With only six seasons under his belt, Embiid barely makes this list, but it’s a good thing he does because the 7-footer has plenty of experience to warrant a championship ring.
A member of the same 2014 draft class as Jokic, Embiid sat out the first two seasons of his NBA career with nagging foot injuries. When he finally debuted in 2016, he immediately made a splash, averaging 20.2 points per game and 2.5 blocks per game, but was quickly sidelined with a torn meniscus around the All-Star break.
Despite rumblings of a potential draft bust as a result of his injuries, Embiid responded and has become a staple of the 76ers franchise these five seasons, even mounting a strong bid for MVP this year.
While Embiid has emerged as a consistent force for Philadelphia, the same can’t be said about some of his teammates. A revolving door of trades and locker room tension have often plagued the 76ers down the stretch and kept them from reaching the conference finals.
One of the most enduring playoff images of Embiid is probably one he’d rather scrub from his memory -- Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer beater soaring over Embiid’s outstretched arm to lift the Raptors to the conference finals en route to their first NBA championship.
Three years later and the 76ers and Raptors are facing off once again. Philadelphia maintains a 2-0 lead over Toronto and will look to avoid the events of the past.
Players who are no longer in the 2022 playoffs
As a lifelong Thunder fan, this one pains me to include. But Russell Westbrook is quickly approaching Chris Paul on the list of veteran players to not have a championship to their name.
Westbrook was one of the original pieces of the young Oklahoma City corps that made three conference finals and one NBA Finals appearance from 2011 to 2016. Even once Kevin Durant jumped ship for Golden State, Westbrook still gave Thunder fans plenty to cheer about -- averaging a triple double and winning the 2017 MVP Award.
Westbrook is the epitome of taking the good with the bad and never is that more true than in the playoffs. Whether it’s dropping 45 to help the Thunder come back from a 25-point third-quarter deficit against the Jazz or demanding the ball in the final seconds only to commit a costly turnover for the Houston Rockets, Westbrook can be unpredictable. I’m rooting for him to capture that elusive championship but the Lakers super team clearly was not the right formula this season.
This is the first time since 2013 that Damian Lilliard and the Portland Trail Blazers are missing the NBA playoffs.
While there are plenty of playoff moments in Lillard’s career, perhaps none were more memorable than the 2019 postseason. He kicked off the first round with a dagger 3-pointer from the logo to effectively blow up the Thunder before leading Portland over Denver in seven games and eventually losing to the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals.
Lillard will be 32 in July and just finishing the first year of a 4-year, $176 million deal. With CJ McCollum shipped off to New Orleans and the Trail Blazers yet to name a permanent general manager, a lot of questions remain about the trajectory of Lillard in Portland.
The nickname “Playoff P” is on the verge of irony.
George made his postseason debut in 2011 with the Pacers, posting modest numbers as a solid role player. His breakout campaign came two seasons later when he led Indiana to back-to-back Eastern Conference Finals, both times taking the Heat to the wire but falling just short of a conference championship. Thus, the legend of Playoff P was born.
His next four seasons – split between Indiana and Oklahoma City – ended in first-round departures and general disappointment. He then famously moved back home to Los Angeles, joining forces with Kawhi Leonard on the Clippers and effectively dismantling the Thunder roster in a blockbuster trade. While the Clippers earned top-4 seeds each of the past two seasons, that success hasn’t translated to the offseason. For George specifically, injuries to him and Leonard have sidelined the two superstars throughout their time in Los Angeles and ultimately contributed to them missing the playoffs this season.
I debated whether or not to include Carmelo on this list because I don’t think he rises to the same level as many of the aforementioned players, but it’s hard to deny a 10-time All-Star the honor.
In 13 playoff appearances with four different teams, Anthony has only advanced past the first round twice -- making the Western Conference Finals in 2009 with the Nuggets and the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013 with the New York Knicks.
Early on in his career, Melo was often left to shoulder much of the offensive production, but he had countless opportunities alongside All-Stars, including Russell Westbrook and Paul George in Oklahoma City and currently in Los Angeles behind the trio of Westbrook, James and Anthony Davis.