The ultimate goal for any NBA team is to win an NBA championship. However, there are a number of teams in the NBA who have never won a championship. This is sometimes due to them being a new franchise, although some have been around a long time and have just never had the luck or ability to win it all. The Stockton & Malone Jazz could just never get past that number 23 from Chicago, despite being worthy contenders for a title.
How many teams have not won an NBA Championship? There are 11 active NBA teams that have not won an NBA Championship, this equates to 36% of League. The teams that have not won an Championship are; the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets, Brooklyn Nets, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets Orlando Magic and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
We’ve taken a look as to the reasons why the teams that are listed above have so far failed to win the NBA Championship. Has it been down to not having the right personnel, or was it more a case of poor coaching – maybe their players just choked stopping these teams from getting their hands on the Larry O’brien trophy. We have listed each teams best finish below and they year they first started competing in the NBA.
|Team||First Year in NBA||Best Finish In History|
|Indiana Pacers||1967||NBA Finals Runner Up|
|Brooklyn Nets||1967||NBA Finals Runner Up|
|Denver Nuggets||1967||Western Conference Finals Runner Up|
|Phoenix Suns||1968||NBA FInals Runner Up|
|Utah Jazz||1974||NBA FInals Runner Up|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||1989||Western Conference Finals Runner Up|
|Orlando Magic||1989||NBA Finals Runner Up|
|New Orleans Pelicans||2002*||Playoffs|
When the Indiana Pacers were part of the ABA they had great success and won three ABA Championships. However, following the merger of the NBA and ABA in 1976, the Indiana Pacers didn’t have the same success. In the 1990s the Indiana Pacers came close to making the NBA Finals by reaching the Eastern Conference finals. However, they came up against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls and unfortunately the Indiana Pacers lost. The Indiana Pacers continued to be contenders however, even after Jordan left the NBA, the Pacers were still unable to win an NBA Championship. In 2000 the Pacers made the NBA finals and came up against the Los Angeles Lakers and the pairing of Shaquille o’Neal and Kobe Bryant who were coached by Phil Jackson (Jordans Chicago Bulls Coach). The Pacers were dispatched in the finals by the Lakers.
The Pacers made the Eastern Conference Finals in the early 2000s. However, they lost out to the Detriot Pistons. Reggie Miller said that :
Detriot had defeated us the year before in the playoffs and moved on to the finals and win. During that playoff series Ron and Jermaine were having a butt of heads over whose team it was. I was like it’s neither of your team its my team. Don’t you guys understand that if we win this series, we’re going to be NBA Champs? I knew who ever we faced in the West, I knew defence would win that championship. But they couldn’t understand that.Reggie Miller on the Dan Patrick Show.
Los Angeles Clippers
Imagine having to live in the shadow of your big brother like the LA Clippers have to do with the Los Angeles Lakers. They share the same stadium with the Lakers however, when the Clippers are playing there are no NBA Championship flags unlike the Los Angeles Lakers whose championship flags are taken down for LA Clippers games. The LA Clippers are yet to win an NBA championship.
It seemed that there was potential for the LA Clippers to win an NBA championship in the 2019-20 season following the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Together they make a formidable team and have the potential to make a deep playoffs run. However, with the global pandemic currently in our mist, it seems unlikely that the NBA will be restarting anytime soon and therefore it seems like another year without a NBA championship for the La Clippers.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves had amazing talent such as Kevin Garnett in the late 1990s and early noughties however, they were unable to make a NBA finals. Even though they finished top of the Western Conference in 2004. In 2007 Garnett was traded to the Boston Celtics who then went on to win a NBA Championship with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. This highlighted a missed opportunity for the Minnesota Timberwolves to win the NBA championship.
The talent which the Minnesota Timberwolves had in Kevin Garnett was incredible and it appeared that Minnesota squandered the talent. It is important to remember that the period that Garnett was with the Minnesota Timberwolves was a period of dominance for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Timberwolves also had to deal other teams such as San Antonio spurs who were coming into their prime at this point, as well as other Eastern Teams such as the Detroit Pistons and many other teams were hitting their prime in the early 2000s.
The duo of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway in the 90s firmly put Orlando Magic on the map. The magic were created out an expansion franchise in 1989. The Magic were a dominant force and even managed to beat Michael Jordan on his return to the NBA in 1995 in the Eastern Conference finals. This set up a meeting with the Houston Rockets for the Orlando Magic. However, Shaquille O’Neal said that after beating the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Eastern Conference finals the Orlando Magic partied too hard.
I broke a rule. You celebrated too early. Because we beat Michael Jordan. Which nobody has ever done. Who’s the last guy to beat Michael Jordan in the playoffs? Nobody. So we beat him, I’m partying like a mug, ‘cause in my mind, I already had the championship won,” O’Neal said.Shaquille O’Neal
Therefore, the partying cost them dearly against the Houston Rockets. It soon fell apart after that finals loss for the Orlando Magic. In 1996, Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and Shaq went on to complete a three-peat with the Lakers and Phil Jackson the ex Chicago Bulls coach (check out our video on how Pat Riley made millions out of the word three peat).
The Utah Jazz
The Utah Jazz had the same problem as a lot of teams in the 1990s that appear on this list. The problem was having to come up against the great Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Utah Jazz had a dynamic duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton. With this pairing, it seemed like the Utah Jazz could win more than the divisional title. The Utah Jazz had won the western conference final in 1997 and 1998 . However, the Jazz came up against the Chichago Bulls in the NBA finals in 1997 and 1998 . 1998 was Michael Jordans last season with the Chicago Bulls and the NBA Finals was expected to be a tight affair. During the regular season the Utah Jazz beat the Chicago Bulls however, this win was after the announcement from Jerry Krause, the Chicago Bulls general manager, that Phil Jackson would not be coaching the Chicago Bulls the following season. Therefore, this meant that Michael Jordan would not be a Chicago Bulls player the following season.
However, Michael Jordan came back to haunt the Utah Jazz and and won the 1998 NBA Championship. The Jazz have not come close to winning an NBA Championship since.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are the most recent franchise established in the NBA having been established in 2002. Therefore, the Pelicans haven’t been around too long to enjoy the possibility of winning an NBA championship. The Pelicans had Anthony Davis who led the team for many years however, he was traded to the Lakers. The Pelicans got the first draft pick in the 2019 NBA draft and choose a rising superstar in Zion Williamson. The Pelicans have a young energetic team led by veteran JJ Redick could potentially win an NBA championship in the future. However, it is unlikely that they were going to make the playoffs in the 2019-20 season following the injury to Zion Williamson. Zions late return to action in the season was too much to ask. Therefore, it seems apparent it’s another year without an NBA championship for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Although Michael Jordan has six Championship rings with the Chicago Bulls he hasn’t been able to pass his winning magic on to the Charlotte Hornets, who he is owner of. The Charlotte Hornets have never won a conference title let alone a divisional title. The only mark on their history is their botched move to New Orleans. It seems unlikely that the Charlotte hornets will make the NBA finals anytime soon.
The Brooklyn Nets, like the Indiana Pacers were originally in the ABA and won two ABA Championships. However, the Brooklyn Nets (or the New Jersey Nets as they were known) haven’t been able to win a NBA Championship as of yet. The Nets with Jason Kidd made the NBA finals in 2002 and 2003 where they came up against Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers. Unfortunately, the Nets were unable to keep pace with the Lakers and lost the finals in 2002 and 2003. Since then the Brooklyn Nets have been a bit lost. However, following the takeover of the Brooklyn Nets and the acquisition Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant it seems that in the near future the Brooklyn Nets will have the opportunity to make and a deep playoff runs and potentially win a NBA championship.
Like the Charlotte Hornets the Memphis Grizzlies haven’t come close to winning an NBA Championship. The Grizzlies made the playoffs with Pau Gasol in the mid noughties and have made the playoffs since. However, it is unlikely for the Grizzlies to win a NBA Championship anytime soon.
The Phoenix Suns made the NBA finals in 1976 and came up short against the Boston Celtics. In 1992 the Phoenix Suns had Charles Barkley join their team and won the 1993 Western Conference Title. In 1993, Charles Barkley was the regular season MVP and the Suns came up against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and were dispatched by the Chicago Bulls.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix Suns have been unable to make the NBA Finals since 1993. Even though they have had players such as Steve Nash, Amare Stoudmire and the Devin Booker in more recent years in their team.
The Denver Nuggets were like the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets part of the ABA however, unlike the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets they did not win an ABA Championship. The Nuggets have won a number of divisional titles and made it to the Western Conference Finals in the 1980s. The Denver Nuggets have never made the NBA finals however, they have featured in the playoffs a number of times thanks to such playser like Alex English in the 1980’s and Carmelo Anthony in the noughties.