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 10 active NBA teams that have not won a Championship, this equates for 1 third of the League. The teams that have not won an NBA Championship are; the Pacers, Hornets, Nets, Grizzlies, Jazz, Suns, Pelicans, Clippers, Magic and the Timberwolves. The Denver Nuggets became the most recent team to win their first NBA Championship when they defeated the Miami Heat 4-1 in the 2023 NBA Finals.
We have not included the Oklahoma City Thunder on this list as the franchise won an NBA title in 1979 while based in Seattle and called the Supersonics. As per NBA franchise customs this title sits with the franchise. If the Lakers can claim the 5 titles they won in Mineapolis then the Thunder can keep their Seattle title.
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 – 2000|
|Brooklyn Nets||1967||NBA Finals Runner Up – 2003|
|Phoenix Suns||1968||NBA FInals Runner Up – 1976, 1993 and 2021|
|Utah Jazz||1974||NBA FInals Runner Up – 1997 & 1998|
|LA Clippers||1984||West Conference Finals Runner Up – 2021|
|Charlotte Hornets||1988||Second Round – 1993, 1998, 2001|
|Minnesota Timberwolves||1989||Western Conference Finals Runner Up – 2004|
|Orlando Magic||1989||NBA Finals Runner Up – 1995 & 2009|
|Memphis Grizzlies||1995||West Conference Finals Runner Up – 2013|
|New Orleans Pelicans||2002*||Second Round – 2018|
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.
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
The LA Clippers have won 0 NBA championships. The Los Angeles Clippers are one of the worst teams in the NBA historically. After being taken over by Donald Sterling in 1981, the team has never won an NBA title. The 1980s and 1990s saw the Clippers only have one winning season, in which they were defeated in the first round by the Utah Jazz. They did not win a series in the playoffs until 2006, defeating the Nuggets in five games, before losing to the Suns in the next round. The 2010s was the closest the Clippers have ever come to the NBA finals. Chris Paul led his team nicknamed “lob city”, to six straight playoff appearances, but never reaching the conference finals. The Clippers luck seemed to change after Sterling was forced out and Setve Ballmer bought the team, infusing them with both money and positivity.
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 duo and have the potential to make a deep NBA Playoff run. Injury luck to the two main stars has derailed multiple campaigns since the big all-in move to sign them both. Their best performance was in 2021 where they elimated Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks in 7 games, before beating the Utah Jazz 4-2 in the second round. Unfortunately Kawhi Leonard got hurt in game 4 and would miss the conference Finals. The Clippers lost 4-2 to the Suns. This remains the Franchises best ever playoff performance.
The Minnesota Timberwolves
The Minnesota Timberwolves had amazing talent in 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 in 2008. 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 the San Antonio Spurs who were coming into their prime at this point and would end up with 5 titles.
When was the last time the Timberwolves won a championship?
The Timberwolves have never won an NBA championship. The Timberwolves were an expansion team, starting alongside the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat and Charlotte Hornets. They have been pretty unsuccessful during that time. The Timberwolves were able to reach the playoffs eight years in a row, led by their superstar Kevin Garnett. Garnett even managed to lead the team to the number 1 seed in the 2003-04 season, winning a team record 58 games. After winning their first ever playoff series in 2004, the Timberwolves beat the Kings to reach the conference finals.
Sadly for the Timberwolves, they lost to the Kobe and Shaq Lakers in the 2004 conference finals. Since then, Garnett did go on to win a title, but with the Celtics after being traded. They have only reached the playoffs once since then, losing to the Rockets in the first round in 2018. The Timberwolves have just constantly drafted and signed poorly, and have always struggled to win despite talented players like Jimmy Butler and Karl Anthony Towns being a part of the team at different points.
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.
Has the Utah Jazz ever won a championship?
The Utah Jazz have never won an NBA title, in the 41 years the franchise has been in the NBA. The Jazz have had pretty regular success, winning a division title in each of the last five decades, including in 2021. However they have never quite been able to get over the line and win a title. Their most successful period for the team was the 1990s. Led by Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz reached the playoffs for 20 straight seasons, including five conference finals appearances. Unfortunately for the Jazz, they peaked at a time in which the NBA was dominated by one man, Michael Jordan. The Jazz reached the finals in 1997 and 1998, never going to seven games in either of those playoffs. But they could not control Michael Jordan, and lost both series in six games, with Jordan being just too much for the Jazz. Sadly Utah hasn’t gone back to the finals since, with only one conference finals appearance since as well. The Jazz have a solid team at the moment, and with a bit of form at the right time, would hope to return to the finals very soon
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 franchise majority owner 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. 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 an NBA Championship. 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 both NBA Finals. Since 2003 the Brooklyn Nets have seemed lost. Several desperate attempts to grab ready made stars, such as Garnett and Pierce post Boston and the acquisition Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, followed by the addition of James Harden and the trade for Ben Simmons, all resulting in nothing. It seems that in the near future the Brooklyn Nets will have to focus on developing young talent like Mikal Bridges and hope Ben Simmons can sort his head and back out and come back to ignite their young roster.
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 2000’s and have made the playoffs a few times since. The promosing young core built around Ja Morant and Jared Jackons Jr looked to be close to ascending to new heights, but off court trouble and injury dereailed another season for them in 2023 and they fell out the Playoffs to the 7th seeded Lakers in the first round. Ja Morant will decide the immediate future of the Grizzlies, a title could well be within his grasp, but it’s far from a sure bet.
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.
After signing Point God Chris Paul in 2020, the suns immediately made a leap forward. Young talent like Devon Booker and Deandre Ayton started to sparkle. With gems like Mikal Bridges and Cameron Thomas turning up. They made it to the 2021 NBA Finals, losing to a dominant Giannis and the Milwaukee Bucks. Success has followed them since, a new owner in Mat Ishbia came onboard in 2023 and immediately made an impact trading a host of young players for scoring machine Kevin Durant. An earlier than expected exit in the Second Round to a dominant Denver Nuggets team put the title celebrations on ice. But the Suns look like a sure bet to break their championship duck soon.
How many NBA Championships have the Suns won?
The Phoenix Suns have never won an NBA title. The team has been successful in the playoffs, winning the western conference three different times. This began in 1976, when the team was defeated by John Havlicek and the Boston Celtics. After that disappointment, it wasn’t until Charles Barkley led them to the finals in 1993, defeating the Lakers and the Spurs in the process.
Sadly for the Suns, they became a team much like the Rockets, Jazz and Blazers that were prevented from winning more championships by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. 2 time MVP Steve Nash led a menacing attack for the Suns in the 2000s, but he couldn’t get the team further than three losses in the conference finals. The Suns struggled after the loss of Nash, not reaching the playoffs from 2010 until 2021. It was a spectacular return to the playoffs, as the Suns swept the reigning champion Lakers on the way to the finals. Sadly, Chris Paul and Devin Booker could not control Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Suns lost four games in a row to lose the series in six games.
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 had won a number of divisional titles and made it to the Western Conference Finals in the 1980s. The Denver Nuggets had never even made the NBA finals however, they had had strong playoff runs in the playoffs a number of times thanks to such playser like Alex English in the 1980’s and Carmelo Anthony in the 2000’s.
We had taken an in-depth look at the Denver Nuggets progress in the play-offs over the seasons during its time as an NBA franchise. If you want to learn more about the Denver Nuggets close run-ins then click here to read the article. However since Nicola Jokic and Jamal Murray led the Nuggets on a relentless path through the 2023 NBA Playoffs, defeating Minnesota (4-1), Phoenix (4-2), Lakers (4-0) and eventually the Miami Heat 4-1 in the NBA Finals. The Nuggets are NBA Champions. Huge Finals performances from Jokic and Murray, who became the first duo to post 30 point Triple Doubles in the NBA Finals in Game 3, esnured the win. Nicola Jokic won Finals MVP, sweet victory for him after falling a few votes short of becoming the first ever player to win 3 Regular Season MVPs in a row that same year. We’ve always said at Basketball Noise, you’d always prefer to be Finals MVP than Regular season MVP (unless you’re 1969 Jerry West).
NBA Teams that have never been to the Conference Finals
Over the many years of basketball, we have seen dynasties formed among multiple franchises and smaller franchises group up and shock the world in a historic championship run. However, despite all of that success there are a few teams that have never even made it into the Conference Finals! It should be mentioned that the Los Angeles Clippers were on this list before they made it into the Conference Finals last season against the Phoenix Suns, a series that they wound up losing as well. The first team that has still not made it there is the Charlotte Hornets.
They were consistently in the playoffs for the first ten years of their franchise but after a few years off with the whole Bobcats thing, Charlotte has only made it to the playoffs three times since 2004, losing the first round in each of those years. The New Orleans Pelicans are the only other team to not have made it. They made it into the Conference Semi-Finals twice in seven playoff runs but only came close during one Chris Paul led season, where they lost in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs in those semis.
List of NBA Teams that have never won a Championship
Surprisingly enough, there are still 10 teams in the NBA that have yet to win themselves a championship. The Charlotte Hornets haven’t even been able to make it into a Conference Finals series. The Indiana Pacers won championships in the ABA but nothing in the NBA.
- Indiana Pacers
- Brooklyn Nets
- Phoenix Suns
- Utah Jazz
- LA Clippers
- Charlotte Hornets
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Orlando Magic
- Memphis Grizzlies
- New Orleans Pelicans
As you probably know, the Los Angeles Clippers are still cursed and haven’t won one either. The Memphis Grizzlies have had some success but not nearly enough to get them a ring. The Minnesota Timberwolves have been forever stuck in mediocrity though they got to the Conference Finals with Kevin Garnett. The New Orleans Pelicans have overall struggled despite having talent and the Phoenix Suns, though they just made it to the NBA Finals. The last two squads are the Orlando Magic and the Utah Jazz, both have made NBA Finals appearances with great players but just couldn’t win.