Top 10 Active NBA Players Without a Title

If you are a young professional basketball player, one of the highest forms of praise you can receive is being compared to one of the all-time greats at your position. If a power forward comes out of college and is christened "the next Karl Malone" or "the next Charles Barkley," it is a compliment to top all other compliments. I know I'd want my team drafting "the next Charles Barkley".

In almost every way would I want a rookie to come in and have his career play out like Barkley's did. Almost every way.

Barkley and Malone lead the not-so-distinguished list of "greatest NBA players never to win a title." With the 2008 playoffs under way, it got me thinking: who are the best active players without a title? Who is the next Barkley, only not in a good way.

Below is a list of the top 10 active players without an NBA title. A few quick clarifications on the criteria:

1. I've taken into account the span of their entire career to determine their rank. For example, obviously right now Elton Brand is better than Chris Webber, but Webber has had the better career, so he gets ranked ahead of Brand.

2. There is an age limit. Each player on this list has to have been drafted in the 1990s. That means the list isn't flooded with guys like LeBron and Dwight Howard because they haven't been around long enough.

That being said, here are the 10 best active players without an NBA title.

10. Elton Brand

Brand has been a poor man's K.G. all his career. He's averaged 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds per game throughout his career. He averaged 20 points per game in six of his nine seasons and 10 rebounds per game six of his nine seasons. You can pretty much pencil him in for 20 and 10 every time he takes the floor. He was the 2000 Rookie of the Year and Second Team All-NBA in 2006.

Yet Brand has only played on one team with a winning record in nine seasons. He's never been on 50-win team. He's played all of 12 playoff games in career. Maybe he's been dealt a bad hand by being stuck with the rebuilding Bulls and then traded to the Clippers. Or maybe he's just forever destined to be the guy who is always going to be "great player, bad team."

9. Ray Allen

Allen's career has been, if nothing else, consistent. Two things you can count on from Allen every year:

1. He'll make threes. He trails only Reggie Miller for most three-point field goals made all-time.
2. He'll make free throws. He's seventh all-time with a career free throw percentage of .889.

He is an eight-time all-star, and has been has been on an All-NBA Second Team and All-NBA Third Team. Like Brand, however, most of his accolades have been accumulated in the regular season. In only one of his 12 NBA seasons has his team won a playoff series. That was back in 2001, when he, Sam Cassell, and "Big Dog" Glenn Robinson lost a tough Game 7 in Philly in which Allen Iverson, fresh of his MVP season, dropped 44.

8. Grant Hill

Maybe it's because it's been seven years since his ankle basically exploded that people forget just how great Hill was when he entered the league. The man was a triple-double waiting to happen every single night for his six seasons with Detroit.

He started the All-Star Game in his rookie season. He finished that season with the Rookie of the Year award. He followed that with four Second Team All-NBA seasons and one First Team in the next five seasons. He finished third in the MVP voting in his third season. Before LeBron was even in high school, people were asking if Grant Hill could average a triple-double.

Then came the injuries. He played just 32% of Orlando's games over the next five seasons and never could get himself back to the level he once was at. It'd be hard to find another player in NBA history that lost so much of his prime to injuries.

7. Chris Webber

I'm aware that he recently retired, but I'm still counting him as active because he played in this season. Much has been written about Webber in the past few months since he made his retirement official. Count me as one of the many people completely puzzled by how his career played out.

I don't need to rehash his resume, either the positive or the negative, because by now most people are well aware of what he did/didn't accomplish in his 15-year NBA career. But title or no title, love him or hate him, Webber deserves a lot of credit for revolutionizing the power forward position. The way the Kings used him at the high post (with great success I might add) has opened the door for a lot of up-and-coming power forwards to be used in a similar fashion, adding a whole new element to a lot of team's offensive strategies.

6. Tracy McGrady

McGrady has the talent to be higher on this list, but that's what he'll always be remembered for: so much talent for such little team success. He's had an 11-year career, but he's really only been lights-out in six seasons, and that's when he stays healthy.

During his prime, there is no doubt about it that McGrady was an elite NBA scorer if there ever was one, highlighted by his back-to-back scoring titles in 2003 and 2004. He made seven straight all-star-game appearances, two First Team All-NBA, three Second Team, and one Third Team in that stretch.

Yet despite all his success, he'll always be "the guy who never won a playoff series." Maybe rightfully so, maybe not. That's just the way it is.

(By the way, Mr. Clutch didn't exactly help his cause of dropping that title with his one fourth quarter point in the first two games in the Jazz series.)

5. Steve Nash

Due to my hatred of all things Suns, I would have loved to leave Nash off this list, but whether I like it or not, he's still had a really good career. Aside from his two BPBT (Best Player on the Best Team) awards, Nash has had been on three straight All-NBA First Teams, led the league in assists three times, played in six All-Star Games, and perhaps should be given more credit for bagging this, despite looking like this over anything else he has accomplished in his life.

Despite all of the great things that Nash has accomplished in his career, I remain unwavering in my belief that he and his style will never yield anything more than regular season success. He plays no defense and is too careless with the ball. In those three years that he led the league in assists, he also finished seventh, third, and second in the league in turnovers committed. He led the league this year. To put things in perspective, Chris Paul led the league in assists this year. He had the 20th most turnovers committed, with nearly 100 less than Nash.

John Q. Basketball fan may be in love with his ability lead his team to plenty of regular season wins, but to me, there is nothing impressive about a "great" point guard who can't beat good teams in a playoff series.

4. Jason Kidd

Kidd ranks ahead of Nash on this list for a few different reasons. First of all, he plays on both sides of the ball. You may not realize it now because he's getting a little long in the tooth and Chris Paul is probably blowing by him as you read this, but Kidd had been either First or Second Team All-Defensive nine times in his career. He's been to nine all-star games. He's been to the Finals twice. He's led the league in assists five times. He's arguably the best rebounding guard in the history of the game.

Unfortunately for Kidd, he never quite had enough help to get himself a ring. His two Finals teams were not nearly as good as the Lakers team they lost to in 2002 or the Spurs team in 2003. Nonetheless, he's gotten his team close, which on the list is good enough to get you near the top.

3. Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk has come closer than any other player on this list to winning a title. Up 2-0 in the 2006 finals, a combination of terrible officiating and the best performance Dwyane Wade will ever have ripped the Larry O'Brien right out of his hands. Dallas has taken giant steps backwards since that series, swung for the fences, and missed with the Kidd trade, and is a lot more likely to find itself in the lottery than the finals next season if something drastic doesn't happen.

(Completely random and not relevant to this article prediction: trying to cover his backside for the completely foolish Kidd trade, Mark Cuban will fire Avery Johnson after they lose to the Hornets in the first round and pin the blame of getting bounced in the first round two years in a row on him. Then, in order to make it seem like Cuban is doing everything he can to rectify the team's problems, he will hire the newly unemployed Larry Brown as his head coach going into next season. That way he can blame Avery for the lack of success the last two years, and sell Larry Brown as the new savior to his fan base. Then, once Larry Brown inevitably wears out his welcome, he can shift the blame back on him. All the while, Cuban avoids taking the heat for the Kidd deal. Just something to ponder as you watch the Mavs clean out their lockers this week.)

Meanwhile, Dirk continues to be a superstar this team. At the beginning of the article, I mentioned giving the compliment to players by saying they are "the next whoever." Every year, a big, white European gets drafted in the lottery and he is dubbed "the next Dirk."

Sorry to disappoint, but there will never be another Dirk. He is the one player in the league right now that I feel is one of a kind. At some point, we could see a kid come along with the combination of size and strength of LeBron. There will be another player to come along and have an endless supply of offensive moves and score at will like Kobe can. But in my opinion, there will never be another seven-footer than can handle the ball like a guard, shoot threes, shoot mid-rangers, score with his back to the basket, score driving to the basket, shoot 90% percent or so from the free throw line, and grab over 10 boards a game.

Combine his one-of-a-kind skill set with his many NBA achievements, and Dirk ranks third behind only two of the greatest to ever play as the best active player to not have a title.

2. Kevin Garnett

I realize that nowadays it is blasphemous not to put a player from Boston at the top of any sports list, but I'm doing it anyway. Garnett has been a picture of consistency his entire career. Before this season, K.G. averaged 20 points and 10 rebounds an astonishing nine seasons in a row. The only other players in NBA history to have at least that many consecutive 20-10 seasons: Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, and Shaquille O'Neal. Any time you can be mentioned in the same breath as any one of those players, you've obviously had a great career.

Here's where Garnett comes up short. Only one time in his entire career has Garnett's team advanced out of the first round of the playoffs. Despite all of his individual greatness, for one reason or another, K.G.'s team time and again has failed to come through in playoff series.

Maybe it's because he's not very clutch. Maybe he hasn't had good enough coaching. Maybe he hasn't had enough help. Maybe it's a combination of all three. Whatever the case may be, I can't in good conscience rank his career as a whole better than the number one player on this list because of his lack of playoff success.

1. Allen Iverson

Maybe Iverson's style isn't your cup of tea. His personality can be off-putting at times. His tattoos and cornrows might turn off some of the more conservative and old-school NBA lovers. But there is no denying Iverson's ability and toughness.

I don't need to list his NBA achievements, because if you don't know by now what he has accomplished in his career, why are you even reading this? I mentioned before that McGrady is an elite NBA scorer if there ever was one; well, Iverson is and more.

He's finished in the top 10 in scoring 11 times, leading the league four times. He has the third highest points per game average of all-time. He's finished in the top-10 in steals 10 times, leading the league twice.

On top of that, if you've ever seen Iverson play in person, and you didn't walk away from that game completely amazed at the ability that he has, then you truly don't have a real understanding of what makes a great basketball player.

One of the things that separates Iverson from Garnett is that during their respective primes you knew what Garnett was capable of doing when he was playing his best. He was going to give you at least a 20 and 20 game, and more than likely more than "just" 20 points. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a 20 and 20 game.

With Iverson, much like with Kobe now, there was no ceiling when he was at his best. 40, 50, even 60 points. Nothing was out of reach for him. Unlike Garnett, Iverson always raised his game to the highest level in the playoffs, just when his team needed it most.

His resume reads equally as impressive as Garnett's. If statistically you want to call their careers even, I can't argue with that. So team success becomes the tiebreaker. Iverson has been to the NBA finals. Garnett hasn't. I don't care what conference you play in, making the finals is never a cakewalk.

Maybe the argument for best player never to win a title is moot. After all, no one puts more stock in winning titles when it comes to evaluating a player's career than I do. But sometimes it's just not in the cards. Ask Barkley and Malone. In an ideal world, Iverson and Garnett would ride off into the sunset towards Springfield, MA with a Larry O'Brien trophy and a smile. But if it never happens, in my opinion, Iverson can look back on his career and say that his was better than Garnett's.

Unless, of course, the Celtics decide that they want to alter history this June.

Comments and Conversation

April 28, 2008

Hoops Fan:

Isn’t Dirk just a better ball handling version of Rasheed Wallace without the defense? Why doesn’t it seem likely that another player like him would come along?

April 28, 2008


You know what the crazy thing is about Iverson is, is that he is still able to have those 40,50,60 pt nights on any given night (he’s had a few this season) the only thing is he is on a team with another scorer..Carmelo Anthony. You can’t have multible 40 pt nights with another dominate scorer on your team. But I have never seen an athlete like Iverson, is the guy ever going to slow down? He’s still playing in his prime. I hope that he will win a ring befor retirement..but I don’t think it will be on that current Nuggets team. He needs to be playing next to players that have as big of a heart as he has. Him and KG are the players on this list that I want to see get a ring most before they retire.

April 29, 2008

Leo laporte:

Kevin Garnett might have to borrow Johnny Rogers old football moniker from the 70’s: The ordinary superstar.

April 29, 2008


Great article. Although I don’t agree on the order (particularly the top four), the players on your list seem right on. Also, the explanations behind each are rather well-reasoned (and the Nash thing was funny).

April 30, 2008

jon gonzales:

nice choice of article. throw ewing in there with barkely and malone. no love for baron davis? i’d put him over grant hill who has been transparent, as he was again this post-season. is it too soon to put lebron on this list? give him a few more seasons and he should be as high as #3.

May 3, 2008

A J:

That Allen Iverson is as good as Kevin Garnett is preposterous. The best indicator is that the market for Garnett was so much deeper than that for Iverson. Numerous teams wanted Garnett, almost no one wanted Iverson.

May 5, 2008


To AJ s comment all I can say is duh. Of course the market for Garnett was deeper, hes a 6’10” monster and younger than Iverson was when he was on the market. Iverson is barely 5’11” in person and somehow keeps playing at a higher level while still getting older which I think solidifys him in the top spot.

May 8, 2008


Yeah I agree here
Iverson deserves a title more than anybody on the list. Iverson is just a fantastic player, if iverson were 5 or 6 inches taller he would probably be the best to have ever played the game, i mean just imagine that! but still being only 6 or 5’11 or 5’10 whatever u they say his height is, he has accomplished more than the foot taller Garnett. None of these guys are playing on their best level because they have already being playing for about 12 years each, so were not expecting them to just do magic like chris paul and dwight howard are doing, Chris Paul (allen iverson), dwight howard (kevin garnett). But still i think if Iverson gets a better team than the Nuggets, not saying they’re a bad team, but if he wants to win a title, they either have change the team, including the coach george karl which i think should not be coaching the nuggets next year, which apparently he is, or defenetly iverson has to be traded to a team that fits him better.

May 19, 2008


I can’t believe you left Paul Pierce off this list!!!!

He is right up there with Nowitzki. In my mind, he is top 10 player in the nba, better than Allen, obviously better than Chris Webber, Grant Hill????? Better than Brand, just as good as McGrady in my mind.

He’s one of the few nba players to have played his entire career with one team.
Look at his career stats, ELITE scorer.
2006- 27 ppg, 7 rpg, 6 apg
23 ppg average for career.

Leave a Comment

Featured Site