Winning an NBA championship is the height of any basketball player’s dream, but of course, only the best and brightest in the sport can achieve the feat. In fact, it’s an unfortunate reality that many of basketball’s most amazing talents are unable to experience the thrill of slipping that symbolic piece of NBA metal onto their ring finger.
Many factors can contribute to an outstanding player being unable to hoist a championship trophy throughout his entire career. In some cases, players aren’t given a strong enough supporting cast of teammates. For others, the domination of particular teams during certain eras left most other contenders watching the championship ceremonies from their TVs at home. (Examples of such displays of dominance include those of the Celtics of the 60’s, the Lakers of the 80’s and early 2000’s, and the Bulls of the 90’s). Then, there are also those players who somehow seem to have been cursed to never win the NBA’s top prize, despite coming oh-so-close several times.
But before we pity these players, let’s not forget that during their careers, they’ve earned money most of us will never get to see in our lifetime.
Here are ten NBA players who were unfortunate never to have won an NBA championship, but nevertheless made millions playing the sport they loved. This list is based on players’ current net worth values.
10. Allen Iverson (1996-2010) – Net Worth: $-1 Million
Anyone who earned the Associated Press High School Player of the Year Award in both basketball and football after winning the Division AAA Virginia state championship in both sports is likely to turn out to be a very special professional athlete. In the case of Allen Iverson, he chose to stick with basketball in college, where his play resulted in him being the #1 overall draft pick of the 1996 NBA Rookie Draft.
During his NBA career, Iverson would win the Rookie of the Year Award, the All-Star Game MVP award in 2001 and 2005, the scoring title in four different seasons (1999, 2001, 2002, 2005) and the 2001 Most Valuable Player Award. Unfortunately, upon announcing his retirement from professional basketball in October of 2013, Iverson still didn’t have an NBA title in his list of accomplishments.
“The Answer” was actually three games away from an NBA championship ring during his MVP season in 2001 when he was able to bring the 76ers up 1-0 in the best-of-7 finals against the Lakers. Sadly, that would be the last game Iverson would win that season, as the lack of support from his teammates caused Philadelphia to be crushed 4-1 in that series. His financial troubles have put him in hot water as he declared bankruptcy in 2012 despite having earned $155 million in salary (not including endorsements) over the course of his career.
9. Walk Bellamy (1961-75) Net Worth: Unknown
Walt Bellamy is the only player from his era to make it to this list, but with his amazing NBA stats, he definitely deserves his spot here. After being the starting center on the gold-medal winning USA Basketball Team in the 1960 Summer Olympics, Walt was picked first overall in the 1961 rookie draft. He would justify the Chicago Packers’ choice by averaging 31.6 points and 19 rebounds per game on his way to being named the 1962 Rookie of the Year. In fact, in his maiden year, he put up a 23-point, 17-rebound performance during the NBA All-Star Game.
Bellamy ended his NBA career with 20,941 points and 14,241 rebounds, stats that would allow him to be named to the Hall of Fame in 1993. However, he was never able to add “NBA Champion” to his list of achievements as the Boston Celtics blocked his path many times.
Walt passed away on November 2, 2013 at 74 years of age.
8. Dominique Wilkins (1982-99) – Net Worth: $14 Million
Known as “The Human Highlight Film” because of his breathtaking dunks, Dominique Wilkins unfortunately never won an NBA championship and in fact never even made an appearance in the finals. However, he makes it to this list by virtue of his amazing scoring ability, which allowed him to be named the NBA scoring champion of 1986.
Another of Wilkins’ achievements is that he was able to defeat one of the all-time greats, Michael Jordan, in a dunking competition, a feat he accomplished in the 1985 Slam Dunk Contest. He would also later win the 1990 edition of the event.
In total, Wilkins registered 26,688 points and 7,169 rebounds in his NBA career, where he played 11 years with the Atlanta Hawks and also had brief stays with the Clippers, the Celtics, the Spurs, and the Magic. Outside of the NBA, Wilkins also played in Greece (1995-1996) and Italy (1997-1998). It was actually in Greece where he would pick up his only championships (the Greek Cup Championship and the Euroleague Championship of 1996).
Despite being retired for 11 years, Wilkins teamed up with Chris Bosh and Swin Cash to win the 2013 Shooting Stars Competition.
7. Charles Barkley (1984-2000) – Net Worth: $15 Million
Charles Barkley isn’t nicknamed “Sir Charles” for nothing. Despite having never won a championship, he’s clearly an NBA legend, an honor that was formalized when he was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006.
One factor that makes Barkley’s career so awesome is that he was known as “The Round Mound of Rebound”, a name bestowed upon him because of his hefty frame and the fact that he stood only 6-feet, 6-inches, short for a power forward. What Chuck lacked in height, however, he made up for in toughness as he often out-rebounded players much taller than him through his boxing-out and court-positioning skills.
For his efforts, Barkley was awarded the 1993 MVP Award, thereby denying Michael Jordan his third straight MVP trophy. Mike would get his revenge, however, by beating Barkley and the Suns in the finals that year, in effect denying the two-time Olympic gold medalist from getting his ring. Barkley’s net worth would be higher were it not for his reputed gambling problems.
6. John Stockton (1984-2003) – Net Worth: $20 Million
As a result, Stockton holds the record for the highest assists-per-game average in one season (14.5 in 1990) and is one of only three players to have made at least 1,000 assists in a single season. In fact, the mild-mannered player accomplished the feat in seven different seasons. Actually, to this day, Stockton holds the record for the most career assists (15,806 – an average of 10.5 per game) and steals (3,265), no one even coming close to those numbers.
Unfortunately, despite winning two gold medals for the United States and making it to the finals in consecutive years (1997 and 1998), the 10-time NBA All-Star never won a championship. The Jazz were foiled both times by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.
5. Patrick Ewing (1985-2002) – Net Worth: $45 Million
During the 1985 NBA Rookie Draft, which was the first time that the league instituted the lottery system, there were allegations that then NBA commissioner David Stern rigged the draw to ensure that New York would have the first pick in the draft. But what for? The answer: Patrick Ewing.
As expected, the Knicks picked the 7-foot Jamaican-American, and he won Rookie of the Year honors. However, New York still ended that season with a miserable 23-59 record, despite their prized acquisition. Things would change though in 1988 when Ewing, supported by point guard Mark Jackson, made it to the playoffs. The team would continue to improve, and finally in 1994 Ewing brought the Knicks to their first NBA finals since 1973. The team would, however, lose to Houston in Game 7 of their championship series, denying Ewing his ring. He would never make it to the NBA finals again after that.
Nevertheless, being an 11-time All-Star, winning two Olympic gold medals, and being one of the most sought-after players of his era, Ewing certainly has a lot to be proud of.
4. Tracy McGrady (1997-2013) – Net Worth: $75 Million
T-Mac is a seven-time NBA All-Star and a two-time scoring champion (2003 and 2004). However, it looked like Tracy McGrady was never even going to get to play in an NBA final when, during the 2012-2013 NBA season, he decided to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, where his team finished in last place despite McGrady averaging 25 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. McGrady would get another chance at NBA glory, however, when he was hired by the Spurs to play for them in the 2013 playoffs, after McGrady’s stint in China.
It looked like T-Mac was finally going to get his championship ring when in Game 6 of the finals against the Miami Heat, San Antonio had a 5-point lead with only 28 seconds remaining. The contest would’ve been a title-winning game for the Spurs, but unfortunately, the Heat came back to win the game and sealed the deal in the decisive seventh game of the series.
McGrady announced his retirement from the NBA in August of 2013, but said he was still open to playing basketball overseas.
3. Dikembe Mutombo (1991-2009) – Net Worth: $75 Million
Dikembe Mutombo actually attended college in Georgetown University on a USAID scholarship and intended to become a doctor, but the college’s basketball coach recruited him to play hoops. The sport turned the 7-foot, 2-inch behemoth into a shot-blocking machine and would make him the fourth overall pick by the Denver Nuggets in the 1991 NBA draft.
In his career, Mutombo would claim four Defensive Player of the Year Awards and collect the second most blocks of all time behind only Hakeem Olajuwon. However, despite two appearances in the NBA finals, he has never able to win an NBA championship ring, the Lakers and the Spurs blocking his path in those two chances.
In the 2009 NBA playoffs, Mutombo suffered a knee injury that would force him into retirement. However, his heroics didn’t end with his sports career. After amassing millions from his basketball salary, Mutombo has tirelessly worked on humanitarian efforts to improve living conditions in his native Democratic Replublic of Congo. In fact, in 2004, he was elected as one of the 20 recipients of the President’s Service Awards, Amercia’s highest honour for volunteer service.
2. Karl Malone (1985-2004) – Net Worth: $75 Million
Karl Malone is perhaps the most regretful entry in this list as he had three finals appearances but failed to capitalize on any of those chances. In 1997 and 1998, as part of the Utah Jazz, “The Mailman” couldn’t deliver a title against the Bulls. Then, in his last season in 2004, Malone joined the Lakers, who, with the addition of Gary Payton, were the prohibitive favourites to win the title. Unfortunately, Karl sprained his knee and played injured in Games 1-4 of the finals. Then, he missed Game 5 entirely, and the Lakers couldn’t get it done against the Pistons, causing Malone to lose his last chance at a title.
The failure to win an NBA championship is disappointing considering that Malone was otherwise so accomplished in his career. He won two Olympic gold medals for the United States, was an NBA All-Star 14 times and was named the NBA All-Star Game MVP in 1989 and 1993. Most of all, Karl was recognized as the NBA’s most valuable player in 1997 and 1999.
That lack of a championship certainly tainted the big man’s career sheet, but he was still deservingly inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. His career pay of $104 million wasn’t such a bad consolation prize either.
1. Reggie Miller (1987-2005) – Net Worth: $90 Million
Reggie Miller probably has millions of fans, but it’s not very likely that the New York Knicks players of his era are among those admirers. Nicknamed “Knick Killer”, Miller made some mind-blowing three-pointers in several high-pressure situations against the Pacers’ main rivals during the era. Those daggers were part of Miller’s 2,560 career three pointers, a number that has since been eclipsed by Ray Allen, but at the time of Miller’s retirement was still a record.
In his nearly two decades in the NBA, however, Miller only once made a trip to the finals, the Pacers losing to the Lakers in 2000. Things could’ve been different, though, had Miller considered the offer to come out of retirement to play a supporting role in the newly revamped Boston Celtics of 2007. The team had just acquired Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play with longtime-Celtic Paul Pierce, and Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers felt that Miller’s long-range shooting would’ve been an asset.
Well, Reggie said no, and Boston won a championship in 2008.
He may have lost his chance at a championship ring, but that didn’t prevent Miller from a place in the Hall of Fame; he was inducted to the prestigious club in 2012.
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