In the world of professional sports, there are several players who seem to suffer from being "a bridesmaid," as they say. They have incredible skills, everyone thinks they’re an amazing player, they become absolute legends in the sports world… yet, for whatever reason, that championship title always seems to elude them.
Some of the greatest athletes have the misfortune of being overshadowed by specific once-in-a-lifetime athletes who basically hog all the championships for themselves. Other athletes are just part of an organization that doesn’t really know how to use their talents, and could very well have won championships had they been on different teams. And, of course, sometimes it’s just pure bad luck.
What makes a great athlete is often subjective. Sure, something like pure skill can be somewhat assessed, but at the end of the day there will always be disagreements about who should have won a championship, and who simply didn’t deserve one and therefore never got one throughout their career.
Here are 10 of the greatest athletes who just never managed to snag that championship. We’re not saying it haunts them, but they probably stare at those victory pictures where athletes hold up the cup, or flash their championship ring, and wish they could have had that moment.
10 Patrick Ewing
Seven foot center Patrick Ewing, or ‘Big Pat’ as he was often known, was a huge part of the New York Knicks’ history – he played for them for 15 years, nearly his entire pro career! Ewing was hugely talented, racking up the points season after season, and though he made it to the NBA Finals with his team twice (1994 and 1999) he never managed to get that championship title.
Ewing’s skill is indisputable, and he was even inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2008. Why didn’t he get a championship? Well, he played during a time where there was a certain pretty skilled player by the name of Michael Jordan who won six championship titles within eight years. Sure, Ewing’s career was longer than eight years, but we can’t help but wonder if he would have won a couple if MJ hadn’t been dominating the sport at the time.
9 Barry Bonds
Barry Bonds is a baseball icon, and when he finally hung up his bat and retired, he was MLB’s all-time leader in home runs. He’s a bit of a controversial figure due to the steroid scandal that took over his career towards the end of it, but at the end of the day, his stats sheet is absolutely insane.
Over the course of his career he won endless titles and set endless records: 8 Golden Glove wins for NL Outfielder, 12 Silver Slugger wins for NL Outfielder, a 14-time All-Star… the accolades go on and on. He has been one of the biggest names associated with baseball since Babe Ruth, yet he never managed to snag that championship.
8 Ted Williams
As he is often referenced by his nickname, “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” it’s easy to see that Ted Williams is considered a tremendous athlete, and one of the greatest hitters (surprise!) to have ever played the sport of baseball. Williams, who played for the beloved Boston Red Sox for nearly his entire career, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility and also had 19 All-Star titles to his name. He’s played on MLB’s All-Century and All-Time teams, and has even had his jersey number retired by the Red Sox.
Despite all of this, he never won a championship, only making it to the World Series once. Williams was playing in a specific historical time and actually took several years away from baseball to serve in the military during the Korean War and World War II. Who knows – had he played all through his prime years, he very well may have gotten at least one championship.
7 Randy Moss
Simply put, Randy Moss is acknowledged to be one of the best wide receivers of all time. Throughout his 14 year NFL career, he broke records in pretty much every receiving category there was. He’s bounced around from team to team, playing with the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers throughout his NFL years.
He’s set countless records including most yards received in a Pro Bowl game, youngest player to ever have his 100th receiving touchdown, most receiving yards before 30, fastest player to reach 5,000 career receiving yards, and more. However, despite showing up to the big game twice, he never managed to get that Super Bowl ring.
6 Karl Malone
Power forward Karl “The Mailman” Malone spent nearly his entire career with the Utah Jazz as one half of the power duo with his team mate, John Stockton. A 14-time NBA All-Star and two-time MVP, Malone also holds records for the second most career points in NBA history.
It’s pretty clear that he’s an incredible athlete, and after failing to snag that championship title with the Jazz, he hopped over to the Los Angeles Lakers for a year towards the end of his career. He wanted that championship badly, but it just didn’t work out. Though the lack of championships may bother Malone, no one doubts that he was an amazing baller.
5 Tony Gonzalez
Former tight end Tony Gonzalez is one of the clearest examples of an individual superstar who never quite manages to get on the right team. Throughout his illustrious career, which stretched over a decade in total, Gonzalez split his time between the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
He’s one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history, and he definitely shone in individual plays with those teams, but neither of them were too successful when it came down to the playoffs. He finally retired in 2013, never having gotten his hands on that Lombardi Trophy.
4 Champ Bailey
Champ Bailey is one of the more recently retired athletes on this list, as he was playing just last year. This cornerback made 12 Pro Bowl appearances, consequently setting the record for the most Pro Bowl appearances by a cornerback, ever. His skills are unparalleled and he definitely made his mark on the NFL in his 15 year career.
Sadly, he never quite snagged himself a Super Bowl ring. He was always a phenomenal individual on whatever team he played for, but his team didn’t advance to the Super Bowl until nearly the end of his career. During Super Bowl XLVIII, Bailey showed up with the Denver Broncos to face off against the Seattle Seahawks… and we all know how that went.
3 Alexander Ovechkin
Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most talented hockey players in the NHL right now, and the once first-overall Draft selection has earned countless accolades throughout his career thus far. He’s played throughout the NHL and internationally as part of the Junior National Team and Russian World Juniors Championship team in his youth.
Despite his obvious individual skill, as part of the Washington Capitals, he’s never managed to get his hands on that Stanley Cup. However, Ovie still has at least a few years left in his career, so fingers crossed that he’ll manage to win at least one championship before his retirement.
2 Dan Marino
Dan Marino is one of the best examples of ‘always a bridesmaid, never a bride’ in the sporting world. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL, in spite of his failure to ever win a Super Bowl. Superstar quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre may have shattered some of Marino’s records in the past decade since his 1999 retirement, but Hall of Famer Marino still holds countless records related to his position.
He spent his entire NFL career with the Miami Dolphins, and while he definitely racked up some accolades with the team (he was their MVP for nearly every season, 12 in total) we can’t help but wonder if he would’ve gotten a bit more glory had he played with a few more teams during his career.
1 Steve Nash
Everyone who knows basketball knows Steve Nash, and he’s definitely a tremendously skilled athlete. His accolades include everything from two time NBA MVP to eight time NBA All-Star to two time NBA Skills Challenge champ and many more. He’s earned countless awards and acknowledgements for his individual skills, but when it comes down to the team, despite being a fantastic team player who always brings out the best in his team mates, he just never got that final championship win.
He finally retired in 2015 after nearly 20 years in the NBA. He hasn’t made his retirement plans too clear yet, but perhaps Nash will go on to help coach a championship winning team and manage to get his hands on the championship trophy that way.