The NBA is a league of champions. While every professional sport puts a large emphasis on winning it all, in the NBA is on an entirely different level. Legacy is incredibly important within the sport. So much so that having just one ring isn’t enough to make someone an all-time great.
Despite that, there are a few players who still get respect despite the fact that they never won the big one. This guide will cover each of them in detail, and show why, even without jewelry, they are still considered some of the best players of all time.
A Top Heavy League
Ask anyone around the NBA, and they’ll tell you just how much rings matter. Getting a championship isn’t just a big moment for a player, it helps cement their legacy. Just about every single hall of famer has at least one, with the all-time greats having three or more.
In most sports, one championship is enough to make someone great. The NBA, on the other hand, is a league where players have five, six, or even seven plus rings. The fact that the following players don’t have one and are still considered great is what makes them so special.
5. Dominique Wilkins
Known as the “Human Highlight Film,” Dominique Wilkings is undoubtedly one of the most skilled and exciting players to never win it all. In fact, he’s a special case because he didn’t just come up short, he never played in a Conference Finals.
The high-flying dunker makes this list because he notched nine all-star appearances in his career (the most for anyone without a Conference Finals trip), as well as two dunk contest wins, seven all-NBA teams, and two scoring titles.
His 47-point game in the 1988 Eastern Conference semis is also the second best such performance of all time.
4. Karl Malone
The 90’s had a ton of amazing big men, which is why so many people overlook Karl Malone. The Jazz Power Forward is a two-time MVP, 14-time All-Star, 11-time All-NBA first team selection, 30time All-NBA defensive first team selection, and two-time gold medalist.
That pedigree, on top of his incredible scoring and rebounding abilities, show how dominant he was in every facet of the game. He played in the league for more than 17 years and averaged 25 points per game while netting 10 rebounds a contest. Incredibly impressive in every way.
3. Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is perhaps the most well-known superstar without any rings. He’s a huge media personality now who, despite his drive and powerful athleticism, dominated the game at several levels. He was a great rebounder and scorer, who played in the NBA for 16 years.
He easily made the hall of fame despite not having a ring because, like Malone, his pedigree is so impressive. He went to 11 all star games, won the MVP in 1993, took home two gold medals, and made the All-NBA team 11 times. He also had the stats (22 ppg, 11 rpg) to back it up.
2. Allen Iverson
In a league of superteams and hall of fame rosters, Allen Iverson forged ahead on his own. The shifty point guard is one of the most famous ringless players ever, and for good reason. He was a strong player who put up stats each season despite having the deck stacked against him.
A.I never had an amazing supporting cast, nor did he get any other superstars to join his squad. Despite that, the hall of famer won an MVP award, four scoring titles, played in 11 all star games, made 7 All NBA teams, had his jersey retired, and led the league in steals 3 times.
In addition, he still has the second highest average playoff scoring (29.7) in NBA history and is the only rookie to score 40 or more points in 5 straight games. He was a force who could have joined other greats to win one, but just never did.
1. John Stockton
As great as Karl Malone was, his teammate is the greatest NBA player to never win a ring. While he didn’t have the MVPs or the first team appearances, Stockton was a machine.
The point guard played in 10 NBA All-Star games, made five-time All-NBA Defensive second team, got selected to 11 All NBA teams, won two gold medals, and did so while averaging 13.1 points and 10.5 assists per game.
On top of that, his stats are still unmatched to this day. He’s the all time leader in steals by more than 100, and he’s first in assists by a mindblowing 3,715 ahead of second place. Those are two records that aren’t just great. They’ll likely never be touched.
As the above sections show, players don’t need a whole collection of rings to be in the all-time greats conversation. While you’ll never see any of those names in the top ten due to their lack of championships, they still were exceptional players in their own right with a ton of skill.