Which NBA Teams Have Never Won a Championship?

Every year as April rolls around, the excitement begins as the NBA playoffs start. If you are a real basketball fan, and even more so, an NBA fan, then you know what I am talking about. The thrill of the playoffs is hard to match and there’s no doubt that the two teams that make it to the finals have earned their place in basketball history. Only one of those two teams can take home the trophy and claim the title of the NBA champion.

In the history of the NBA, 20 different teams or franchises have won the NBA Championship but there are 11 teams currently in the NBA that have never won the title. So, which NBA teams have never won an NBA championship?

My Personal Story

I have been a basketball fan ever since I can remember and I have followed the NBA since the late 70’s. I have seen the teams who have won multiple championships and the teams who have won only 1 or 2 titles. It must be a great feeling for both the players and the fans. For those who don’t get that experience, it can be the ultimate frustration.

I am a fan of one of those 11 teams that have never won the NBA Championship and I can tell you that as a fan it is very frustrating, so it must be even more frustrating to a player. My team, the Indiana Pacers, have made it all the way to the finals, only to lose in disappointing fashion. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy for them to make it there. Some teams have never even been to the finals. Which is worse, to make it there and lose or to never make it there at all?

From my experience, I can say that I was happier that my team finally made it there. While I was upset when they lost, I felt that they were truly one of the best teams that season and they deserved to be there. Even though they lost it was better than not making it there at all.

NBA Teams with No Rings

So, we know that there are 11 teams who have never won a title. Let’s take a look at the list of teams and see a couple of facts about each of them.

1. Indiana Pacers

  • They came from the old ABA where they won a league-best 3 ABA championships. At the time they may have been the best team in professional basketball and would have given the NBA champions of those years a true run for their money.
  • Reggie Miller led them to the NBA finals in 2000 only to be stopped by Shaq and Kobe as the modern Lakers dynasty was just getting underway.

2. Charlotte Hornets

  • They were an expansion team started in 1988 and then re-established again in 2004 as the Bobcats and then renamed as the Hornets once again in 2013.
  • They had some great teams in the 90’s. First with Larry Johnson and Alonso Mourning and then another resurgence with Glen Rice, Kenny Anderson and Muggy Bogues, but these teams could never seem to get by the Knicks and the Bulls.

3. Brooklyn Nets

  • Previously the New Jersey Nets and the New York Nets. This was another ABA team. They won 2 ABA championships lead by Julius “Dr. J” Erving.
  • Led by Jason Kidd in 2002 and 2003 the Nets made back-to-back NBA finals appearances but couldn’t overcome the Lakers or the Spurs.

4. Memphis Grizzlies

  • Another expansion team added to the NBA in 1988, they relocated to Memphis in 2001.
  • Their best chance may have been in 2011 when they upset the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs and made it all the way to the Western Conference finals where they lost to the OKC Thunder.

5. Utah Jazz

  • With John Stockton, Carl Malone and others, it’s hard to believe this team never got it’s NBA title, but they had the bad luck of peaking at the same time Michael Jordan came back to his usual level of dominance after taking a break to play baseball.
  • They made it to back-to-back finals in 1997 and 1998 and had a team that could have won it all if it weren’t for the final years of the Bull’s great dynasty.

6. Pheonix Suns

  • They first made it to the finals in 1976 and lost to the Boston Celtics.
  • They would reach the finals again in 1993 with a great team lead by Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson, but they were yet another victim of Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

7. New Orleans Pelicans

  • They were established in New Orleans in 2002 as the New Orleans Hornets and then became the Pelicans in 2012.
  • They have won one division title and made it to the playoffs 7 times with 2 playoff series wins but have never been to the finals. Maybe the addition of Zion Williamson will be that final piece they need to get them over the hump.

8. Los Angles Clippers

  • They were founded as an expansion team called the Buffalo Braves in 1970 and later became the Sandiego Clippers and then the LA Clippers.
  • The Clippers have had some nice teams in the last 10 years but they have never been able to get past the Western Conference Semi-Finals.

9. Denver Nuggets

  • The Nuggets made it to the ABA Championship in 1976, the last year of the ABA, but lost the New York Nets. Although they lost, this may have gotten them into the NBA.
  • Led by Chauncey Billups and Carmello Anthony, they reached the Western Conference finals in 2009, but couldn’t get past Kobe and the Lakers to reach the finals.

10. Orlando Magic

  • An expansion team started in 1989. Their success as an expansion team is second only to the Miami Heat.
  • They made the finals in 1995 with Shaq and Penny but lost to a great Houston Rockets team with Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. They made it back again with a whole new team in 2009 but lost to Kobe and the Lakers.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • The T-Wolves are another expansion team that was founded in the late 80’s (1989) and as with most expansions teams started out slow, but with the acquisition of Kevin Garnette in 1995, they made it to the playoffs 8 years in a row from 1997 – 2004.
  • In 2004 they made it to the Western Conference finals but were another one of the many victims to lose to the Lakers.

Note: You might think that the Oklahoma City Thunder is missing from this list. It is true they have not won while in Oklahoma City, but the franchise has won when they were in Seattle as the SuperSonics.

Final Words

Many of the teams on this list were very close to grabbing one of those NBA titles and some still have a way to go. If your team is on this list, I know it can be frustrating, but just think. The Toronto Raptors would have been on this list last year, but they are now the most recent NBA champs. You never know, maybe your team can do it this year.

What is your opinion on this list of teams? Which one do you think is the best team to have never won a championship? We’d love to hear from you, so please leave your comments if you would like.

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