Dirk Nowitzki‘s scalding destruction of the Thunder last night was one of the best shooting performances in NBA history. It was so good, Dirk had people suddenly vaulting him into the discussion with the best players ever. While Nowitzki will ultimately be considered one of the 20 best players in the game’s history, he needs a capper. He needs that ring. That way when he walks into a room, Barkley and Malone and Reggie all have to shut up. Amazing right?
Does he get it this year? It might be the last time he ever gets this close as the general of a team. For now, not including Dirk, here are the 10 best players ever who have no jewelry to show for their overall awesomeness.
Besides Dirk, I left some players out who ran all over the ABA (Artis Gilmore) for much of their career, guys who are still active and young (LeBron James) and even one player who is slightly overrated (Reggie Miller).
If he never wins a ring, where would Dirk fall on this list?
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10. Adrian Dantley
No one had worse luck than Dantley. He basically got screwed out of two championships (leaving both teams just before they won it all), one with the Pistons and one early in his career with the Lakers. He also missed out on another title with Detroit by one game in 1988. True, some of it was his fault. He wasn’t the easiest guy to play with. But he twice led the league in scoring at over 30 a game, was a six-time All-Star, won the Rookie of the Year and put up some wild postseason lines (like the 32, eight and four he averaged in 1984). If you want to talk career numbers, check these out: 24.3 ppg, 54 percent from the field, 82 percent from the line. Machine.
9. Alex English
English had a run in 1985 with Denver to the Western Conference Finals. They couldn’t beat the Lakers that year, but it wasn’t English’s fault. The dude went for over 30 points and nearly seven rebounds and five assists a game during that 15-game sprint. In a career that spanned eight All-Star games and three years on the All-NBA Second Team, English never got any closer to winning it all.
8. George Gervin
One of the game’s all-time great players to never play in a NBA Finals. Gervin averaged 27 a night for his playoff career, and had a few playoff seasons where he dropped well over 30 points a game. The Ice Man lost two straight years in the conference finals to the Lakers during the early 1980’s, and was one game away from the Finals in 1979, before losing on the road in Washington by just two.
7. Dominique Wilkins
In the 1980’s, ‘Nique and Atlanta weren’t friends with the playoffs. They were solid, and Wilkins was perhaps the third-best offensive player in that decade. But the teams they had were stuck in neutral, first-round fodder nearly every season. Historically, Wilkins had one of the worst postseason careers ever if judging by wins. He won just three playoff series for his entire career. But, ‘Nique gets extra points for his second round Game 7 duel with Larry Bird in 1988 (the closest he ever came to a title).
6. Patrick Ewing
Ewing probably still watches old MJ tapes, weeping when they show the baseline dunk, shaking his head when he sees the blown 2-0 series lead and balling when he realizes the terrible timing he had. Ewing had a run in the 1990’s with nine consecutive seasons averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds. Every year was going to be the year New York finally won it all. It never happened. A big man who could shoot, finish inside and set records for most amount of perspiration created? It still doesn’t make any sense how they never won.
5. Allen Iverson
Back in 2001, AI was taking over. He had Philly in the Finals, was 25 years old with an MVP and the landscape of the NBA was changing. But Iverson never got close again. He struggled to fit in, and in turn caused GMs to constantly rotate the players around him. Very few learned to play, and win, with him. 2001 was like a perfect storm, a combustible mix of crazy and fundamental that was too hard to replicate.
4. John Stockton
Stockton played so hard all the time that what you saw in November was what you would get in May. That hurt him. With no extra gear to press in the playoffs (his regular season-to-playoff splits are almost weirdly identical), Stockton constantly came up short. In fact, it wasn’t until he began to decline that the Jazz finally made the Finals. Everyone knew exactly what they would get out of him in the playoffs (13 and 10 averages), which went both ways.
3. Charles Barkley
Physically, one of the most destructive forces ever, Barkley ended up playing on a lot of average teams. His Philly teams were good, but definitely couldn’t beat Detroit and later Chicago. In Phoenix, they had one surprise run. Besides that, nothing. Later in his career, somehow his years in Houston were disappointments even though he was teaming with a bunch of vets who combined for like 500 years of NBA service. For once, we don’t have to blame MJ (even though Air did take him out in 1993). Chuck just never really had many opportunities.
2. Karl Malone
Was Malone ever really on a team that was good enough to win a title? His Jazz teams that made the Finals were very good. But more than likely, they finally got there just because the West was so down. For his career, Malone was on consistently good Utah teams that couldn’t ever do anything in the playoffs. 11 consecutive seasons they made the playoffs, and it wasnt until the Mailman was 33 years old did they finally break through. It wasn’t really his fault; Malone scored nearly 5,000 career points in the playoffs, a career on its own. And if he didn’t get hurt in the 2004 Finals against Detroit, who knows? Maybe Malone finally would’ve won the jewelry then.
1. Elgin Baylor
It doesn’t make any sense how someone can be this good, and yet never find a way to win a ring. His career scoring average is higher than Kobe‘s, Shaq‘s, even the Answer’s. He made eight NBA Finals, more than Malone, Barkley, Stockton, Iverson, Wilkins, Gervin and English combined. He had a four-year run in the playoffs where his worst averages were 32.6 points and 13.6 rebounds. Imagine if Baylor had won in just half of those eight trips to the Finals?
If Dirk never wins a ring, where would he rank?
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