NBA: Top 5 Teams That Never Won a Championship
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Certain teams are remembered for how close they came to winning a title.
They craved it so badly and many believed they would get over the hump, but then an altercation took place, a referee intervened, or Michael Jordan simply got in the way.
Whatever the case, some teams were too good to have never raised a championship banner.
Here are the top-five teams that never won a championship.
5. The Late 1990's Indiana Pacers
Despite Reggie's heroics, they still couldn't beat Chicago.
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The Pacers of the late 1990's were a legitimately fearsome squad.
In 1998, Indiana battled Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls to a brutal seven-game Eastern Conference Finals series. They proved they were capable of dethroning the "Unbeata-Bulls."
This Indiana team was loaded -- with Reggie Miller cashing treys, Mark Jackson distributing, Rik Smits working the post, and a young Jalen Rose providing a spark off the bench.
Truthfully, not many teams had Jordan's Bulls on the ropes. In fact, in the Bulls championship seasons, they were only stretched to seven games twice ('92 against New York was the only other occasion).
It's safe to say the Pacers gave the Bulls all they could handle.
The Pacers also had chances in the seasons following 1997-1998.
Michael Jordan conveniently retired in 1998, but Indiana couldn't capitalize on his absence the following season. They were ousted in that lockout-shortened season by the New York Knicks.
The following year the Pacers did make it all the way to the NBA Finals before losing to Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Reggie and the Pacers were undoubtedly an elite team, but they hang in our memories as one of the greatest squads to never dangle a championship banner.
4. The 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns
Nash and Stoudemire made for a dynamic duo.
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The Steve Nash-to-Amar'e Stoudemire pick and roll combination was deadly, Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw provided versatility, and the speedy Leandro Barbosa was a blur to guard in the open floor.
This team won 61 regular season games and defeated Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers in the opening round of the playoffs.
Then came their controversial series against the San Antonio Spurs.
Late in game 4, San Antonio's Robert "Big Shot Bob" Horry steamrolled 2-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, sending Nash flailing into the scorer's table. Stoudemire and Diaw both left Phoenix's bench during the incident, but neither were malicious in their approach. They surely were not intending to throw any punches or place Horry in a headlock.
But based on the league's policies, Stoudemire and Diaw each received a 1-game suspension. Horry was banned for two games for the Spurs, but Stoudemire and Diaw were of much greater value to the Suns than Horry was to San Antonio.
With the series tied at two games a piece entering game 5, the Stoudemire and Diaw-less Suns lost and the Spurs suddenly captured the momentum. Phoenix gave San Antonio a battle in game 6, but it was too late. The Spurs won the series and eventually went to the NBA Finals, where they swept Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It's natural to presume that Phoenix would've won the championship if they would've gotten past San Antonio. And it's also natural to wonder if Phoenix would've won the championship had Stoudemire and Diaw never received suspensions.
Perhaps "the shot" Robert Horry laid on Steve Nash was the biggest shot that "Big Shot Bob" ever took.
3. The Late 1990's Utah Jazz
Malone and Stockton are two worthy NBA legends.
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Stockton to Malone -- two Hall of Famers whose names are practically said together.
In both the 1997 and 1998 playoffs, they looked fearless as they entered the NBA Finals.
This was particularly evident in 1998, when it seemed like the Bulls were vulnerable. Age was becoming a worry and the Bulls were transitioning to the Finals after a gruesome seven-game battle with Indiana.
The Jazz, on the other hand, had swept the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals and enjoyed some extra rest before gearing up for the NBA Finals.
People thought this would be the year that Michael Jordan would finally not reach the mountaintop. The mountain was too high, and the Jazz were too good.
Truthfully, the Jazz were a great team, but they were dealing with Michael Jordan. They won a nip and tuck game 5 that sent the series back to Utah for game 6 (and 7 if necessary).
The Jazz led late in game 6 when Jordan stripped Malone, setting up "the shot."
The rest is history.
John Stockton and Karl Malone are etched into the NBA record books and their names will always be remembered, but they unfortunately never reached the NBA pinnacle.
2. The Early 1990's New York Knicks
Patrick Ewing and the Knicks came close, but no cigar.
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The New York Knicks of the early 1990's were a hard-nosed bunch. They epitomized "big boy" basketball and had the organ at Madison Square Garden blaring.
In 1992, they took the Bulls to seven games before Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the rest of the Chicago gang waved goodbye. But the Knicks roared right back in 1993, staring down the Bulls with eager anticipation.
They snatched the first two games in New York and quickly hopped into the driver's seat. Then Chicago, as they typically did in the Jordan-era, stormed back -- winning four in a row to wave farewell once again to the pesky Knicks.
After the 1993 season, it was easy to wonder if Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and the Knicks could ever get past Jordan's Bulls. It was almost like they needed to catch a break. And they did.
Jordan bolted to play baseball prior to the 1993-1994 season, leaving the door wide open for prospective teams to notch a championship. The Knicks were poised to make this happen.
After narrowly escaping the Jordan-less Bulls (which testifies to the value of Scottie Pippen) and Indiana in two seven game series, they met Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the Finals.
New York let their best chance at a title slip away, losing in seven games to the defensive-minded Rockets.
The early 1990's Knicks were tough and fought tenaciously, but all their efforts came up just a hair short.
1. The 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings
C-Webb and the Kings were a dominant force in 2002.
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Out of all the teams that never won an NBA championship, this is the team that most deserved to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy.
The 2002 Western Conference Finals between Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers was a war.
The series see-sawed back and forth, going the full seven games and featuring some epic battles.
Robert Horry's buzzer-beating three in game 4 was undoubtedly the dagger for the Kings. If that shot missed, the Sacramento Kings would most likely have been NBA champions.
What makes the Kings seven-game series loss eerie are the allegations that have surfaced since.
It has been implied that game 6 was called by the referees in the Lakers' favor. If you watch a replay of that game, you definitely believe the said allegations are true. Vlade Divac would merely graze Shaquille O'Neal's jersey and they whistled him for a foul.
Be that as it may it is unfortunate that the Kings never raised a championship banner. They were a likable bunch. Chris Webber was in his prime. Mike Bibby and Peja Stojakovic provided range. Vlade Divac was an engaging personality and talented flopper. And Bobby Jackson and a young Hedo Turkoglu supplied production off the bench.
Plus, that cowbell-echoing Arco Arena was a madhouse and certainly made for a great small-market professional sports story.
Of all the teams mentioned, the 2002 Sacramento Kings stand out the most. They had all the talent, but unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.