If LeBron James Wins NBA Title, Who Becomes the Best Player with No Ring?

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2012

If LeBron James Wins NBA Title, Who Becomes the Best Player with No Ring?

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    With LeBron James and the Miami Heat on the verge of winning the 2012 NBA Championship, James (and Chris Bosh, for that matter) is on the verge of winning his first ring.

    As his first title comes, LeBron officially gets to knock his own name off one of the most dubious lists in sports: the best players to never win a title.

    He can officially say he's not Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton, George Gervin, Pistol Pete, or Elgin Baylor.

    Of course, the only difference between those guys and LeBron is that LeBron is still playing, which means he's had a shot to take his name off that list for the past nine years.

    However, there are still a handful of players currently playing in the NBA who don't have that pretty bit of gold wrapping any of their fingers.

    So, let's take a look at which NBA players—should LeBron finally get his ring—will be officially jostling for the coveted "Best Active Player Without a Ring" trophy.

    It seem wise here to take into account not only how good the players currently are, but what the scope of their careers mean from a basketball standpoint.

15. Jason Richardson

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    Jason Richardson spent his career as a middle-class man's Tracy McGrady, using his elite-level athleticism to get on all the highlight reels and his scoring ability on into the later stages of his career to continue to be a big part of team's offenses.

    Richardson has been a part of some great teams in his career, from the giant-killing 2007 Golden State Warriors, the fleet-footed 2010 Phoenix Suns who made it to the Western Conference Finals and the past two Orlando Magic teams, good playoff teams in their own right, but that title has been ever so elusive.

    For what he's done in his career, which may not be quite Hall of Fame worthy, he deserves at least a mention on this list.

14. Michael Redd

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    While his career may not have gone the same path due to some injuries, for a while there Michael Redd looked to be the closest thing to Ray Allen we had in the league.

    He was always a great three-point shooter, and as a shooting guard who was able to run his team and be the threat that he was, Redd was one of the best players in the league for a good five-year span.

    What is is about Ohio State's best players ending up in a hospital gown more often than a basketball jersey? 

    Hopefully he'll continue to be used as a three-point specialist while he winds down his career and shoots for a ring.

13. Vince Carter

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    As of 2001 there was nobody in the NBA more exciting than Vince Carter. Well, I guess you could make an argument for Allen Iverson, but Carter was the king of the mountain when it came to putting on a show whilst in mid-air.

    Vince was dunking with his elbow, flipping the ball between his legs and doing things nobody had seen before with relative ease. The only problem is that he was never as fierce a competitor on the floor in real games as he was in getting the crowd off their feet.

    He's still got a chance to gobble up a ring, but the odds are rapidly starting to dim.

12. Tracy McGrady

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    If we had Vince Carter on the list you know we had to throw cuz on here as well.

    Everything Carter wasn't, Tracy McGrady was—and then some—while still being a freak of an athlete. He was a much better competitor than Carter ever was, and while he never made it past the first round of the playoffs, he's always been one of the more intriguing players in the game.

    He may never get his ring, but he'll always be an important part of basketball history.

11. Andre Miller

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    Is it possible Andre Miller was a better player than both Vince Carter and Tracy McGrady in his years as a whole? If we're talking about player's peaks, then no, but over the course of his career Miller has been one of the most underrated basketball players of this generation.

    Sure, Miller's career numbers are rather pedestrian with just 14 points and seven assists per game, but he's so much more than his numbers. He's one of the game's smartest players, able to run any offense given to him, and his defense tends to go the same way.

    He may not have that one standout season, but he does have the 10th-most assists in NBA history—that's got to count for something.

10. Deron Williams

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    He's only been in the NBA for seven years, but people started to point out LeBron James' lack of a title seven years into his career, so why not do the same for Deron Williams?

    Williams has laid a claim a time or two to be considered the best point guard in the NBA, but he has been knocked back whenever that claim comes to light.

    Still, it can't be denied that Williams is one of the four best point guards of the past half-decade, and that's got to be worth something here.

9. Joe Johnson

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    Joe Johnson was always on a team too early in the beginning of his career before he came to a Hawks team that was always doomed to playoff mediocrity.

    Johnson arrived in Boston right in 2001 but was traded before the team went into the playoffs and made its run to the Eastern Conference finals. It's a shame, too, for if the Celtics kept him they could have gone even further when he blossomed in the following seasons.

    He was only with the Suns for one of their deep playoff runs (although it was their run to the Western Conference finals in 2005) before he jumped to Atlanta for some bigger bucks and the chance to rule his own keep.

    Finally in Atlanta, the Hawks and Johnson were always close to being an elite team, but just never turned the corner.

    He's still relatively young, but his days of being the best player on a good playoff team seem to be ending.

8. Amar'e Stoudemire

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    The man with the glass knees, the glass eyes—hell, the glass everything—is still chasing that first ring, and he seems to be in a place that will love him eternally if he brings it home.

    With the Knicks, Amar'e Stoudemire could become a legend if he helps bring home the first title since 1973 in New York alongside Carmelo Anthony and the man simply known as Linsanity.

    The only problem is that Amar'e still seems to be more fragile than not, so who knows how long his body can hold up under the pressure of the NBA?

7. Grant Hill

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    If someone were to put a few players on a short list of guys who deserve to win an NBA title by the time they finish off their careers, it's hard to say Grant Hill would be left off that list.

    Basically, Hill went from being the next big thing, rocking the Filas, and just being a cool dude in general, to completely breaking down. He was injured for the better part of five seasons in Orlando and he just couldn't stay healthy.

    Never fear, however—Hill kept working to get his body in shape, turned himself into an elite defender who could score if he was asked to and reeled off four straight seasons with Phoenix playing at least 70 games.

6. Derrick Rose

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    Derrick Rose has only been in the league since 2008, but already his career is important enough to rocket him up this list.

    In four short years Rose has gone from rookie point guard with dreams of bringing his hometown team back to glory to an MVP-winning behemoth who can't be stopped by even the best defenders in the league.

    Are there players with more storied careers than Rose who haven't won a title? Sure. Is it more or less inevitable that this dude gets a handful of chances before he retires? Absolutely. For now here he sits, though, dreaming and wanting.

5. Kevin Durant

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    Kevin Durant, much like Derrick Rose, has spent just a few short years in this league, but already he's carved his name into NBA lore.

    Durant is a three-time scoring champion, the guy that brought basketball to its popularity in Oklahoma City (and the best basketball player in the history of the town, even if he was a damned, dirty Longhorn) and is looking like the most beloved player in the game today.

    He's just now seeing his first NBA Finals (yea, it took him a whole five seasons—what's up with that?), and it's looking like he'll see many more.

4. Chris Paul

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    The guy that many people believe to be the best point guard in the NBA is looking to be in great shape to win a title over the course of the next decade, especially with the team of fledgling All-Stars that flanks him.

    Chris Paul is given the unenviable task of getting rid of the depressed feeling out of Staples Center whenever the marquee flashes "Clippers" instead of "Lakers," but that's something he can hang his hat on if he can do it.

    Paul has been the best point guard in the NBA over the past five seasons (subjectively), leading the league in assists twice in that time period and four times in steals. That's some impressive stuff right there.

3. Carmelo Anthony

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    Carmelo Anthony is looking to be the last player drafted in the top five of the 2003 NBA draft to get a ring (dude, even Darko Milicic beat you!).

    However, that doesn't mean he's completely out of luck and out of time.

    Anthony is in a good situation as it sits right now, riding the wave of a pretty good playoff team that needs a few tweaks but still has a chance to become a great team.

    He's had a great career up to this point; he only needs a title to really put a cap on it all. 

2. Dwight Howard

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    Dwight Howard has become the best center of this generation of basketball players (the one that came after Shaq, that is) as he hasn't even been rivaled at least in the past five years until this year.

    Howard sits as a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a four-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team and a five-time member of the All-NBA first team.

    With those credentials, it's hard to imagine what player outranks him in both historic meaning to the NBA and current impact on the league.

1. Steve Nash

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    C'mon now, Steve Nash is not only a great point guard of the past, he's also a great point guard of the presence.

    The best example of Nash's greatness over the course of his career comes from 2004 when he was looking for a new contract with the Dallas Mavericks. Nash was offered a five-year, $65 million deal by Phoenix, a number Mark Cuban refused to match, thinking he would be too old by the end of that contract to be worth it.

    Here we are, two MVP Awards (deserving or not), five years as the league leader in assists and five years shooting 50-40-90 later, and Nash is still going strong at the age of 37.

    At this point Nash looks like he could keep going for another five years. I wonder if Mark Cuban would be willing to sign that deal at this point?


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