Moments after LeBron James won the first title of his career earlier this summer, the whispers began: Who will be the next player to hoist the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time?
Titles don't necessarily define a career, but not having a ring is often considered a black mark on one's resume. Most of the all-time greats have at least one championship, yet some of the best players in the league today have yet to even appear in an NBA Finals.
So in the wake of the Miami Heat's championship victory, let's take a look at the five players most deserving of an NBA title.
After the mess that has been—and continues to be—the Dwight Howard saga, the 6'11" center will need to win a championship soon if he ever hopes to quiet the slander coming his way.
By all accounts, Howard is the best center on the planet: The six All-Star selections and five NBA All-Defensive team nods are proof of his ability. And after an NBA Finals trip in 2009, a ring for Howard seemed to be inevitable.
Three years later, the basketball world is still waiting for the self-proclaimed "Superman" to win something of note other than the league's dunk contest. As the NBA's most dominant big man, Howard has shown that he can take a team to the mountaintop—now, he just needs to prove that he can finish the job.
Unfortunately, Anthony is the cornerstone of a team that former head coach (and 11-time NBA champion) Phil Jackson called "clumsy," and it's clear that Anthony dominates the basketball, often to the detriment of his team.
That said, the 6'8" forward is a perennial All-Star and perhaps the best clutch shooter in the league today. Anthony has the talent to win a title, but after nine years, he has yet to find the situation and/or a coach that will help him reach that level.
If it weren't for a devastating knee injury, this very well could have been the year of the coronation of former MVP Derrick Rose.
The Chicago Bulls finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference for the second season in a row and appeared primed to face a Miami team that dispatched them in five games in the 2011 playoffs.
However, a torn ACL in Chicago's first playoff game this year ended any hopes for a Rose parade in the Windy City. But as long as the 23-year-old point guard can regain the form that he had prior to the injury, the "Madhouse on Madison" may soon be home to the NBA champions.
Kevin Durant's title will come—it's just a matter of when at this point.
"When" was almost last month: Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates were three victories away from winning the NBA championship this past June. And while they were ultimately defeated by the Miami Heat, the experience will likely motivate Durant and the rest of the Thunder to come back that much stronger next season.
At only 23 years old, Durant appears to be the next torchbearer for the Association once LeBron James decides to relinquish the honor. But don't be surprised if Durant captures another sort of honor before that happens: the title of NBA champion.
With two MVPs and eight All-Star nods to his credit, Steve Nash is arguably the best active player who has yet to win a title. In 16 seasons, Nash has yet to make a single trip to the NBA Finals, though he has led his team to the conference finals on four occasions.
Despite whether Nash ever wins a ring, he'll still be regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all time. That said, a championship does add a certain level of accomplishment to one's resume: With an NBA title, Nash could theoretically be considered one of the 30 best players in league history.