Ranking the Best Athletes Who Came Up Short

Nick DimengoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013

Ranking the Best Athletes Who Came Up Short

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    A little while back, I wrote about the biggest current winners we've seen in sports, with a list that included names like Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Tom Brady.

    With multiple rings to flash, they've solidified themselves among the elite athletes, all but guaranteeing their spots in the Hall of Fame.

    While the defining moment of a true champ is the amount of titles he or she wins, there have been plenty of athletes who still had illustrious careers and never actually won one.

    And that's who I'm ranking today, giving you the most successful careers that never could win the big one.

15. Kevin Durant (NBA)

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    Maybe it's still too early to put Kevin Durant on this list, but after being in the league now for six years, I think it's more than appropriate.

    Establishing himself as arguably the greatest scorer in the league right now, KD has the skill, drive and teammates around him to get a Larry O'Brien trophy, but thanks to that LeBron guy in 2012 and some bad luck this past postseason, he has yet to actually win one.

    Still just 24, he'll have plenty of opportunities to snag one but is currently the greatest player in the league without one.

14. Joe Thornton (NHL)

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    While I admit to not being the biggest of hockey fans, one guy who I even know has earned tons of admiration but has yet to win a Stanley Cup is the Sharks' Joe Thornton.

    After being selected as the No. 1 pick back in 1997, the big man has totaled 1,118 points, an Art Ross and Hart Trophy (2006), six All-Star nods and an Olympic gold medal with Canada (2010).

    With numbers like those, he could make a strong case as a Hall of Fame candidate, but a Cup title would almost make it a certainty.

13. Warren Moon (NFL)

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    Former quarterback Warren Moon may have helped transform the position, combining agility and rushing with an accurate arm, but he could never lead any of his teams to a Super Bowl appearance—though he did win five Grey Cup titles in the CFL.

    Throwing for over 50,000 yards—ranking him fifth on the all-time list—and earning nine Pro Bowls and an Offensive Player of the Year Award (1990), Moon finds himself in the Hall of Fame, but the illusive Super Bowl probably still haunts him.

12. Terrell Owens (NFL)

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    Say what you want about his antics, but during his 15-year NFL career, Terrell Owens proved to be one of the most physically imposing wide receivers to ever play the game.

    Finishing second all-time to former teammate Jerry Rice in career receiving yards, T.O. also sits sixth in career receptions and fifth in total touchdowns.

    Owens may have been a headache to some of his teammates, but he caused opponents some serious ones as well.

11. Alex Ovechkin (NHL)

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    Ever since coming into the league as the top pick in the '04 draft, the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin has been one of the best offensive players in the game.

    But while "Ovie" has collected five All-Star appearances and three league MVPs ('08, '09, '13), he has yet to take Washington to the promised land, failing to even get to a Cup Final in any of his eight seasons.

    Like the previously mentioned Thornton, Ovechkin is probably a Hall of Famer, but he'd love to add the title "Stanley Cup champion" to his resume as well.

10. LaDainian Tomlinson (NFL)

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    From 2001 until about 2008, there wasn't a better running back in all of football than LaDainian Tomlinson.

    Racking up nearly 12,000 yards in that time (and 13,684 in his career), "LT" was everyone's top fantasy football player for a long time.

    As a receiving threat, he caught more than 600 balls as well, while totaling 162 total career TDs (third best all-time).

    While he played in four postseasons with the Chargers and one more while with the Jets, Tomlinson never tasted what it was like to play in the Super Bowl.

9. Steve Nash (NBA)

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    It's hard to believe that as many solid individual and team seasons that Steve Nash has had, he's still never even played in an NBA Finals.

    Playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, in Phoenix with Amar'e Stoudemire and now with Kobe Bryant in L.A., you'd think that the two-time league MVP would have had plenty of chances of winning a title.

    But Nash's teams have failed to figure out the Spurs, as he's been bounced by the franchise seven times in his 12 playoff trips.

8. Ken Griffey Jr. (MLB)

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    As a kid of the '90s, there wasn't a brighter star in MLB than Ken Griffey Jr. during the entire decade.

    Captivating fans with an uncanny ability to not only crush the ball from the batter's box, but also robbing other players with sensational athleticism in center field, "Junior" has everything any ballplayer could ask for—well, except a title.

    His balls-to-the-wall style often led to injuries, costing both him and his teams from taking the step at playing in a World Series.

    Even though he hit 630 career homers, won 10 Gold Gloves and one AL MVP (1997), Griffey still counts himself among the greats without a championship.

7. Charles Barkley (NBA)

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    Thanks to his dominance on the glass, Charles Barkley may have earned the nickname "The Round Mound of Rebound," but he remains as one of the league's great players without a title.

    After a 16-year career that saw him win a MVP and get to the finals in the same season (1993), Barkley couldn't get past the Jordan-led Bulls in his only trip to the championship round.

    He may be a Hall of Famer and a gold medal-winning player ('92 Dream Team), but it was an NBA trophy that he could never grasp his hands around.

6. Barry Sanders (NFL)

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    Barry Sanders still remains as one of the most popular running backs in NFL history—as evidenced by his Madden cover win this year.

    As great as he was during his 10-year career, racking up more than 15,000 yards, never missing a Pro Bowl and winning a league MVP ('97), he never won more than just one playoff game in his five postseason trips.

    Retiring at the age of 30 (considered still in his prime), Sanders is an all-timer and Hall of Fame running back, he's just not a Super Bowl champ too.

5. Karl Malone and John Stockton (NBA)

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    Naturally, I couldn't separate one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history, so I just had to put Karl Malone and John Stockton together here.

    With their famous pick-and-roll, Stockton racked up a NBA record 15,806 career assists, while Malone was able to finish second on the all-time scoring list and capture himself a league MVP ('97).

    The two also played together on the '92 Dream Team that won gold in Barcelona, as well as in two NBA Finals, but that was their only taste at some glory, because they were never able to win an NBA championship.

4. Elgin Baylor (NBA)

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    As the No. 1 overall pick by the Lakers in 1958 (while still in Minneapolis), Baylor was always touted as being a star.

    Not disappointing on those expectations, he helped turn the then-beleaguered franchise around by leading them to the finals in his rookie year, and then again seven more times in his 13 total seasons.

    Averaging 27.4 points per game—good for fourth all-time—Baylor did all he could to try and win a title, but he could never get by the hated Celtics, as he found them winning seven of those eight total trips.

    Oddly enough, "Big E" retired just nine games into the '71-72 season, one in which the Lakers finally won a title.

3. Barry Bonds (MLB)

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    Look, I don't care for the guy—and there's obviously reasons to think twice about having him so high—but even if there is an asterisk on his career, Bonds remains one of baseball's greats.

    Leaving as the all-time home run king with 762 in his career and winning an unprecedented seven NL MVPs, Bonds did things that no one before him was able to do—but just never won a World Series.

    Sure, he was a huge jerk and may have cheated to get there, but as of right now his records still stand, so he has to be mentioned here.

2. Dan Marino (NFL)

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    Holding a number of NFL passing records when he called it quits, there might not be a more prolific passer than Dan Marino.

    But while all those yards were exciting to see, I'm sure Marino would trade most of them for a Super Bowl ring instead.

    Getting a sniff of the Big Game in just his second season (a loss to the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX), Marino probably thought he'd have plenty of chances to get one. But even after leading the Dolphins to the playoffs in 10 of 17 years, he never was able to play again on Super Bowl Sunday.

1. Ted Williams (MLB)

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    Considered by many to be one of the best hitters to ever play the game, Ted Williams may have hit at a .344 clip during his 19 seasons, but he never was able to reverse the curse and win a title for the Red Sox.

    With a couple AL MVPs and even two Triple Crowns to highlight his career, "Teddy Ballgame" had some serious career highlights, but with just one postseason appearance in which he hit just .200, he never even came close at winning a World Series.