Kobe Bryant may be able to polish his five NBA championship rings in his spare time, but plenty of NBA superstars still don't have any championship jewelry for their fingers.
It's certainly not for lack of effort—guys like LeBron James, Jason Kidd and Dirk Nowitzki have seen the NBA Finals, but couldn't ultimately cash in.
And it's certainly not a lack of talent—every player on this list should have a strong argument for entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame by the time his playing career is finished, barring injury.
Phil Jackson, he of the 11 NBA titles, will warn anyone that winning an NBA title is as much about luck as anything. When push came to shove, these 10 guys couldn't get lucky when it counted.
The players listed here are ranked based on three categories: talent, tenure and team. If a player's only been in the league for five years, or he has only been the one superstar on an awful team, it's not a huge surprise that he's ring-less. If he's been in the league for over a decade and been on 50-win teams every season, it's a little more shocking.
With that in mind, check out the top 10 players that enter the 2010-11 season without an NBA championship.
On talent alone, Paul deserves higher than being called the 10th best player in any NBA list. Then again, consider his Hornets team throughout his career. Is it any surprise he has only gone deep into the playoffs once?
In that magical 2007-08 season, the Paul-David West-Tyson Chandler trio was firing on all cylinders, as the Paul-to-Chandler alley-oop became a nightly highlight reel. West was busy averaging 20-9 the whole season.
But, much like 'Melo and the Nuggets the next season, the Hornets started slipping after their 2008 trip to the Western Conference Finals and haven't recovered since.
With Paul, a nightly 20-point, 10-assist player who could lay legitimate claim to being the best PG in the NBA, the Hornets have the cornerstone for an NBA championship. Unfortunately, they don't have much else in the franchise-player department, which could mean a few more years of despair for Paul.
It's only right to have Paul and Williams next to one another here, as they're easily the best two active PGs in the NBA. While Paul labored through injuries last season, Williams grabbed the NBA by storm in the playoffs, and may have grabbed the "best active PG" honor from Paul's mantle (for now, at least).
With Jerry Sloan as a coach, Williams has the peace of mind to know that he'll be on a well-coached team that will compete for the playoffs every year.
While the Jazz may have lost Carlos Boozer to the Chicago Bulls in free agency this summer, they managed to swindle Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn out of Al Jefferson in return. I'd imagine most GMs would want to replace one 20-10 guy with another 20-10 guy, wouldn't you?
The Williams-Jefferson inside-outside duo could prove to be one of the most devastating in all of the NBA this year, if Jefferson can adapt to Sloan's flex offense quickly. If so, an NBA ring may not be far away in Williams' future.
Carmelo Anthony has been the NBA's biggest newsmaker (aside from the Miami Heat) this past month after requesting a trade from Denver behind closed doors, and for good reason.
While some don't consider Anthony in the NBA elite (see: ESPN's Tom Haberstroh, who believes he's too inefficient to earn that distinction), there's no questioning Melo's ability to pour in the points.
After leading Syracuse to an NCAA championship in his only year of college, Melo hasn't had the same level of playoff success as a pro—the Nuggets' 08-09 charge to the Western Conference Finals was Melo's best playoff run, by far.
Much like Paul, Melo finds himself dissatisfied with his current team's situation, having just watched three of his friends team up and take their talents to South Beach. If the Nuggets can't rectify the situation soon, Melo's quest for an NBA championship will be taking place in another uniform next season.
Dwight Howard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, has led the league in both rebounds and blocks for the past two years. Since blocks have started to be recorded as a stat (in 1973-74), Howard is the only player to complete the back-to-back in both categories.
In other words, his defense has never been the question. His offense has. Take one look at his career free-throw percentage (59.9) and you'll know why.
But, like ESPN's Bill Simmons, I saw one video of Howard working with Hakeem Olajuwon this summer, and now I'm semi-convinced he's the best MVP dark horse this year. If Howard can put together a complete offensive game, with jump-hooks, fade-aways and post moves, there's no telling how dominant he can be.
After making the NBA Finals in 2009 and the Eastern Conference Finals this past year, the Magic have been knocking on the door for an NBA championship, but haven't been able to punch their way through yet. If Howard breaks out an MVP-caliber season, perhaps this ends up being the year he gets that long-awaited championship hardware.
We now move into the "old-timer" portion of our program, as the next few guys are decade-plus veterans who still haven't managed to secure an NBA title. In the case of Tracy McGrady, seen here, he hasn't even ever been able to move past the first round of the playoffs.
In a former life (namely, the early 2000s), McGrady was one of the NBA's most dynamic players—he was the LeBron James before LeBron James, averaging 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game with Orlando in 2002-03.
McGrady continued along those 25 points, six rebounds, five assists per game averages for the next few years with the Magic and the Rockets. But in the meantime, his teams never succeeded in the playoffs. He also developed a rather nasty reputation of being Mr. Glass when it comes to injuries, and his recent injury troubles haven't helped him shake that perception.
The Pistons aren't anywhere close to competing for an NBA championship this year, so it's safe to guess that McGrady saw one final opportunity to revive his career in Detroit, in hopes that he could be scooped up by a playoff contender next year.
If you discuss the best guards in the NBA throughout the first 10 years of the 2000s, it's impossible to leave Vince Carter off that list.
Like McGrady, he put up absolutely insane season averages back in the early 2000s with the Toronto Raptors (27.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.9 apg in 2000-01) and the New Jersey Nets (27.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 4.7 apg in 2004-05), and he's currently chugging along on the quest for a championship with the Orlando Magic.
Now that Carter has had a year to digest Stan Van Gundy's offense, along with the opportunity to play with the NBA's best center in Dwight Howard, we should expect to see Carter flowing more smoothly in the Magic's offense this season. He'll have a better idea of when the Magic want to see the V.C. of old, and his shooting efficiency should rise alongside his improved decision-making.
If V.C. can repel Father Time for one more season and get into vintage Carter mode for the playoffs, the Magic have as good a shot as any NBA team at ending the season as NBA champions.
Many will tell you that with Amar'e Stoudemire gone in Phoenix, the 36-year-old Steve Nash's NBA championship window is closed, and that very well may be true.
I've learned from my mistakes, though. After last season's come-from-nowhere berth in the Western Conference Finals for Phoenix, I'm not ruling Nash or the rest of the Suns out again.
With Nash, a two-time league MVP as the orchestrator of one of the most free-flowing offenses in the league, the Suns can score 100 points per game with their eyes closed. Nash led the NBA in assists with 11 per game last season (again, he's 36 years old), and even without Stoudemire down-low, the Suns have plenty of offensive weapons for Nash to dish to.
Time will tell whether the Suns can weather the storm of losing Stoudemire to free agency, but the Suns need to win a title soon if they hope to include Nash in the champagne bath.
At 37 years of age, Jason Kidd is a 17-year NBA veteran with two trips to the NBA Finals already to his name—with New Jersey in 2002 and 2003. Unfortunately, Kidd and the Nets entered the Finals in the wrong place, wrong time—also known as the Lakers and Spurs dynasties era.
With a career average of 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2 steals per game, Kidd's been an always-solid, rarely-explosive performer.
He's a nightly triple-double threat, but chances are, you're not too worried about Kidd lighting your team up for 40 points (granted, he's refined himself into a deadly three-point shooter now, too).
Given the teams he has been on throughout his career—namely the Nets teams of the early 2000s and the 50-win Mavericks since 2008—it's pretty stunning that Kidd hasn't cashed in on an NBA championship at some point in nearly two decades of service to the league.
If LeBron James can still appear on this list next year, he'll have a lot of explaining to do.
James left Cleveland and joined his buddies Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh down in Miami for one reason and one reason only—to establish the next great NBA dynasty after the Los Angeles Lakers. James wasn't going to be satisfied with one title—he needed multiple titles to enter the G.O.A.T. conversation.
His past two seasons have put him well on his way towards that G.O.A.T. talk, as he unleashed two of the most dominant single season performances this side of Michael Jordan. After landing his first MVP award with a 28.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg and 7.2 apg average in 2008-09, he went back-to-back last year by averaging 29.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 8.6 apg.
Despite carrying Cleveland for seven years, including a berth in the 2007 NBA Finals, James finally decided he didn't want to do it on his own. But, as he's proved this preseason, he's not ready to abdicate that MVP throne without a fight.
In short, James is already on a very short list of "best current NBA player" (no matter what Ron Artest and Dwight Howard may say). While his stats are bound to go down as he's playing next to two All-Stars in Wade and Bosh, his championship odds have only gone way, way up.
Now it's time to see if the Miami Heat can live up to the hype, and finally get the King a ring.
With one league MVP to his credit, how can Dirk Nowitzki surpass both LBJ and Steve Nash on this list? One simple reason: Unlike James and Nash, Dirk had an NBA championship within his grasp.
The Mavericks were up 2-0 on the Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, and had the Heat reeling in Game 3 going into the fourth quarter. The Dwyane Wade free-throw parade began, Dirk stood around in horror, and four games later, the Miami Heat were NBA champions.
Despite Dirk winning league MVP the next season, he and the Mavericks still haven't recovered from that psychological playoff beatdown. They collapsed in the 2007 playoffs, losing as a No. 1 seed to the No. 8 seed Golden State Warriors, and lost as a No. 2 seed to the No. 7 San Antonio Spurs this past season.
Nowitzki has been deadly efficient for years, averaging somewhere in the ballpark of 23 ppg, 9 rpg, 3 apg, a steal and a block per game over the course of his career. He finished ninth overall in John Hollinger's PER rankings last season and finished third in ESPN's fantasy basketball player rater, which is largely a credit to his overall diverse game.
It's rare to find a seven-footer that is as comfortable posting up as he is taking a three-point shot, but that's what makes Nowitzki such a unique NBA specimen.
Given how talented his Mavericks teams have been over the years, with Steve Nash running the point in the early 2000s and Kidd now, it's an absolute shock that Nowitzki hasn't been able to win a title in his 13-year career.