11 NBA Teams That Have Never Won A Championship

The NBA is the premier basketball association in the world, and according to Forbes, it also has three of the Top 10 Most Valuables Sports Teams in the World, all of which are NBA Champions or championship contenders for a long time.

While many teams became successful and won championships in the NBA regardless of their market size, some are still waiting for their turn to reach the summit of the basketball world.

So, how many NBA teams are still looking to win their first championship?

Out of the 30 current NBA Teams, 11 teams have never won a championship yet. Of those 11, five came close to winning a ring but fell short in the NBA Finals. They are Phoenix Suns (3x), Utah Jazz (2x), Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets (2x), Orlando Magic (2x), and the Indiana Pacers (1x).

Now, let us find out more about who are these ringless NBA teams and how they have fared in the past several years in the NBA.

Which NBA teams have never won a championship?

Ball with six hands reaching

There are currently eleven NBA Teams to never win a championship since their inclusion in the league via the ABA/NBA Merger or as an NBA expansion team. After reaching the NBA Finals, five of the eleven teams came close to an NBA Championship.

Out of the five ringless teams, two reached the NBA Finals in consecutive years but still failed to secure the most coveted trophy in the NBA in both tries. They are the Utah Jazz in 1997 and 1998 and the New Jersey Nets (now Brooklyn Nets) in 2002 and 2003.

TeamYear FoundedFurthest Playoff Run
1. Phoenix Suns1968 (Expansion Team)NBA Finals (1976, 1993, 2021)
2. Utah Jazz (for. New Orleans Jazz)1974 (Expansion Team)NBA Finals (1997,1998)
3. Brooklyn Nets (for. New York Nets, New Jersey Nets)1974 (NBA/ABA Merger)NBA Finals (2002, 2003)
4. Orlando Magic1989 (Expansion Team)NBA Finals (1995, 2009)
5. Indiana Pacers1967 (NBA/ABA Merger)NBA Finals (2000)
6. Charlotte Hornets1988 (Expansion Team)Conference Semifinals
7. Denver Nuggets1967 (NBA/ABA Merger)Conference Finals
8. Los Angeles Clippers (for. Buffalo Braves, San Diego Clippers)1970 (Expansion Team)Conference Finals
9. Memphis Grizzlies (for. Vancouver Grizzlies)1995 (Expansion Team)Conference Finals
10. Minnesota Timberwolves1989 (Expansion Team)Conference Finals
11. New Orleans Pelicans (for. New Orleans Hornets, New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets)2002 (Expansion Team)Conference Semifinals

1. Phoenix Suns

Furthest Playoff Run: NBA Finals (1976, 1993, 2021)

The Phoenix Suns reached the NBA Finals three times since becoming an NBA Expansion Team in 1968. The first was during 1976, led by Paul Westphal, but would eventually lose to the Boston Celtics, who won their 13th Title.

They soon went on for almost two decades without a Finals appearance until Charles Barkley arrived in Arizona. Led by now-Suns Headcoach Westphal, NBA Season MVP Charles Barkley and the Suns would return in the NBA Finals but be defeated in six games by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

The third and latest Finals disappointment for the Suns happened in 2021, with Chris Paul, Devin Booker, and Deandre Ayton losing to 2x-MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks.

The Phoenix Suns have had experienced good years in the era of 2x MVP Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire in the 2000s. Unfortunately, they would never get over the Conference Finals hump.

2. Utah Jazz

Furthest Playoff Run: NBA Finals (1997,1998)

The Utah Jazz had been in the NBA as an expansion team since 1974. However, they never won an NBA Championship. Their glory days happened during the time of the dynamic duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton, under the guidance of their head coach, Jerry Sloan.

The climax of their NBA Playoff Runs happened when they reached back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998. Unfortunately, they would also be stopped back-to-back by Michael Jordan’s Bulls, winning their second three-peat in 1998.

After the Stockton-Malone Era, the Jazz also had some glimpse of hope during the brief stint of Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams in the late 2000s but eventually imploded. Similar to what is happening to Jazz of the 2020s, which usually has a successful regular season but often disappoints in the playoffs.

3. Brooklyn Nets

Furthest Playoff Run: NBA Finals (2002, 2003)

Like the Utah Jazz, the Brooklyn Nets (then New Jersey Nets) also had back-to-back NBA Finals Appearances. Unfortunately, they both fell short of the ultimate goal of winning the championship. Led by All-Star Point Guard Jason Kidd, their first try for the cup was in 2002, where they were swept by the Shaq-Kobe Lakers, who went on to win their three-peat.

The second appearance would be the following year, which would prove unfruitful as they fell to the Duncan-led San Antonio Spurs.

The franchise’s championship hopes never faltered as the team owners would go on shopping sprees for free agents, hopefully bringing them a title in the quickest time possible. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. Even after acquiring superstars like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving, they have not reached the NBA Finals.

4. Orlando Magic

Furthest Playoff Run: NBA Finals (1995, 2009)

Orlando Magic’s most successful playoff runs happened under the leadership of two great centers – Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Their first trip to the Finals in 1995 with Shaq was immediately stopped by the lower-seeded but more experienced Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon.

The second time the Magic returned to the Finals was in 2009 behind Dwight Howard. Unfortunately, the result was the same, quickly losing to Kobe and the Lakers. They’ve been rebuilding since Howard left in 2012.

5. Indiana Pacers

Furthest Playoff Run: NBA Finals (2000)

The Pacers is a 3x ABA Champion. However, since the merger with the NBA, they have never won a championship. The closest they got to the Title was in 2000, with Reggie Miller at the helm. However, they would get dismantled by the young Laker core of Kobe and Shaq.

One of the greatest what-ifs for Pacers fans was the 2004-05 Season when the Malice in the Palace happened, which resulted in the suspensions of a critical player for the Pacers – Ron Artest. The Pacers would go on to lose to the Pistons in the Conference Semifinals, but the suspension of Artest is said to be the turning point for the Pacers.

After a decade, the Pacers would return to the post-season and have deep playoff runs mainly because of all-stars Paul George, David West, and Roy Hibbert.

Unfortunately, this Pacers team would never move to the NBA Finals due to the Miami Heat Big Three. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are just too much for the Pacers after the Heat beat them three consecutive times – twice in the Conference Finals.

6. Charlotte Hornets

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Semifinals

NBA Hall-of-Famer, Michael Jordan may own the Hornets, but his greatness does not translate to his team. The Hornets had been in the NBA since 1988 but never even reached the Conference Finals. They also only qualified for the playoffs thrice in the past twenty years, losing each time in the first round.

However, the hapless Hornets are feeling lucky after drafting star point guard LaMelo Ball and bringing in a young core that can be the franchise’s future.

7. Denver Nuggets

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Finals

The Nuggets is another team from the ABA that was merged with the NBA. They had their glory days in the 1980s, with Alex English leading the way. However, the team only reached the conference finals once in their nine years in the playoffs.

Their next re-emergence of Nuggets in the NBA was mainly because of Carmelo Anthony. Unfortunately, they would lose year after year in the first round. Their most significant success alongside Anthony was in the 2008-09 Season when they reached the Western Conference Finals but eventually lost to the eventual champions, the Lakers.

The latest success and playoff push of the Nuggets is mainly due to their late-second-round gem, Nikola Jokić, who would go on to win two consecutive NBA MVPs. They reached the conference finals in the 2019-20 Season.

8. Los Angeles Clippers

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Finals

The Clippers are also occupying the same building with the more successful Lakers, which only draws comparisons between the two Los Angeles clubs. The Clippers had been in the league since 1970 as the Buffalo Braves but have only been in the playoffs seven times in those 40 years.

Their relatively successful seasons started in the 2010s after drafting Blake Griffin and soon acquiring Chris Paul. However, even with that level of talent, they would never reach the conference finals.

They recently acquired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard superstars and reached the conference finals in 2021. But a championship is far from reality as long as they are an injury-ridden team.

9. Memphis Grizzlies

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Finals

The Grizzlies had some playoff appearances in the mid-2000s with Pau Gasol, but with little success. During that time, they would go on three consecutive first-round exits.

They would then return stronger in the playoffs during the “Grit and Grind” Era with Pau’s younger brother, Marc, together with Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. The furthest they will reach was the 2013 Conference Finals, where they got swept by the San Antonio Spurs.

Now, they rebuilt the team around the high-flying point guard, Ja Morant, and three-point specialist Desmond Bane.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Finals

Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, joining the league in 1989. Still, they immediately became a perennial playoff team in the late 1990s to the early 2000s through the leadership of one of the most excellent Power Forwards, Kevin Garnett.

However, they were never truly successful in the playoffs, losing seven straight in the first round. Their best playoff run was in the 2003-04 season when they reached the conference finals, only bowing to the Lakers.

Since the end of the Garnett Era, they would only appear in the playoff twice since the 2004-05 season. Though they had hopeful seasons with Kevin Love and another run with Andrew Wiggins and Jimmy Butler, they were never competitive enough in the brutal Western Conference.

Currently, they built a young, talented core of Karl Anthony-Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell. They qualified in the playoffs during the 2021-22 Season but immediately exited to Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.

11. New Orleans Pelicans

Furthest Playoff Run: Conference Semifinals

The Pelicans, previously the New Orleans Hornets, only made it as far as the conference semifinals even during the time of “point god” Chris Paul (CP3) and David West, mainly due to the competitive western conference powerhouses.

After the departure of CP3, the next time they’ll return to the playoffs is upon the drafting of the two-way superstar Anthony Davis, where they will go on to reach the conference semifinals, only to lose to Stephen Curry and the rest of the Golden State Warriors. Soon, Davis will move to the Lakers, where he will win his first championship.

With renewed hope, the Pelicans drafted the highly anticipated rookie, Zion Williamson, as the number one pick in 2019. Alongside Williamson is the Most Improved Player and All-Star Brandon Ingram. However, the tandem is yet to prove itself after losing Williamson to an injury.

What does a championship bring to an NBA team?

Basketball with money

The main goal of every NBA team is to win a championship, not only for the city and its fans but also for the players and the rest of the organization. Aside from the bragging rights of being a champion, there is also money involved in it.

According to CNBC, the NBA creates a ‘players’ pool every season and distributes it to the teams who made it to the playoffs and the Finals. Players and coaches can also have championship bonuses depending on their contracts.

Aside from the player’ perks,’ the winning organization and its owners also increases its revenue through sponsorships, ticket and merchandise sales, media exposure, and a higher team value.


The NBA championship is hard to get, as evident in this article. The organization’s size, fan loyalty, and even talented players cannot ensure a title.

However, not everything is lost for teams who have never won a title since, in the past 11 seasons, the NBA had three first-time champions, Dallas Mavericks (2011), Cleveland Cavaliers (2016), and the Toronto Raptors (2019).

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