Update Jun 12, 2023: Congrats to the Denver Nuggets on winning their first NBA championship! (and getting off this list)
There are currently ten NBA teams that have never won a championship*:
- Brooklyn Nets
- Charlotte Hornets
- Indiana Pacers
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Orlando Magic
- Phoenix Suns
- Utah Jazz
* There are technically 11 teams if you want to count the OKC Thunder, who won a championship as the Seattle SuperSonics. Their history is still considered shared until Seattle gets an NBA team again.
Let’s take a deeper look at each team’s history and why they have never won a championship:
The Brooklyn Nets were one of the favorites to win a championship when they assembled a super team of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden back in the 2020-2021 season.
Unfortunately, it never happened.
The “Big Three” only played a total of 16 games together over two seasons due to injuries and other reasons (i.e. anti-vaccine Kyrie)
Harden was traded in 2022 for Ben Simmons, and everything went downhill from there.
Currently, all three players are on different teams (Durant / Phoenix, Irving / Dallas, Harden / 76ers), and the Nets are back in rebuild mode.
It may be awhile before we see the Nets win a championship.
The Nets have made it to the NBA Finals twice in their history (2002 and 2003 as the New Jersey Nets). These teams were led by point guard Jason Kidd. They lost to the Lakers in 2002, and to the Spurs in 2003.
The Nets franchise actually won 2 ABA Championships before the ABA-NBA merger in 1976.
The Hornets have not had much playoff buzz in their history.
The closest they have ever gotten to a championship is the Eastern Conference Semifinals (i.e. 2nd round of playoffs). They accomplished this four times — 1993, 1998, 2001, 2002.
The Hornets are still a relatively “new” team, as they were founded in 1988 (i.e. 35 years ago). Their most notable teams were in the mid-90s featuring Mugsy Bogues, Alonzo Mourning, and Larry Johnson.
They currently have a young, promising team led by LaMelo Ball, but are still quite far away from their first championship.
Their current owner (i.e. the G.O.A.T Michael Jordan) has six NBA championships, so maybe some of that winning pedigree will rub off on the team.
The Pacers have had some very competitive teams over the years.
They made it to the NBA finals once (2000), and to the Eastern Conference Finals seven times (1994, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2013, 2014) !
Their best teams were in the 90s, led by Hall-of-famer Reggie Miller. Unfortunately, they were in the same conference as the Chicago Bulls, led by Michael Jordan.
The Pacers have not been very good the past couple seasons, and are far away from reaching the Finals again.
The Indiana Pacers have three ABA championships (1970, 1972, 1973). They were actually the most successful team in the ABA’s short nine year history.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers were once the punching bag of the entire league.
In fact, they still have the 2nd worst winning percentage of all time (42%)
They have been pretty good though since the Chris Paul era (i.e. “Lob City”) in 2011, and have had a winning record every season since then.
Unfortunately, it has not led to much playoff success. The furthest the Clippers have ever gotten is the Western Conference Finals (once in 2021).
Their current team looks great on paper, but has never been able to stay healthy enough to make a championship run.
If their star players (i.e. Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook) can stay on the court, then they have a decent chance of winning it all.
The Grizzlies franchise started off their history in 1995 with eight straight losing seasons.
They actually had the worst record in the entire league for three of their first four seasons (as the Vancouver Grizzlies). As an expansion team, they were expected to lose, but it was also due to some super poor management and drafting.
After moving to Memphis in 2001, and finally making some decent draft picks (i.e. Pau Gasol, Mike Conley), they saw some success. Their most notable team was the “Grit-n-Grind” era featuring Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen and company.
The furthest the Grizzlies have been in the playoffs is the Western Conference Finals (once in 2013). They have made the semi-finals four times (2011, 2013, 2015, 2022). Unfortunately, they were in the tough Western Conference and the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
The Grizzlies currently have a promising young team featuring Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr.
If they can keep things together, then they may have a chance to win in a few years.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have the worst winning percentage in NBA history (.402).
Other than achieving this infamous record, the T-wolves have not had much success.
The closest they have been to a championship was the Western Conference Finals in 2004. This team was led by HOFer Kevin Garnett, along with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell.
Besides that one season, the Timberwolves have never even made it out of the first round of the playoffs.
As usual, poor management decisions can be blamed for their lack of success.
Their current team has some good young players (i.e. Karl Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards), but they are still far away from competing for a chip.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Pelicans are the youngest franchise in the NBA (started in 2002*).
For a young franchise, they have had some decent teams. Most notably is the 2007-2008 season, where they finished second in the Western Conference (as the New Orleans Hornets). This team was led by a young Chris Paul.
The furthest the Pelicans have ever gotten in the playoffs is the Western Conference Semifinals (2008, 2018).
The current Pelicans team has some great talent (i.e Brandom Ingram, Zion Wiliamson). They may need a few more pieces before they can compete for a championship.
*The original Charlotte Hornets team moved to New Orleans in 2002. When Charlotte got another NBA franchise in 2004 (originally called the “Bobcats”), they reclaimed the original history of the team.
Orlando has not quite had enough magic to conjure up a championship.
They have had some great teams though, and some all-time great players.
The Magic have made the NBA Finals twice in their history (1995 and 2009). They were swept both times.
The 1995 team featured the legendary combination of Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. If those two had stuck together, I’m sure they would’ve won a championship eventually.
The 2009 team was led by 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard.
Some other all-time great players the Magic have had are Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill. Unfortunately those teams were derailed by injuries.
The current Orlando Magic team is extremely young, and will not be competing for a championship anytime soon.
The Phoenix Suns are the oldest team on this list; their first NBA season was way back in 1968-69.
They have the 5th best NBA record of all-time (by winning percentage), and the 2nd best of any team that has not won a championship.
The Suns have been to the NBA Finals three times (1976, 1993, 2021), and the Conference finals a total of 10 times.
Unfortunately, they always come up short.
Some notable Suns teams include the Charles Barkley led teams of the ‘90s, and the Steve Nash / Amare Stoudemaire “7 seconds or less” teams of the 2000s. Both Barkley and Nash won MVPs while with the Phoenix Suns.
The recent Suns team featuring Devin Booker and Chris Paul were very successful over the past few seasons. Superstar Kevin Durant was also added late in the 2023 season, but they were still not able to win.
Chris Paul was traded for Bradley Beal, and the Suns now have an insane scoring lineup with Booker / Beal / Durant. If everyone can stay healthy, they have an excellent chance to compete for a championship next season.
The Utah Jazz have the best all-time record of any NBA team never to win a championship (.543). They made the playoffs for 20 straight seasons from 1983 to 2003!
Their most notable teams were in the 90s, led by the all-time great combo of Karl Malone and John Stockton (and coach Jerry Sloan).
They made it to the finals twice (1997, 1998), only to face the even better combo of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls. They lost both series in six games.
Utah has had some good teams since then, but not much playoff success.
The franchise is currently in rebuild mode, and will not be sniffing a championship for quite a while.
What is the oldest NBA team without championship?
The Phoenix Suns are the oldest NBA team without a championship. The franchise started in 1968.
Has a team ever won a championship without an All Star?
No. An NBA team has never won a championship without an All Star player.
You would have to go back to before there was actually an All Star Game (i.e. before the 1950-51 season). If you do this, technically the (Minneapolis) Lakers, (Washington) Bullets, and (Philadelphia) Warriors have won championships without an All Star.
Have the Thunder ever won a championship?
The OKC Thunder have technically won a championship when they were the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979.
The franchise moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City in 2008. The history of SuperSonics team will remain with the Thunder until Seattle gets a new NBA franchise (source).
Who never lost an NBA championship?
Only the Chicago Bulls have appeared in more than one finals, and never lost. They won six times.
The Toronto Raptors, Rochestor Royals (present day Sacramento Kings), and Baltimore Bullets (no longer exist) have each won their only finals appearance.
Teams that won championships under old names
There are four teams that won championships under old names. This list only includes teams that changed their team name (i.e. SuperSonics → Thunder), not simply moved cities (i.e. Minneapolis Lakers -> LA Lakers):
- Oklahoma City Thunder as Seattle SuperSonics (1979)
- Sacramento Kings as Rochester Royals (1951)
- Washington Wizards as Washington Bullets (1978)
- Philadelphia 76ers as Syracuse Nationals (1955)
There are 30 NBA teams. Only 10 of them have never won at least one championship.
Let me know in the comments:
Which of these teams do you think will be the first to win a championship?