They say the only statistic that matters in sports is the number of championships won. Hogwash! Many great athletes have come and gone without earning a ring. For that matter, other not so great athletes have ended up winning multiple titles in their careers. The formula to winning a championship is complex. So many things have to go right for a team. Each year, in the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB, only one out of 30 or more teams can win. Just one!
The following athletes are all considered giants in their sport. Some have made it to Hall of Fame in their respective sports, while others are still hoping it will happen. Whether they simply played for poor teams or had bad luck or they were continually denied by other generational talents, each of them played like champions throughout their career. Unfortunately for them, they never won the ultimate trophy despite their undeniable talent. Here are the top 15 athletes who have never one a championship.
15. Alex Ovechkin
He’s the only person on this list who is not yet retired, which is a testament to his abilities. Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, a man who may go down as the best goal-scorer in NHL history, is still chasing the Stanley Cup. Drafted first overall by the Caps in 2004, he has 558 goals and 477 assists in 921 games and has won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy, which is awarded to the player who scores the most goals in a season. He has one it six times in 12 campaigns. He is still fairly young—just 31 years of age—but time is running out for The Great Eight.
14. Elgin Baylor
Elgin Baylor played in the NBA Finals eight times, and walked away empty handed on each appearance. It’s not as though he was a slouch come playoff time. He averaged 27 points per game in the post-season—four times averaging over 30 points, twice over 38 points. He also holds the record for most points scored in an NBA Finals game with 61 points. Sadly, the end of his career came with a bit of a tragic twist; he retired due to nagging knee problems early in the 1971-72 season. The Lakers would go on to win the championship that year.
13. Patrick Ewing
The face of the New York Knicks for 15 years, Patrick Ewing was a dominant center at every level of competition. Unfortunately for him, he played during the Michael Jordan era. The Knicks, along with the rest of the Eastern Conference, were continually shut down by Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the NBA playoffs. An 11-time all-star, Ewing was only able to lead the Knicks to the NBA Finals twice: in 1994 – during Jordan’s brief retirement, and in 1999 – losing to the Rockets and Spurs, respectively. He would never bring a basketball title to The Big Apple.
12. Ken Griffey Jr.
Despite his storied career, Ken Griffey Jr. never appeared in the World Series. In fact, he only played in the post-season three times, advancing only once to the American League Championship Series. One of the most prolific home-run hitters in MLB history, the one-time AL MVP finished his career with a .284 batting average and 630 homeruns while winning 10 Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger Awards. This first-ballot Hall of Famer was never able to reach the World Series. The fact that he was injury riddled with a slowing bat speed at the end of his career did not help.
11. Barry Sanders
His career was relatively short with just 10 seasons with the Detroit Lions. But Barry Sanders left quite the legacy, even if it’s missing an NFL championship. He finished his career with 99 rushing touchdowns and 15,269 rushing yards, averaging five yards per carry. He rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997 which was the same year he won the NFL MVP award. Twice he won the league’s Most Offensive Player of the Year award. He was also selected to play in the Pro Bowl in every season of his career. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t get things done in the playoffs during their star running back’s career. In five post-season appearances, Sanders and the Lions won just one game.
10. Charles Barkley
Dominant-power-forward-turned-loudmouth-pundit, Charles Barkley was a rebounding machine during his time in the NBA. He was named league MVP in 1993, the same year he led the Phoenix Suns to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately for Sir Charles, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls stood in his way and denied him and his team the championship. The 11-time all-star is one of the few athletes to have his number retired by two teams, the Suns and the Philadelphia 76ers. Now retired, Barkley spends his time as an analyst on TNT, gracing basketball fans with his knowledge along with a bit of trash talk.
9. Ty Cobb
Revered as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history, Ty Cobb won 12 AL batting championships in 24 seasons. He batted his way to a Triple Crown in 1909, and won the AL MVP in 1911. He finished his career with 4,191 hits, 1,938 RBI and .367 career batting average, which remains an MLB record to this day. As for post-season success, his Detroit Tigers lost three consecutive World Series appearances from 1907-09.
8. Randy Moss
Love him or hate him, Randy Moss is arguably the best wide receiver in football history. In the NFL, he led the league most touchdown receptions on five occasions. Despite being the second all time TD receptions leader, Moss never won the Vince Lombardi Trophy. But he came oh-so-close. In 1998, his Minnesota Vikings – with a 15-1 season, were stunned by the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship Game after a missed field goal late in the fourth quarter. In 2007, he was a member of the New England Patriots team that went 16-0 in the regular season, only to crumble in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants. In 2012, he joined the San Francisco 49ers, who made it to Super Bowl XLVII, only to fall short against the Baltimore Ravens. Moss ended his career with 982 receptions, 15,292 receiving yards and 156 receiving touchdowns.
7. Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is likely the most gifted scorer in NBA history to never win a championship. A four-time scoring champ and former MVP, Iverson led the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA finals in 2001 where they were defeated by the Los Angeles Lakers. Despite putting up stellar numbers throughout his career, Iverson never found much playoff success overall. Maybe more practice would have helped.
6. Marcel Dionne
The greatest hockey player to never win a Stanley Cup. Marcel Dionne put up mind-boggling numbers during his career. He played 18 seasons in the NHL, and scored more than 100 points in eight of them. He hit the 50-goal mark six times. His final tally, when it was all said and done, was 731 goals and 1,040 assists for 1,771 points in 1,348 career games. Despite his own exceptional skill, Dionne simply did not play on talented teams. Not once did he play in a Stanley Cup final.
5. Barry Bonds
His career will forever be tainted by scandal, but there’s no doubt Barry Bonds put up surreal, monstrous numbers. He is MLB’s all-time home run king with 762 dingers. He’s a seven-time NL MVP with 12 Silver Slugger Awards and eight Gold Glove Awards. A 14-time all-star, he finished his career with 2,935 hits and a .298 career batting average. Steroids or not, he was feared by opponents. But he never won the big one. Bonds helped the San Francisco Giants reach the World Series in 2002, but they lost to the Anaheim Angels in seven games.
4. Ted Williams
One of the greatest MLB hitters in history. Maybe the best of all time. Ted Williams had a knack for smacking baseballs like few ever have. He was a 19-time all-star, two-time AL MVP, six-time AL batting champ and he hit his way to a pair of Triple Crowns. Only once did the Boston Red Sox slugger play in the World Series, bowing out to the St. Louis Cardinals in 1946. Williams finished his career with a .344 batting average, 2,654 hits, 521 home runs and 1,839 runs batted in.
3. John Stockton
John Stockton, along with his long-time partner on the court, Karl Malone, was a dominant presence for the Utah Jazz. He is the NBA’s career assists leader by nearly 4,000 dimes. He was a 10-time all-star and led the league in assists nine times. However, like other basketball greats on this list, he had the misfortune of playing during the Michael Jordan era. Stockton and the Jazz were knocked off by Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in both the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals.
2. Karl Malone
Karl Malone was often the beneficiary of John Stockton’s amazing penchant for dishing out assists. The duo teamed together on the Utah Jazz for 18 seasons, where Malone racked up most of his 36,928 career points. A two-time NBA MVP winner and 14-time all-star, Malone and the Jazz were denied championships in 1997 and 1998 by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Unlike Stockton, however, Malone had an extra shot at a title. He helped the Los Angeles Lakers reach the NBA Finals in 2004, only to fall to the Detroit Pistons in five games.
1. Dan Marino
Dan Marino is widely regarded as the greatest NFL quarterback to never win the Vince Lombardi Trophy. He led the Miami Dolphins to Super Bowl XIX, his sophomore season, which he lost to the San Francisco 49ers. Despite showing such promise early in his career, Marino would never make it back to the Big Game. He finished his career with 420 passing touchdowns and 61,361 passing yards, both NFL records at the time. The NFL’s MVP in 1984, he was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times and was the league’s passing yards leader five times.