NBA teams without a championship: Which teams in the NBA are still ringless?

NBA teams without a championship: Which teams in the NBA are still ringless?

Kevin Omuya
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:22 PM

There have been 74 champions in the NBA since the league's establishment. The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have won the NBA championship a total of 31 times, almost twice as many as the other teams combined. This post covers the NBA teams without a championship yet.

NBA teams without a championship
Aaron Wiggins, #21 of the Oklahoma City Thunder, drives to the basket during the game vs the Portland Blazers on March 28, 2022, at the Moda Center Arena in Portland, Oregon. Photo: Sam Forencich
Source: Getty Images

Are there any NBA teams without a championship? Few sports leagues worldwide have the same competition and cultural impact as the National Basketball Association (NBA). Taking home the NBA trophy is no easy feat, and you need to put on a solid performance and field a well-rounded squad to make it to the championship round. Nonetheless, factors, including injuries, famous players quitting, and bad luck can undermine attempts to win a championship.

How many NBA teams are without a championship?

There are currently 12 NBA teams that have never won a championship. Here is a list of NBA teams without a championship.

12. Brooklyn Nets

NBA teams without a championship
Kevin Durant, #7 of the Brooklyn Nets, high-fives Yuta Watanabe, in a game against the Chicago Bulls at United Center on January 4, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: Michael Reaves
Source: Getty Images

Created in 1967 by the New Jersey Americans, the Brooklyn Nets changed their name to the New York Nets in 1972. During their time as the New York Nets, the team won two ABA titles but has yet to win an NBA title. As defending ABA champions, they entered the league as the odds-on favourites to repeat as champions.

They reached the Finals in consecutive years (2002 and 2003) but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs both times. Their last trip to the NBA Finals was in 2003, and they haven't been able to repeat that feat since then. Brooklyn Nets is among all NBA teams without a championship.

11. Indiana Pacers

Best NBA teams without a championship
Nesmith (#23) of the Indiana Pacers celebrates with Andrew Nembhard in a game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 4, 2023, in Pennsylvania. Photo: Mitchell Leff
Source: Getty Images

Indiana Pacers, an NBA team that has been around since 1967, spent the first nine years of its existence as the ABA's most successful franchise. They have been crowned champions three times and reached the championship game twice more. They tried to replicate their success in the NBA but were unsuccessful.

Reggie Miller led them to the finals just once, in 2000, but the Lakers swept them in six games. They have faced formidable opponents such as the Cavaliers, Lakers, and Bulls of Chicago. The Indiana Pacers are the only team in the Central Division without a championship.

10. Denver Nuggets

List of NBA teams without a championship
Hyland (#3) of the Denver Nuggets high fives Vlatko Cancar of the Denver Nuggets during the game against the LA Clippers on January 5, 2023, at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Bart Young
Source: Getty Images

Originally called the Denver Larks, the Denver Nuggets were first on the court in 1967. Before the inaugural ABA season, they were known as the Rockets; in 1974, they became the Nuggets. They made it to the ABA Finals in 1976, the league's final season, but have never been to the NBA Finals.

In 2009, the club was led by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups to the Western Conference finals, where they ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Lakers. It is inexplicable that the Thunder have not won an NBA title while boasting a roster that includes legends like Carmelo Anthony and Alex English. Thunders are one of the current NBA teams without a championship.

9. Charlotte Hornets

All NBA teams without a championship
Washington, #25 of the Charlotte Hornets, drives to the basket during the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on January 4, 2023, at Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Brock Williams
Source: Getty Images

In the ’90s, Charlotte Hornets were one of the strongest teams. It was an expansion team that started in 1988 but had no success. They were re-established as Bobcats in 2004 but then renamed the Hornets in 2013.

Nowadays, they are constantly among the bottom teams that drive away free agents. They have the slightest chance of becoming NBA champions with such standing. The all-time basketball great Michael Jordan became the premier former NBA player to own a team in the championship when he purchased the Charlotte Hornets. Upon purchase, the team enjoyed a 20% value increase in the 2018/2019 season.

8. Orlando Magic

Current NBA teams without a championship
Paolo Banchero (#5) of the Orlando Magic high-fives teammate Bol Bol on December 30, 2022, at Amway Center in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Fernando Medina
Source: Getty Images

Having joined the NBA as an expansion team ahead of the 1988-1989 season, the Orlando Magic became one of the hottest teams after signing the legendary Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway. The duo made it to the finals in 1995, but they lost to Houston Rockets.

In the Eastern Conference Finals, Orlando Magic was knocked out by the Chicago Bulls. Their chance of bagging the championship became more impossible after Shaq signed up with LA. However, Dwight Howard took the team to the finals but could not make it past the Lakers.

7. Phoenix Suns

Are there any NBA teams without a championship?
Deandre Ayton, #22 of the Phoenix Suns, celebrates after scoring against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on January 04, 2023, in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: Jason Miller
Source: Getty Images

The Phoenix Suns joined the NBA in 1968 as an expansion team. They have made it to the NBA finals twice but have unfortunately lost in both. Their first appearance in the finals was in 1976, but they, unfortunately, lost to the Boston Celtics.

Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson led the Phoenix Suns to the 1993 NBA finals. Since then, they have had terrific squads and, on various occasions, accused the NBA refs of rigging to prevent their progress through the playoffs. In the history of the NBA, Steve Nash led an entertaining offence that made the team stay long without winning the championship.

6. Memphis Grizzlies

How many NBA teams without a championship
Ja Morant (#12) and Dillon Brooks of the Memphis Grizzlies high five each other during a game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on January 5, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Mike Ehrmann
Source: Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies was started in Vancouver in 1995 before relocating to Memphis in 2001. Despite having players like Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Paul Gasol, they have had a fair share of ups and downs. They have never come close to having a winning season and have only managed to play at the Western Conference Finals, where the Oklahoma City Thunder knocked them out.

In 2013, they lost four games to the Spurs, diming their chance into the NBA finals. They are yet to make a trip to the finals.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

NBA teams without a championship ring
Terance Mann, #14 of the LA Clippers, dribbles the ball during the game against the Denver Nuggets on January 5, 2023, at the Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado. Photo: Garrett Ellwood
Source: Getty Images

The Los Angeles Clippers was founded in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves and have played eight seasons in the Empire State before heading to San Diego in 1978. They moved to LA before the 1984-1985 NBA season and have long been the laughing stock.

Let alone make it to the finals; they have never reached the conference finals despite having excellent teams and playing for over ten years. However, things might soon change, having added Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to the roster. With such a duo, the chances of making it to the final and winning the championship are very high.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves

NBA teams without a championship
Taurean Prince (#12) and Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Portland Trail Blazers at Target Center on January 4, 2023, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: David Berding
Source: Getty Images

Minnesota Timberwolves was established just before the 1988-1989 season. Like any other expansion team, they struggled in the early years, but things started to change when Kevin Garnett joined them in 1995.

They made their first appearance in 1996 and eight more straight postseason appearances until 2004. By then, they had made it to the Western Conference Finals but unfortunately lost six games to the Lakers. The team became a massive success among the fans, but they have been among the bottom teams in the NBA for a long time.

3. New Orleans Pelicans

Best NBA teams without a championship
Jonas Valanciunas (#17) of the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth quarter against Philadelphia 76ers at Wells Fargo Center on January 2, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

The New Orleans franchise has not been around for long since it was started in 2013. They were initially established as New Orleans in 2002 as the New Orleans Hornets but changed to New Orleans Pelicans in 2012. They have played in sixteen seasons but are yet to appear in the finals.

The team has fought to hold on to their stars like Anthony Davis and Chris Paul, but they have added Zion Williamson. Maybe he was the missing piece to their championship. With such players, they might make it to the finals within no time.

2. Utah Jazz

List of NBA teams without a championship
Mike Conley (#11) and Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz react in a game against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center on January 5, 2023, in Houston, Texas. Photo: Carmen Mandato
Source: Getty Images

Utah Jazz was the first team to play in the NBA, where they played for five seasons before shifting to Salt Lake City in 1979. In the 1983-1984 season, they made twenty consecutive appearances in the postseason. Utah is one of the best NBA teams without a championship.

With legendary players like Carl Malone and John Stockton, it is still baffling how Utah Jazz missed the title. They made back-to-back finals in 1997 and 1998 but could not bag the title after losing to Chicago Bulls. Currently, Utah Jazz is having a great season, and this is mainly because of their strong defence and balanced attack.

1. Oklahoma City Thunder

How many NBA teams without a championship
Paolo Banchero, #5 of the Orlando Magic, reacts against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first quarter at Amway Center on January 04, 2023, in Orlando, Florida. Photo: Douglas P. DeFelice
Source: Getty Images

The Seattle Supersonics won the title in 1979 and Oklahoma City Thunder, although moved to a different city, maintained its records and accolades. So technically, we can argue that they have at least won a championship.

However, some Oklahoma City Thunder fans still maintain that the 1979 championship should not count since their fan base is no longer the same. There is also hope they will want their Larry O'Brien trophy back when the Sonics make it back to the league.

The highlight for the Oklahoma City Thunder was 2011-2012; the Oklahoma City Thunder had Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden on the same team under age 24. They ran to the 2012 NBA Finals before losing to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. From there, it was all downhill for OKC. Oklahoma is among the NBA teams without a championship ring.

Some NBA teams are without a championship because of various factors such as relocation, superstars departing for more excellent markets, injuries, and poor luck. It is not easy to put together an NBA contender, and it is much more challenging to keep that club in the thick of things for an extended time.

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Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.