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NBA - US Sports: Greatest teams never to win an NBA Championship

14 August 2022 06:31:31 EST
Some great teams have failed to fulfil their poential in seasons past

In the NBA, the best team generally ends up winning the championship due to the structure of the competition.

With 82 games in the regular season, the best teams take the top seeds. That comes with advantages in the playoffs, and as each postseason series is a best-of-seven there is less chance for fortune/misfortune to have as big an influence.

That isn't always the case, however, players can hit poor form at the wrong time or come up against an opponent in the midst of a hot-streak - which is what happened to top seeds Phoenix Suns this year, as they slumped at the exact moment they faced a Dallas Mavericks outfit with Luka Doncic in arguably the best form of his career. 

Injuries, internal frictions and poor tactical choices can also prove to be a team's undoing, and we've taken a look over some of the greatest teams who were unable to go all the way and claim a title.

The 1993 Phoenix Suns

A few incarnations of Phoenix Suns could appear on this list. In 2005, Steve Nash starred as they reached the Western Conference finals as he led the league's best offense with a brand of basketball that effectively changed the way teams attack in the NBA and last season they dominated the regular season but slumped in the playoffs.

However, the best Suns team that failed to win a championship was perhaps their class of 1993 as on paper they had no real weaknesses. 

The Suns finished the season with a league-best 62-20 record, 'Sir' Charles Barkley won the MVP award in his first season with the franchise, veteran shooting guard Danny Ainge - a two-time champion with Boston Celtics - arrived in free agency, All-Star guard Dan Majerle had a big season and Kevin Johnson continued to star at center.

Phoenix reached the NBA Finals but they came up against Michael Jordan and the Bulls, who were bidding for a third straight title. 

The Suns lost in six games despite claiming a memorable triple-overtime win in Game 3. All of the games in the Finals Series were fairly close, however, as Barkley scored 42 points in a three-point Game 2 loss and logged a triple-double in the six-point Game 4 defeat.

The 1997 Utah Jazz

Jordan destroyed the dreams of a number of his peers in the 90s, with John Stockton and Karl Malone potentially denied at least two titles by the Bulls legend.

In the 1996-97 season, Malone won the first of his two MVP awards and Utah were almost unbeatable in Salt Lake City, losing just three home games during the regular season.

Stockton, Malone and Jeff Hornacek led a formidable offense and they went on to reach the Finals Series with relative ease, sweeping the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round before beating the Lakers in five games. 

Utah overcame a Houston Rockets outfit containing Barkley and Hakeem Olajuwon 4-2 in the Western Conference Finals, fighting back by winning Games 5 and 6 after back-to-back defeats, to set up a best-of-seven series with Chicago.

The 1997 NBA Finals was perhaps the closest Finals Series, or indeed playoff series, ever contested. The Jazz managed to make the series a grueling affair but Chicago ultimately claimed a 4-2 series win, with the Bulls scoring just four more points in total than Utah across the six games. 

Utah went on to reach the Finals again in 1998, and again they went down in six games to the Bulls.

The 2012 Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls dominated in the 1990s with Jordan, Scottie Pippen and a host of other stars but the six championships they won during that period are their only titles so far. 

However, they probably would have won another title in 2012 had they not lost star man Derrick Rose to injury in the opening game of the playoffs.

The Bulls claimed top seed in the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row and Rose was the reigning MVP. 

The point guard tore the ACL in his left knee in Game 1 of Chicago's first round playoff series against Philadelphia 76ers, ending his season, while the Bulls were also without starting center Joakim Noah for the fourth and fifth games. 

The Sixers won the series against the depleted Bulls in six games, leaving Chicago fans wondering what might have been had they had better luck with injuries.

The 2018 Houston Rockets

Houston Rockets finished with the worst overall record last season but just a few years ago they were serious championship contenders.

In 2018, the Rockets had the best backcourt duo in the league as James Harden and Chris Paul were their starting guards.

Harden won the MVP award after a sensational season, as the team won 65 games in the regular season and boasted the league's best offensive rating. 

The 32-year-old continued to star in the playoffs and alongsise Paul he helped Houston reach the Conference Finals.

Paul scored seven points in a fourth quarter run against Golden State Warriors to guide the Rockets to a Game 5 win as they took a 3-2 series lead but he injured his hamstring and was then ruled out for the season as the Warriors went on to win the series in seven games before seeing off Cleveland Cavaliers 4-0 in the Finals.

Had Paul not injured his hamstring, the Rockets would have probably beaten Golden State and then the Cavs but it wasn't to be - and both Harden and Paul, now with the Sixers and Suns respectively, are still waiting for their first championships.

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