Top active NBA players who have never won a championship

James Harden, Russell Westbrook and more NBA stars are still looking to lift the Larry O'Brien Trophy for the first time.

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What do Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley, Karl Malone, John Stockton and Steve Nash all have in common? These Hall of Famers lead a long list of players who never won an NBA championship.

Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown checked their names off that list with the Boston Celtics’ 2024 NBA Finals triumph over the Dallas Mavericks. Horford had ranked second in NBA history with 185 playoff games without a championship, trailing only Malone, but he reached the mountaintop in his 186th postseason contest. Tatum and Brown, meanwhile, had each logged over 100 playoff games before winning their first title.

While those players etched their names in championship lore, Luka Doncic is among those who will have to wait until next season to try and get their first rings.

This list only includes players who have completed at least five seasons in the league because that doesn’t seem fair to expect of a player on a rookie contract.

Will next season be the one where one of these NBA stars finally checks a championship off the list?

James Harden

Career playoff games: 166

James Harden has made the postseason in each of his 15 NBA seasons, but he has a complicated playoff history.

From his rookie season in Oklahoma City when he joined forces with Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka, Harden immediately made his impact known. For the three seasons with Harden in the lineup, the Thunder made their postseason debut since relocating to Oklahoma City (2010 playoffs), advanced to the conference finals in 2011 and made it all the way to the NBA Finals in 2012. 

He then moved on to Houston, where he averaged 28.4 points per game in 15 series with the Rockets and scored 30 points or more in nearly half of his 86 playoff games. However, the Rockets never reached the Finals with Harden, as the juggernaut Golden State Warriors knocked them out of the postseason four times in a five-year span.

His struggles followed him to Brooklyn, where he spent one full season with the Nets alongside Durant and Kyrie Irving. He got injured early in Game 1 against the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 second round and missed the next three games of the series. The Nets did manage to force the series to seven games, which allowed Harden to reenter the lineup, but Milwaukee ultimately came out on top en route to an NBA title.

Harden’s two playoff runs with the Philadelphia 76ers ended in the second round, as the team fell to the Miami Heat in 2022 and Celtics in 2023.

He now finds himself in L.A. alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the Clippers. Their 2024 playoff run ended in six games against the Mavericks in the first round in another postseason hampered by a Leonard injury. 

Russell Westbrook

Career playoff games: 122

As a lifelong Thunder fan, this one pains me to include. But Russell Westbrook continues to climb up the list of veteran players to not have a championship to their name. 

Westbrook was one of the original pieces of the young Oklahoma City corps that made three conference finals and one NBA Finals appearance from 2011 to 2016. Even once Durant jumped ship for Golden State, Westbrook still gave Thunder fans plenty to cheer about, averaging a triple-double and winning the 2017 MVP Award. 

Westbrook is the epitome of taking the good with the bad, and never is that more true than in the playoffs. Whether it’s dropping 45 to help the Thunder come back from a 25-point third-quarter deficit against the Jazz or demanding the ball in the final seconds only to commit a costly turnover for the Houston Rockets, Westbrook can be unpredictable.

Now in L.A., he, George and Harden will have to work together to get their first rings.

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Chris Paul

Career playoff games: 149

Despite not having a ring to show for it, CP3 has rightfully earned the reputation as a clutch performer. 

Paul has made it to the playoffs in 15 of his 19 seasons in the league, advancing to the conference semifinals six times and the NBA Finals once, as his Phoenix Suns lost to the Bucks in 2021.

The 39-year-old veteran doesn’t just appear in the playoffs -- he shows up. From his postseason debut in 2008 when Paul dropped 35 points, 10 assists and four steals, he’s continued to be a force of nature, recording a double-double in 56 of his 157 playoff games.

Currently ranked third for assists and steals in the all-time record books, Paul’s legacy as one of the greatest point guards in NBA history is cemented. That said, a little bling never hurt.

Jimmy Butler

Career playoff games: 119

After spending five seasons in Chicago, Jimmy Butler bounced around, spending a season-plus in Minnesota and a year in Philadelphia before settling in Miami. Since then, he assumed a vacancy left by LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh and helped the Heat reach two NBA Finals. 

His closest brush with NBA glory came in the 2020 bubble, when Miami lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 4-2 in the NBA Finals. Three years later, they were on the wrong end of a gentleman’s sweep in the Finals against the Denver Nuggets.

Butler suffered a knee injury in the Heat’s play-in loss to the Sixers and was out for the team’s 2024 first-round series against the Celtics.

Paul George

Career playoff games: 114

The nickname “Playoff P” is one that Paul George cannot escape, for better or worse. 

George made his postseason debut in 2011 with the Indiana Pacers, posting modest numbers as a solid role player. His breakout campaign came two seasons later when he led Indiana to back-to-back Eastern Conference finals, both times taking the Heat to the wire but falling just short of a conference championship. Thus, the legend of Playoff P was born. 

His next four seasons – split between Indiana and Oklahoma City – ended in first-round departures and general disappointment. He then famously moved back home to Los Angeles, joining forces with Leonard on the Clippers and effectively dismantling the Thunder roster in a blockbuster trade. 

For George, specifically, injuries to him and Leonard have sidelined the two superstars throughout their time in Los Angeles, contributing to the team’s routinely early playoff exits.

Damian Lillard

Career playoff games: 65

Damian Lillard has brought Dame Time to the playoffs with several iconic moments, but he’s also never reached the NBA Finals.

While there are plenty of playoff moments in Lillard’s career, perhaps none were more memorable than the 2019 postseason. He kicked off the first round with a dagger 3-pointer from the logo to effectively blow up the Thunder before leading Portland over Denver in seven games and eventually losing to the Warriors in the conference finals. He has another series-clinching buzzer-beater in his highlight reel, too, from 2014 against the Rockets.

Lillard and the Blazers finally split last summer when he was traded to the Bucks. He and Giannis Antetokounmpo experienced a roller-coaster first season as teammates that included a midseason coaching change and an injury-filled, first-round flameout against the Pacers.

DeMar DeRozan

Career playoff games: 63

DeMar DeRozan’s playoff career is largely defined by what could have been. 

After suffering back-to-back first-round losses in 2014 and 2015, the Toronto Raptors started to establish themselves as a force in the Eastern Conference with DeRozan at their helm. Unfortunately for DeRozan, their rise coincided with James’ move back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland ultimately ended the Raptors’ season for three consecutive years -- once in the conference finals and twice in the conference semifinals. 

Despite disappointing playoff outcomes, the decision by Toronto general manager Masai Ujiri to essentially blow up the roster -- sending DeRozan to San Antonio in exchange for Leonard and firing Dwane Casey, who was coming off a season where he was named NBA Coach of the Year -- came as a shock to everyone, including DeRozan. To add salt to injury, Leonard led the Raptors to their first NBA championship in his only season in Toronto. 

DeRozan returned to the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Bulls, but they have won just one playoff game since he joined the team in 2021.

Joel Embiid

Career playoff games: 59

Joel Embiid earned an elusive MVP trophy in 2022-23, but the Sixers star has still never experienced the conference finals.

A member of the same 2014 draft class as Nikola Jokic, Embiid sat out the first two seasons of his NBA career with nagging foot injuries. When he finally debuted in 2016, he immediately made a splash, averaging 20.2 points per game and 2.5 blocks per game, but he was quickly sidelined with a torn meniscus around the All-Star break. 

Despite rumblings of a potential draft bust as a result of his injuries, Embiid responded and has become a staple of the 76ers franchise, as well as a perennial MVP candidate.

While Embiid has emerged as a consistent force for Philadelphia, the same can’t be said about some of his teammates. A revolving door of trades and locker room tension have often plagued the Sixers down the stretch and kept them from reaching the conference finals. 

One of the most enduring playoff images of Embiid is probably one he’d rather scrub from his memory -- Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer-beater soaring over Embiid’s outstretched arm to lift the Raptors to the conference finals en route to their first NBA championship. The Sixers lost another second-round Game 7 in Boston two seasons ago and most recently bowed out in the first round against the New York Knicks.

Devin Booker

Career playoff games: 50

Believe it or not, Devin Booker just wrapped up his ninth season in the league.

A late lottery pick out of Kentucky, Booker joined the Suns at 18 years, quietly emerging as one of the biggest young names in the game. The pieces finally came together as Monty Williams settled in as head coach and Paul joined the Suns from Oklahoma City.

In his first playoff appearance, Booker nearly went all the way, losing to the Bucks in six games in the NBA Finals. The Suns revamped their roster with Durant, but Booker and Co. have experienced some brutal playoff exits since reaching the 2021 Finals, including a Game 7 disaster at home against the Mavericks, a second-round defeat against the eventual-champion Nuggets and a first-round sweep at the hands of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Here are five things to know about Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was published in May 2022.

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