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Top NBA franchises that have never won an NBA Championship
The Mavericks, who had a solid first decade of existence in the 1980s, have been one of the best franchises in the NBA since the turn of the century but just got done playing in only their third Western Conference Final and will be preparing for only their second trip to the NBA Finals.
Earlier in the playoffs, the Mavs dethroned a franchise that had won back-to-back NBA titles and one that has won 16 (the Los Angeles Lakers). What wouldn't Dallas, Phoenix or Utah give for just one NBA title?
How do the Mavs stack up in NBA History? Below is the list of the top franchises in NBA history that have yet to win it all.
1. Phoenix Suns
The Suns, rated as the fifth best franchise in NBA history according to ESPN's John Hollinger, are very good almost without exception but rarely even break through to the NBA Finals, let alone the fact they haven't won it all. As a matter of fact, one of their two NBA Finals run came during the 1976 "Sun-derella " playoff run after a season in which they finished 42-40.
This not to mention some excruciatingly tough playoff losses, including the 1979 Conference Finals in seven games to the eventual champion Sonics, Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals to the 3-peating Chicago Bulls, back-to-back comebacks of high historic improbability by the Houston Rockets in the 1994 and 1995 Conference Semifinals (capped by Mario Elie's "Kiss of Death)" and their controversial loss in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2007 conference semifinals.
Still, Phoenix has 19 different 50-win seasons since 1979, 16 seasons of 53 wins or more in that time, four seasons of 59 wins or more and nine trips to the Conference Finals or beyond. They reached the NBA Playoffs every year from 1978-85, as well as from 1989-2001 and overall have made the postseason 27 of the last 34 years. If any franchise deserves a break, it's Phoenix.
2. Utah Jazz
After a poor, playoff-less start in ten seasons split between New Orleans and following a move to Salt Lake City, the Utah Jazz then took off and advanced to the next 20 postseasons mostly behind John Stockton and Karl Malone and reached the sport's pinnacle round, the NBA Finals, two times in back-to-back seasons.
After a three year playoff absence starting in 2003, the team advanced to four straight postseasons and except one year won at least one playoff series, going all the way to the Western Conference Finals in 2007 and probably would have been in the playoffs in 2011 had Jerry Sloan not resigned midway through the season. With 14 different 50 plus win seasons (not including a 37-13 record in the lockout shortened year of 1999), three 60-win seasons and six seasons of advancing to the Conference Finals or beyond, the Jazz stand above the third team on this list because their horrid stretch in franchise history came at an understandable time, during the initial years of team history.
3. Dallas Mavericks
As mentioned earlier, the Mavs had a solid first decade of existence where they advanced to the postseason six of seven seasons starting in 1983-84 before ending in 1990 and in that time they had a trip to the conference finals in 1988, where they fell to the Lakers in seven games. Then injuries, poor management and troubles with the law for some players plagued the franchise as it swirled into an abyss for an entire decade that not even draft pick Jason Kidd(notes) could deliver them out of in the mid- 1990's .
Then along came Don Nelson, Dirk Nowitzki(notes) and Mark Cuban. The trio arrived during the late 1990's and began planting the seeds of change, Cuban sparring no expense to make the franchise more marketable and better on the floor, Nelson teaching the team how to win and Nowitzki developing into the NBA superstar he is now.
Since 2000-01, the Mavs have won 50 games every season and have advanced to at least the second round every year except three. One of those failures came at the hands of Nelson, who had (according to some) been pushed out by Cuban only to resurface at Golden State, where he built a Warriors team that proved to be a nightmare underdog first round matchup for the 67-win and championship favorite Mavs in 2007. This loss was devastating to everyone associated with the organization coming off their collapse in the controversial 2006 NBA Finals.
Still, the Mavs are great every season and have their best chance yet to finally win an NBA title.
The greatest franchise in the history of the ABA, the Indiana Pacers haven't had quite the same amount of success, but for a decade or so proved to be a legitimate championship contender with rare exception.
They started off poorly in their first ten NBA seasons with only one winning season, where they won 44 games (1980-81). But starting in 1989-90, the Pacers only missed the postseason one year in 1996-97 and quickly rebounded the next season to push the dynastic Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan in their final run, losing to them in Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. With Larry Bird as the head man for two more seasons, Indiana advanced to another ECF where they were upset by the 8-seed New York Knicks in the lockout shortened season of 1999 before finally breaking through to the 2000 NBA Finals, where they fell in six games to the Lakers.
After rebuilding on the fly, the Pacers trotted out some more great teams but were undone by the "Malice at the Palace" when Ron Artest(notes) ran into the stands to fight a fan following being hit in the face with a cup, drawing in teammates as well in the ugliest scene in NBA history. A championship contender before hand, the moment ruined the Pacers' season due to the numerous suspensions to key players and doomed Indiana's era of dominance.
None the less, the Pacers where very good for a long time, advanced to the conference finals or beyond five times in seven seasons headed into the turn of the century and with the legacy they had in their ABA days, the Pacers are one of the best organizations to never win an NBA title.
The Denver Nuggets are arguably the greatest franchise that has yet to advance to an NBA Finals series.
Granted, the franchise was not very good from 1990-2003, even when their stunning playoff upset in 1994 when they became the first 8-seed to stun a 1-seed is kept in mind. Other than that time frame, however, they have been among the better franchises since their mostly successful stint in the ABA. They have seven 50-win seasons, including an active streak of four consecutive, 22 playoff appearances and three conference championship round appearances.
Also seriously considered:
*Cincinnati Royals/Kansas City-Omaha and Sacramento Kings
*Each franchise won championships decades ago in another city, which disqualified them for inclusion on this list.
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