DAR Sports: The 12 Best Teams That Didn't Win The NBA Title

By @TrueGodImmortal

Often times in the NBA, we tend to see some of the best teams fail. Some fail harder than others, but there are those teams that either run into a juggernaut they didn't expect, end up getting overmatched, aren't experienced enough for the big stage, or injuries play a role. Today, I wanted to recognize the teams that were great for their time, but just came up short in their quest for a title. Let's take a look at the 12 greatest teams that didn't win the title. 

12. 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns
(Season Record: 62-20)

-During their run as a regular playoff team, this was their best season. Steve Nash secured his first MVP award (his numbers aren't that impressive to justify it, but the league was burnt out on the other clear choices), and the Suns secured the no. 1 seed for the first time since 1993. It seemed as if the Suns were the favorites heading into the playoffs, as they had a prime Steve Nash, prime Joe Johnson (Iso Joe), prime Shawn Marion, and a young, hungry Amar'e Stoudemire. Winning 62 games, it seemed to be a tall task for any team looking to defeat them in 7 games, but the San Antonio Spurs stood in the way of their greatness, defeating them in the Conference Finals in 5 games. Still, one has to wonder what would have happened had the Suns made the Finals to take on the Pistons. Would Phoenix have become champions? It's totally possible.

11. 2011-2012 Oklahoma City Thunder
(Season Record: 48-18)

-During the shortened lockout season, the Thunder emerged as the team who had next in the West. With Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, Derek Fisher, Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, and James Harden all on the same team, they should have been unstoppable. Harden was the 6th Man of The Year this season, alongside Durant and Russ, who were both voted in as All Stars. This team was just hitting their peak this season, and would end up making the playoffs as the no. 2 seed and they managed to reach the NBA Finals. They would lose in 5 games to the Miami Heat, but they showed that they could soon be the team to rule the West. Then, the Thunder lost Harden and they never reached the Finals together again.

10. 1997-1998 Indiana Pacers
(Season Record: 58-24)

-I always look at this team and wonder what could have been. They would make the Finals eventually in 2000, but this was the year that they were at their best honestly. The Davis Brothers, Jalen Rose, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, Chris Mullin, and of course Reggie Miller seemed poised and ready to be the one to finally dethrone the Chicago Bulls. After making easy work of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks in the first two rounds, the Pacers gave the Bulls their greatest challenge in the playoffs in years, pushing them to 7 games in the Conference Finals, coming THIS close to reaching the NBA Finals. I feel like they would have had a great shot against the Jazz if they would have made it to the Finals. However, Jordan deprived them of tasting glory.

9. 1994-1995 Orlando Magic
(Season Record: 57-25)

-After the retirement of Michael Jordan, we knew another team would emerge in the Eastern Conference to take the reign over and there seemed to be no other team more poised and ready than the Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway led Orlando Magic. This was their year. They secured the no. 1 seed in the East, made easy work of the Celtics, held off the Bulls (who just had Michael Jordan come out of retirement), and defeated the Pacers in the Conference Finals. They were the favorites over the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, but youth and inexperience is what did them in. After an epic meltdown by Nick Anderson at the free throw line, and a superb performance by Hakeem The Dream in the Finals, the Magic were swept by the Rockets in 4 close games. It's one of the biggest tragedies in basketball that Shaq and Penny never won a title together.

8. 1995-1996 Seattle Supersonics
(Season Record: 64-18)

-One of the greatest duos in the history of the NBA will be always Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. There aren't too many duos in the history of the game that were as explosive and fun as those two and it would have been amazing to see them win one together. Their best chance came in 1996, when they dominated in the West, winning 64 games on the way to the no. 1 seed. They would make easy work of the Sacramento Kings and the defending champion Houston Rockets in the first two rounds before being pushed to 7 games in the Conference Finals by the Utah Jazz. The biggest task was to defeat the 72-10 Chicago Bulls, but that would have been impossible. The Bulls won in 6 games, ending the Sonics' hopes of winning a NBA Title. Kemp and Payton remain one of the best duos to never win a title together.

7. 1992-1993 Phoenix Suns
(Season Record: 62-20) 

-When we look back at great teams that never won a title, there is a slight theme to a number of them: they all ran into the wall that was Michael Jordan in the 90s. There are quite a few stars and great teams that didn't win a title because of Jordan, and this excellent Phoenix Suns team fits that description as well. With them being labeled as a "team of destiny", it seemed possible that they could be the ones to dethrone the true king MJ, and win a championship for Phoenix. Going 62-20 in the regular season and earning the no. 1 seed in the West, the Suns had the MVP Charles Barkley on their team alongside Danny Ainge, Cedric Cellabos, Dan Majerle, and of course, Kevin Johnson. After the Suns survived the challenge of the Lakers in the first round, the Spurs in the 2nd round, and the rising Sonics in the Conference Finals, they had to go through the Bulls and Jordan. Unfortunately for them, they would come up short in 6 games and never make the NBA Finals again following that loss. It would have been great to see Barkley get a title in a Phoenix uniform, but of course, Jordan was the guy who put a stop to those hopes.

6. 1972-1973 Boston Celtics
(Season Record: 68-14)

-I honestly don't know much about this Celtics team. Sure, I know the players on the team, but I really am not aware of how their season went minus reading a few minor details. Still, with the MVP Dave Cowens, a leader in John Havlicek, and another solid player in Paul Silas, the Celtics would end up as the most disappointing team of this era. They won 68 games, but they didn't even make the NBA Finals. After a tough 6 game series over the Atlanta Hawks, the Celtics got stopped in 7 games by the New York Knicks and watched their hopes of winning the title in a near perfect season go away. Though most of us weren't around to live and witness this, we know how good this Celtics team must have been, and it is a shame that they didn't finish the job.

5. 1996-1997 Utah Jazz
(Season Record: 64-18)

-If there was ever a team that has to hate Michael Jordan and the Bulls, it must be the Utah Jazz. This is a team that met the Bulls in the Finals two times in a row, with the same exact result both times. A loss in 6 games. However, the 1996-97 Utah team remains one of the greatest ever in the 90s, as they had the MVP in Karl Malone (MJ deserved it more) and the no. 1 record in the West. With Malone and All Star guard John Stockton in tow, the Jazz would coast to a 64 win season and then make an attempt to get to the NBA Finals. After an easy first round series with the Clippers (they swept them), the Jazz would make easy work of the young Lakers (the first Kobe and Shaq season) in 5 games in the 2nd round, and get pushed to the limit by the aging Houston Rockets in 6 games during the Conference Finals. However, the Bulls were the impossible team to beat and despite the Jazz tying the series 2-2 at one point, Jordan and Pippen were too much to overcome as the Jazz fell short in 6. Still, this team was great, and should have won at least one title, and this season was their best chance and they came up just a little short.

4. 2015-2016 San Antonio Spurs
(Season Record: 67-15)

-There are two teams on this list from this season, for two different reasons. I'll get to the other team from this season a little later, but the fact remains, this Spurs team was literally unstoppable through the regular season and seemed equally unstoppable during the first round of the playoffs. After posting a franchise best 67 win season, it seemed inevitable for two teams to meet in the Conference Finals: The Spurs and The Warriors. The Spurs went in as overwhelming favorites against the Thunder in the 2nd round, but something happened. The Spurs were tired. They were older. The Thunder hit their stride at the right moment. The Thunder chemistry was better than it had been previously and the Spurs were vanquished in 6 games. To have such a successful season, post the best defensive rating and a high offensive rating only to lose in the 2nd round had to be disheartening for the Spurs. They should have made the Conference Finals and gotten a chance to advance to the NBA Finals, but they didn't. This is one of the rare wasted Spurs seasons.

3. 1993-1994 New York Knicks
(Season Record: 57-25)

-This was their year. This was their time. The Knicks were the toughest team in the NBA. Patrick Ewing was a dominant center. Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley were tough competitors. John Starks was a solid guard. The Knicks had a tough coach in Pat Riley. They were THIS close to fulfilling the prophecy. They had charted a perfect path to get to the promised land. They would defeat the New Jersey Nets in the first round easily before finally defeating their nemesis Chicago Bulls in 7 games in the 2nd round. Another heated rival, the Indiana Pacers, would fall in 7 games in the Conference Finals. When the Finals came around, it was time for the Knicks to bring the trophy home to NY. However, the Defensive Player Of The Year and the NBA MVP Hakeem The Dream stood in their way. Despite having a 3-2 lead in the Finals, the Knicks couldn't close out game 6 and came up short in game 7. Despite the Knicks getting back to the Finals once more after this season, this was the closest they had been in years at tasting championship glory.

2. 2001-2002 Sacramento Kings
(Season Record: 61-21)

-This team was supposed to end the dominance of the Los Angeles Lakers. However, in order to end the dominance of the Lakers, you would have to beat them. Unfortunately for the Kings, that was no easy task. This season however seemed to be their best chance. After taking the no. 1 seed in the West, the Kings worked through the playoffs hoping for a Conference Finals showdown with the Lakers. They would defeat the Utah Jazz in the first round in 4 games, then make easy work of the Dallas Mavericks in 5 games. After this, the Kings got what they wanted. Lakers vs Kings, Conference Finals. What happened? What went wrong? The referees. The officiating. The Kings were not the team that the NBA wanted to be in the Finals, but I believe they were a better team than the Lakers this season. After some controversial calls assisted the Lakers out, they would come back from a 2-1 and 3-2 deficit to close out the series on the way to their third straight NBA Title. I fully believe the Kings were destined to win the West and the NBA Title because they would have made easy work of the East Contender, New Jersey Nets. They were robbed of what should have been their title.

1. 2015-2016 Golden State Warriors
(Season Record: 73-9)

-Were you expecting anyone else? Of course not. The biggest failure in NBA history changed everything around. That's right, despite owning the greatest regular season record, this Golden State Warriors team also owns the worst choke in NBA Finals history. Sure, there were suspensions and injuries that led to what many feel like was a fluke win for Cleveland, but the fact remains, they blew a 3-1 lead with home court advantage. Many felt the Warriors were somehow robbed by the NBA, but make no mistake about it, before the playoffs, the Warriors looked unstoppable. They were defensively sound, offensively superior, and Steph Curry was out of this world as they would break the 20 year old record set by the 1996 Bulls by winning 73 games. That record was amazing to watch be broken, but they had to win the title to finish history. After winning easily over the Rockets in the first round, the Warriors lost their MVP Steph Curry during that series for a week or two, and he came back clearly not 100%. Playing through injury, Steph helped push the Warriors beyond the Blazers in the 2nd round, before they ran into the Thunder and were down by a 3-1 deficit. After going up 3-1 in the Finals, injuries got worse, the league suspended Draymond Green for a NBA Finals game 5, and the rest is history. The Warriors couldn't get the job done and they would end up as the most disappointing team to not win the NBA Title. Period. There's no team more disappointing in NBA history. However, the Warriors could break this record and win the NBA Title next season or the season after, and then this isn't so bad anymore... is it? Time will tell.



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