In the high-stakes world of the NBA, where legends are made, and the thirst for victory never quenches, there exists a narrative less told but equally compelling—the quest for a first championship.
With the 2023-24 season well on its way, ten teams remain in search of their inaugural Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Their journeys, marked by near misses, heartbreak, and relentless pursuit of excellence, offer various stories waiting to be told.
Today, I will put the spotlight on these teams, their histories, their trials, and the undying hope that the next season could be the season.
The Ten Teams in Pursuit of Their First NBA Championship
The NBA landscape is dominated by dynasties such as the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, each boasting 17 championships.
Yet, the league’s competitive nature ensures that the dream of winning a title remains alive for every team, including those yet to experience the ultimate victory.
As of the 2023-24 season, the following ten teams have never lifted the NBA championship trophy:
- Phoenix Suns
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Brooklyn Nets
- Indiana Pacers
- Charlotte Hornets
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Utah Jazz
- Orlando Magic
- Los Angeles Clippers
These teams’ stories are proof of the unpredictable nature of sports, where fortunes can change with a single shot, injury, or strategic decision. Let’s explore their journeys.
1. Phoenix Suns
Why Have the Suns Not Secured a Championship?
The Phoenix Suns’ saga is one of persistent contention without ultimate success.
Despite assembling teams that dazzled with their play and competed with ferocity, championship glory has eluded them.
From the days of Charles Barkley leading the team to the NBA Finals in 1993 to Steve Nash’s back-to-back MVP seasons in the mid-2000s, the Suns have had several brushes with greatness but have yet to break through the final barrier.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
Can They Overcome Their Playoff Hurdles?
The Memphis Grizzlies, known for their “Grit and Grind” philosophy, have built formidable teams that mirror the city’s hardworking ethos.
However, despite their reputation for tough, defensive basketball, the Grizzlies have struggled to translate regular-season success into deep playoff runs.
Their best shot came during the early 2010s, yet a championship appearance has remained out of reach.
3. Minnesota Timberwolves
What Keeps the Timberwolves From Reaching the NBA Finals?
For the Minnesota Timberwolves, the quest for a championship has been marred by fleeting successes and long stretches of rebuilding.
Kevin Garnett, the franchise’s most iconic player, led the team to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 1997 to 2004, including a Western Conference Finals berth.
However, the Timberwolves have struggled to build a consistently competitive team around their stars.
The 2023/2024 season looks promising for the Wolves, as they are currently sitting on the top of the Western Conference, with a promising core of Anthony Edwards, who is in the race for MVP, Rudy Gobert, and Karl Anthony Towns.
4. Brooklyn Nets
How Have Injuries and Challenges Affected the Nets’ Championship Aspirations?
The Brooklyn Nets’ attempt to form a superstar trio with Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden symbolizes the modern NBA’s star-driven approach to chasing championships.
Despite the immense talent, injuries and internal challenges have derailed their ambitions, leaving fans to wonder what might have been if the stars had aligned and why this super team did not deliver the championship.
5. Indiana Pacers
Why Can’t the Pacers Break Through?
The Indiana Pacers, with legends like Reggie Miller and Rik Smits, epitomize the heartbreak of coming close without capturing the crown.
Their battles with the New York Knicks in the 1990s and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals showcased their competitive spirit but also highlighted the thin line between victory and defeat.
6. Charlotte Hornets
What Stands Between the Hornets and Playoff Success?
The Charlotte Hornets’ (formerly Bobcats) journey in the NBA has been one of striving for relevance in a competitive league.
With only three playoff appearances to their name and limited success, the challenge for the Hornets has been building a team that can not only make the playoffs but advance through the rounds.
7. New Orleans Pelicans
How Have the Pelicans Missed Their Championship Window?
The New Orleans Pelicans have had moments of brilliance sparked by talents like Anthony Davis and, more recently, Zion Williamson.
However, injuries and the inability to build a consistent supporting cast have seen their championship windows close as quickly as they opened.
8. Utah Jazz
Why Have the Jazz Been Unable to Capture a Championship?
The Utah Jazz’s legacy in the NBA is marked by the incredible duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton, who led the team to two NBA Finals appearances in the late 1990s.
Despite their regular-season dominance, the Jazz were thwarted by the era’s dynasties, leaving a legacy of what could have been.
9. Orlando Magic
How Have the Magic’s Dominant Big Men Fallen Short?
The Orlando Magic’s history is punctuated by dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard, who led the team to NBA Finals appearances in 1995 and 2009, respectively.
Despite their individual brilliance, the Magic have been unable to secure a championship, underscoring the team’s need for a more balanced attack.
10. Los Angeles Clippers
Can the Clippers Overcome Their Playoff Struggles?
The Los Angeles Clippers, long overshadowed by the Lakers, have faced their share of untimely injuries and playoff struggles.
Their first-ever conference finals appearance in the 2020-21 season marked a turning point, offering hope to a fanbase eager for its own championship narrative.
Have any of the teams without a championship ever reached the NBA Finals?
Yes, several teams, including the Phoenix Suns, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and Utah Jazz, have reached the NBA Finals but have not won a championship.
Which team among the ones without a championship has the most recent appearance in the NBA Finals?
The Phoenix Suns have the most recent NBA Finals appearance among these teams, making it to the Finals in the 2020-21 season.
Have any of these teams never appeared in the Conference Finals?
As of the 2023-24 season, every team on this list has made at least one appearance in their respective Conference Finals.
What is the longest playoff drought among these teams?
The Minnesota Timberwolves have experienced the longest playoff drought, missing the postseason for 13 consecutive years from 2005 to 2018.
Which of these teams had the best regular-season record without winning a championship?
The Phoenix Suns had one of the best regular-season records among these teams without winning a championship, going 62-20 during the 2004-05 NBA season.
Has any player from these teams won an MVP award without securing a championship for their team?
Yes, players like Charles Barkley (Phoenix Suns), Karl Malone, and Allen Iverson (Philadelphia 76ers, then moved to Denver Nuggets without a title) have won MVP awards but did not secure a championship for their teams.
NBA futures wagering remains popular, with a market for betting on a first-time NBA champion.
The odds for a first-time champion for the 2023-24 season were +300 for “Yes” and -400 for “No.”
With three first-time NBA champions emerging in the last eight years, the hope for these ten teams remains alive and well.
The journey of these ten teams is a reminder of the NBA’s competitive balance and the sheer unpredictability of sports.
Each season offers a new chapter, a fresh start, and for these teams, the hope that this year could be the year they finally achieve their ultimate goal.