With Carmelo Anthony’s retirement announcement this week, we thought it’d be fun to look at some of the greatest retired NBA players to never win a ring. It’s a discussion that’s often had, and now Anthony is officially a club member. Besides never winning the ultimate prize, one other thing each of these players has in common is being part of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary team. So, all these players are considered all-time greats regardless of title status.
Melo announced his retirement earlier this week and left the game as the NBA’s ninth-leading scorer. Anthony was never seen as the best player in the NBA, having played during the LeBron James era, but he was the Association’s most prolific scoring threat at one point and even won a scoring title in 2013 to prove that claim. He never made it to the NBA Finals but led Denver to the Western Conference Finals in ’09, where they lost in six games.
Charles Barkley is more known for being a talking head at this point than he is for having a stellar NBA career. Barkley’s prime was 30 years ago, but he’s still one of the greatest players to step on an NBA court to not win a championship. Only 39 players in league history have averaged over 22 points per game for their career, and Barkley is one of them at 22.14 ppg. Sir Charles had an 11-year stretch where he never dipped under 20 ppg, and that might not sound like much in today’s era, but he played in an era where teams weren’t averaging 120 ppg in the 1990s.
The Answer has been called the best little man in the game, and while Isiah Thomas (Detroit Pistons bad boy) might dispute that, there’s no question Iverson had the most heart of any player during his time in the NBA. Iverson was a four-time scoring champ, three-time steals leader, 11-time All-Star, and the ’96-97 Rookie of the Year. Plus, he was the ’00-01 MVP and a Hall of Famer.
Here we have one of the few back-to-back MVP winners in NBA history. Nash never seems to get the respect he deserves which is fitting as he barely got it when he played. He’s one of the best pure point guards the Association has ever produced, but Nash was also a phenomenal shooter as he shot just under 43 percent from three-point range over his career. Nash’s coaching career may have fizzled quickly, but he’ll forever be known as one of the most outstanding point guards ever.
He is one of the forgotten stars of a past era who never seems to get the respect he deserves. Elgin Baylor was the Rookie of the Year in ’58-59 and won the All-Star game MVP that same season. He retired in ’72 and still has the third-highest ppg average in NBA history at 27.2. Today we hear the term “he’s a bucket” thrown around like rice at a wedding, but Baylor really was that. Baylor could score with the best of ‘em but wasn’t quite able to capture a championship despite playing for the Lakers his entire career in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.
Miller Time was always thrilling, and Reggie did his best to lead the Indiana Pacers for 18 years. While only making one NBA Finals appearance, the Pacers were perennial contenders in the eastern conference while Miller played. But, like many others, he continually ran into Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. But Reggie’s legacy was built on memorable moments, not accolades. Like the night he scored eight points in nine seconds against the New York Knicks in the ’95 playoffs. That’s legendary stuff right there.
Big Pat Ewing was one of the most skilled centers of the 90s but could never capture that elusive NBA title. Despite that, he’s one of the more loved figures of 90s NBA hoops and had a Hall of Fame career. In the deepest era of big men the NBA has ever seen, Ewing was among the best and always had the Knicks in the mix in the east. Like others on this list, he just happened to play in the same era as Jordan.
Another star of the 90s who was foiled by Jordan not once but twice in the NBA Finals, Malone is still considered one of the best power forwards to ever play the game despite never winning a title. Malone was a 14-time All-Star, 14-time All-NBA selection, two-time MVP, Hall of Famer, and part of the 75th-anniversary team. He’s also third on the all-time scorer’s list and was second for many years before LeBron James passed him.
Stockton is seen as a bit out there these days but is known as the assist king around the NBA. Stockton was part of one of the greatest, most lethal duos in NBA history while playing in Utah with Karl Malone. He dropped so many dimes that the second-leading assist guy in league history (Jason Kidd) is more than 3,700 assists behind. The closest active player, Chris Paul, is in third place on the all-time list but trails Kidd by nearly 600 as his career winds down. The way basketball has evolved, Stockton may hold that crown for a few more decades.
They called him the human highlight reel. Anytime you watch a player with that type of nickname, you know you’ll be entertained, at the least. Nique was a nine-time All-Star and seven-time All-NBA player. Wilkins is considered one of the top three, if not the best, NBA dunkers of all time. He was never able to reach the NBA Finals but made a significant impact in helping shape the Association in the 80s and 90s.