Winning a championship is the ultimate goal in sports — and the most difficult one to achieve. Many great athletes put up impressive statistics and earn personal accolades, but never achieve the team goal of a title.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed the careers of the greatest athletes of all time on the Sports Reference family of sites to determine the greatest players who never won a championship.
Some great players fail to win championships because they play for mismanaged, dysfunctional, or financially challenged teams. Other star athletes can find themselves on teams that are good, but not quite the best. John Stockton and Karl Malone were arguably one of the greatest tandems in NBA history with the Utah Jazz, but they could never win a ring as Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls defeated them in back-to-back NBA Finals in the 1990s.
Some franchises, like the Minnesota Vikings, have had some quality teams, but for whatever reason could never break through and win a championship — despite having four Super Bowl appearances and some great players like Randy Moss and Randall Cunningham. The 1998 Vikings seemed to have the best shot, with a high-powered offense and a 15-1 record, but they lost in the NFC championship game. They are now considered one of the greatest teams that failed to win a championship.
While a good athlete should make his teammates better, one player can’t be solely responsible for the fortunes of an entire franchise. Great players can have great careers even if they never win a championship. For many, the ultimate prize is induction into their sport’s hall of fame — an honor bestowed on many athletes who never won a title. All the athletes on this list have either already been inducted or have a great shot at becoming Hall of Famers in the near future.
The one exception is Barry Bonds — although he is one of the most decorated baseball players of all time, he is thought to have used performance-enhancing drugs. Though this stigma may keep him out of the Hall of Fame, Bonds’ seven MVP awards and MLB-leading 762 home runs are incredible feats. The one thing he never accomplished was winning a championship, preventing him from being recognized as one of the most successful athletes of the century.