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The 6 Best NBA Teams That Didn’t Win A Championship

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With the NBA Playoffs quickly approaching, the chase for the Larry O’Brien is about to jump into high gear. The NBA has been a league of dynasties that last for the better part of a decade (or longer). The Boston Celtics ruled the 1960s and early '70s, the Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics ruled the 80's, the Chicago Bulls in the '90s, and the San Antonio Spurs since the turn of the century.

Because these franchises kept winning, there were a lot of other great teams that just couldn't get over the hump and win an NBA Championship. Here are the 6 best teams that don't have their names etched in history.

6. 1971-72 Bucks

If you can believe it, Basketball-Reference’s SRS model actually believes this is the best team that did not win a title, even with the 2015-2016 Warriors included. These Bucks did not even make the NBA Finals, though, as they encountered one of the five best teams of all-time with the 1972 Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.

That series featured Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain on the Los Angeles side, so it doesn’t seem quite as crazy that a squad led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Oscar Robertson couldn’t advance. By any available statistical measure, this is one of the best teams that fell short, and frankly, we might be underrating them.

5.1995-96 Seattle Supersonics

The Sonics were led by head coach George Karl and his two studs, point guard Gary Payton and power forward Shawn Kemp. They had a bunch of solid role players on that team as well, in Hersey Hawkins, Sam Perkins, and Detlef Schrempf. They buzzed through the Western Conference in the regular season, racking up 64 victories and finishing with the number one seed in the West.

But they ran into a problem, despite their star-studded roster and high octane play—the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who set the NBA record that season with their 72-10 regular-season record. The Bulls took the first three games of the NBA Finals series with the Sonics before Seattle rebounded with wins in games four and five, thanks to a tactical adjustment from Seattle that saw The Glove switched onto his Airness. Ultimately, though, the Bulls clinched their fourth championship in six seasons with an 87-75 victory behind 22 points from Michael Jordan and 19 rebounds from Dennis Rodman.

4.1996-97 Utah Jazz

The Jazz had a Hall of Fame trio leading their team, with Jerry Sloan drawing up the Xs and O’s for John Stockton and Karl Malone. Jeff Hornacek played the third option on the court well, scoring 14.5 points on 48.2% shooting. The Jazz also had a slew of quality role players, such as Bryon Russell, Howard Eisley, Shandon Anderson, and Antoine Carr.

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Utah ran into the same problem that the Sonics had just the year prior — the Bulls. Chicago had a 69-13 regular-season record in this season, not quite as nice as their 72 wins from the year before, but still certainly nothing to sneeze at. The Bulls took game one of the NBA Finals against the Jazz on a buzzer-beater from Jordan and won Game Two by twelve points, to take a 2-0 lead in the series. The Jazz bounced back and managed to tie the series, sending it to a pivotal game five. Of course, this was the game where Jordan, stricken with the flu, dropped 38 points in one of his most memorable performances of his career. The Bulls then won game six back in Chicago on a Steve Kerr jumper, clinching the NBA Championship.

3.2015-16 San Antonio Spurs

From a numerical perspective, it could easily be argued that this was a top-10 team ever. The Spurs finished with a better net rating (+11.8) than the 73-win Warriors and Basketball-Reference, using its SRS breakdown, describes San Antonio as the No. 8 team of all-time. More so than many others on this list, the final season of Tim Duncan’s Hall of Fame career will likely be forgotten, if only because the Warriors existed.

Still, this was an utterly incredible basketball team that fell victim to a brutal matchup against the Oklahoma City Thunder before even meeting Golden State in what could have been an epic battle. This will be a divisive pick, but the numbers don’t lie in this case.

2.2001-02 Sacramento Kings

Out of all the teams that never won an NBA championship, this is the team that most deserved to hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy. The 2002 Western Conference Finals between Sacramento and the Los Angeles Lakers was a war.

In 2002, the Kings had one of the better starting fives in all of the NBA. With Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic, Webber, and Vlade Divac they had no weak links. The Kings also won 62 games during the regular season. But their run was cut short during one of the most remarkable and controversial playoff series: the 2002 Western Conference Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Besides the shady officiating of Game 6, and then the Kings dramatic meltdown at the free-throw line in Game 7, it was the clutch play of another Laker, Robert “Big Shot Bob” Horry, who drained a buzzer-beating three in Game 4, that sealed the end of the Kings season.

1.2015-16 Golden State Warriors

This had never happened, on so many levels. These Golden State Warriors were an absolute machine from the get-go. The Warriors had the greatest regular-season record in NBA history. They had a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals, which had never been blown before.

Behind Stephen Curry's unanimous-MVP campaign and record-setting shooting, Klay Thompson's sniping, Draymond Green's defensive prowess, and the remaining contributions of a perilously deep roster, the Warriors were so ridiculously dominant that few teams had serious shots at winning after even three quarters.

They became the first team with more than 68 victories to not win the NBA championship, and that came despite avoiding the 67-victory Spurs (who also are on this list). The Warriors didn't just choke. They became the NBA's equivalent of the 2007 Patriots. It's hard to imagine anything bumping them from this top spot.

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