First, I am going to take you back to the year 1970. The year is now, and your team has just been bounced from the playoffs with a 1-4 record. You file out of the locker room and enter the tunnel that will take you to the locker room of the team that beat you. You look up in the stands and there stands your opponent’s owner. He stares down at you in disgust and surprise. You can’t believe it. You had a great season, but the one thing that had been holding you back was this. In your mind, the championship ring was just out of reach.
It’s easy to see how athletes achieve success in college and in the NBA. With college, they get to play and hone their skills in a competitive atmosphere. With the NBA, they get to play in front of millions of spectators. But, what about those athletes who never get to play in the NBA?
I made this list off of four years of NBA transactions and on-court games from each player. I then calculated the sum of each player’s minutes played to the total minutes played by the player’s team in the last four years. I then added a column for each player that added up their total minutes played without ever playing in the NBA’s finals. I then subtracted their total minutes played without ever playing in the NBA finals from the total minutes they played in the last four years. The player with the highest total was the player with the most minutes played without ever playing in the NBA finals.. Read more about best nba players to never make the finals and let us know what you think.In the last 75 years, only eight NBA players have had the opportunity to spend 20 or more seasons in the league. Of those eight, six were lucky enough to win at least one NBA championship, and we’ll talk about those six at the end. The other two, Vince Carter and Jamal Crawford (more on the others later), have not only never won a championship, but they have never made it to the NBA Finals.
Vince Carter not only had the most seasons without reaching the NBA Finals, but he also played the most seasons in NBA history with 22.
Carter was selected fifth overall in the first round of the 1998 NBA Draft and spent his first six seasons with the Toronto Raptors. He made three appearances in the postseason, losing twice in the first round and once in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
After twenty games in the 2004-2005 season, he was traded to the New Jersey Nets, a team that had reached two consecutive NBA Finals a few years earlier, but lost both times. But in three playoff appearances with the Nets in five seasons, Carter lost once in the first round and twice in the semifinals to Eastern Bloc.
In the summer of 2009, Carter was sent to an Orlando Magic team that had just lost to Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. But they couldn’t come back in 2010 and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Boston Celtics. Less than two months into the 2010-11 season, Carter was sent to a Phoenix Suns team that had lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals the season before. But the Suns finished 40-42 and began a decade of postseason losses.
On the eve of the 2011-12 season shortened by a lockout, Carter signed with the Dallas Mavericks, who had just won the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, in his three seasons with the team, the Mavs never made it past the first round, and once didn’t even make the playoffs at all. He spent the next three years with the Memphis Grizzlies. The first year he lost in the Western Conference semifinals to the Golden State Warriors and the next two years he lost in the first round to the Spurs.
Carter spent the 2017-18 season with the Sacramento Kings and then spent his 21st and 22nd seasons with the Kings. with the Atlanta Hawks, missing the postseason in all three years.
Crawford was picked eighth overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2000 NBA Draft, but was immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls, with whom he spent the first four seasons of his career and missed the postseason each year. He spent the next four years with the New York Knicks, where he again missed the playoffs during his time in the Big Apple.
In the 2008-09 season, Crawford was sold to the Warriors and again missed the postseason. The following year, he moved to the Hawks and was named sixth player of the year in the NBA for the first time. He averaged 18 points and played his first playoffs, in which Atlanta beat the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, before losing to Vince Carter and the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The following season, Crawford and the Hawks beat Orlando in the first round, but then lost to the Bulls in the second round.
Crawford spent a lockout-shortened season with the Portland Trail Blazers, again missed the postseason and then transferred to the Los Angeles Clippers for the 2012-13 season. He stayed in Los Angeles for five seasons, won two more Sixth Man of the Year Awards and made the playoffs every year, but never made it beyond the Western Conference semifinals.
Crawford spent the 2017-18 season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finished 8th in the league. Finishes in first place in the West, losing to the Houston Rockets in the first round. He spent the next year with the Suns, who missed the postseason, and then played one game for the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando in 2020. So not only did Crawford never make the NBA Finals, he didn’t even make the Conference Finals.
NBA Finals Logo David Santiago/El Nuevo Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
As promised, here’s a rundown of the other six players who played at least 20 seasons in the NBA, won 18 titles and made it to the NBA Finals 28 times.
- Robert Parish: 21 seasons, four titles, six NBA Finals.
- Kevin Willis: 21 seasons, one title, one NBA Finals appearance.
- Kevin Garnett: 21 seasons, one title, two NBA Finals.
- Dirk Nowitzki: 21 seasons, one title, twice in the NBA Finals.
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 20 seasons, six titles, 10 NBA Finals.
- Kobe Bryant: 20 seasons, five titles, seven NBA Finals.
Statistics provided by Basketball Reference
COMPARED TO: Who played the most seasons in the NBA before reaching the NBA Finals for the first time?As the NBA playoffs heat up, it’s time for writers, fans and NBA players alike to start re-focusing on the one thing that’s truly all that matters at this time of year: the NBA Finals. This year is the second consecutive time that the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will square off in the finals. Before the first match-up, it looked like the Warriors might have a shot at playing an NBA Finals without ever playing in the NBA Finals.. Read more about nba hall of fame players without rings and let us know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
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