Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson is one of many famous athletes to have never crossed the line into winning a championship. 

Elite professional athletes are judged by how many championships they’ve won. New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra won 10 in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s; NBA guard Michael Jordan won six with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s and NFL quarterback Tom Brady has won six Super Bowls this century. However, some great players don’t ever reach the ultimate peak. 

Here are the top 10 players to never win a championship; only retired players will be on this list, as active players could still get a ring.

1. Ty Cobb, 1905-1928 

Cobb was one of baseball’s first superstars, and he dominated the sport as a member of the Detroit Tigers for two decades. He’s one of two players to collect 4,000 MLB hits, and he still holds the highest career batting average — 0.367 — in history. However, he could never take the Tigers to the mountaintop, losing straight three times in the World Series from 1907-09 — twice to the Chicago Cubs and once to the Pittsburgh Pirates. 

2. Ted Williams, 1939-42 and 1946-1960

One of the best hitters in MLB history, Williams played during an unfortunate time in Boston Red Sox history. This period was the middle of the Red Sox’s “Curse of the Bambino,” which stretched from 1918-2004. Nevertheless, Williams had a historic career, hitting over 500 home runs and still holding the highest career on-base percentage in MLB history. He’s also the last player to finish a full season with a batting average over .400 when he did so in 1941. 

3. Ernie Banks, 1953-1971

Like Williams, Banks played at the wrong time in his franchise’s history. Playing his entire career for the Cubs, Banks was in the middle of their 108-year World Series drought that stretched from 1908-2016. Nonetheless, he still had an incredible career, making 11 All-Star teams and winning two MVPs. He’s also a member of the 500 home run club, a feat which only 26 other players have accomplished. 

4. Marcel Dionne, 1971-1989

Dionne was one of the best goal scorers in the NHL during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He ranks in the top 10 in points, goals and assists, and he’s one of only seven players to have reached the 700-goal plateau. During the 1979-80 season, he led the league in points. However, he played on numerous bad teams and never advanced past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

5. Dan Marino, 1983-1999

Marino is one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history; his 155 wins are the most at the position by anyone who has never won a Super Bowl. He’s the fastest QB to make 200 touchdown passes, and he consistently led the Miami Dolphins to the playoffs. He was named the MVP in 1984, as he set — what was at the time — the NFL record for most passing yards in a season — 5,084 — and led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers. 

6. Charles Barkley, 1984-2000

Barkley was one of the most vocal and intimidating players in the NBA during his 16-season career but never won a championship largely because he played when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were destroying the league. Barkley faced the Bulls in the 1993 NBA Finals as a member of the Phoenix Suns but lost to Chicago in six games. Barkley, at only 6 feet 6 inches, was small for the power forward position, but he made up for it with an aggressive style of play that helped him average a double-double for 15 straight seasons.

7. Karl Malone, 1986-2004

Like Barkley, Malone was at his best while the Bulls were dominating the league; he and the Utah Jazz faced Chicago in the Finals in 1997 and 1998 but lost both times. For much of his career, he teamed up along point guard John Stockton to form one of the best pick-and-roll combinations in NBA history, which helped Malone average at least 23 points per game for 14 straight seasons and finish second on the all-time scoring list. He also took one last shot at winning a championship in 2004 when he joined Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers squad, but they lost in five games to the Detroit Pistons.

8. Barry Sanders, 1989-1998

For 10 years, Sanders constantly broke out of tackles and turned short runs into longer ones as the main running back for the Detroit Lions. In 1997, he became the third player to rush for at least 2,000 yards in a season, winning the MVP award. Despite his success, he never led the Lions to the Super Bowl, only getting as far as the NFC Championship game in 1991. 

9. Ken Griffey, Jr; 1989-2010

The owner of one of the prettiest swings in MLB history, Griffey was the Seattle Mariners’ first superstar. He had incredible power to all parts of the field and blazing speed that allowed him to stretch doubles into triples and track down long fly balls in the outfield. Griffey is one of only nine players to hit 600 home runs. However, when he was at his best, the Yankees were building a dynasty that would win four World Series in five years. Griffey never played in a World Series, making it as far as the American League Championship Series in 1995.

10. Allen Iverson, 1996-2010

Best known for his killer crossover and his “We’re talking about practice” rant, Iverson was at his peak at the wrong time. He entered at the tail end of the Bulls’ run and then entered his prime as the Lakers emerged as the new powerhouse of the league. He still had an incredible career, becoming one of the highest-volume scorers the point guard position has ever had. The closest he ever came to a championship was in 2001 when his Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Lakers in five games in the Finals.

Contact Joshua Gingrich at gingrihj@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.