Since 1947, only 20 franchises have won a league title. Today, only 19 of those franchises are active. (The defunct Baltimore Bullets won in 1948.) The Sacramento Kings won as the Rochester Royals in 1951, but their current postseason drought of 16 years is the longest in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder haven’t technically won a title, however, the franchise secured the 1979 NBA championship as the Seattle SuperSonics. None of the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, Milwaukee Bucks, Portland Trail Blazers, or Washington Wizards have won since Philly captured the crown in 1983.
The past 36 champions, dating back to 1984, come from a list of 11 franchises. Those being the Los Angeles Lakers (8 titles); Chicago Bulls (6); San Antonio Spurs (5); Boston Celtics (3); Detroit Pistons (3); Miami Heat (3); Golden State Warriors (3); Houston Rockets (2); Dallas Mavericks (1); Cleveland Cavaliers (1); and Toronto Raptors (1)
The Celtics and Lakers sit at the top of the all-time list. The C’s have 17 banners and the Lakeshow 16.
While this set of teams has bathed in champagne, others haven’t been so lucky. Here are the NBA franchises still searching for their first championship:
The Suns made the NBA Finals in 1976 and 1993. They lost to the Celtics in six games in ’76. In ’93, MVP Charles Barkley couldn’t outdo Michael Jordan and a clutch John Paxson shot.
Jordan’s final victim. Chicago took down John Stockton, Karl Malone, and the Jazz in 1997 and ’98.
Jason Kidd led the New Jersey Nets to repeat Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. The Lakers took home the 2002 ring in sweeping fashion, and the Spurs captured their 2nd franchise title in six games.
They returned to the Finals in 2009. This time, pulling an upset over LeBron James and the Cavs. They fell to the Lakers in five.
Reggie Miller and the Pacers were yearly contenders from 1994-2005. They came closest in a six-game loss to the Lakers in 2000, the first championship of their three-peat.
The Hornets have made the Eastern Conference semifinals four times; their most recent appearance was in 2002. Things haven’t been much brighter in Charlotte since.
Denver made the Western Conference Finals in 1978, 1985, and 2009.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clips best chance slipped when they upset the Spurs in the first round of the 2015 playoffs and inexplicably blew a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals. LA could vacate this list very soon.
The Grizzlies were a solid team for a majority of the 2010s. They ran into the Spurs’ broom in the 2013 Western Conference Finals.
The Wolves have essentially lived at the bottom of the league since joining in 1989. The peak of the Kevin Garnett era was a trip to the 2004 Western Conference Finals, where they fell to the Lakers in six.
New Orleans Pelicans
In their 17 year existence, NOLA reached the Western Conference semis twice. In 2008, as the New Orleans Hornets and led by Chris Paul, they lost to the Spurs in seven. In 2018, the mighty Warriors won in five.