NBA

Longest NBA Title Droughts

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We are a living in some sort of Bizzaro World where ESPN is able to write an entire story about LeBron James and Dwyane Wade gearing up for a World Series bet that involves the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, the two MLB teams that have gone the longest number of years without winning a World Series. For Cleveland it has been 68 years, while the Cubs very famously have gone well over a century since their last World Series championship.

Obviously, one of those streaks is going to die in the coming weeks, but things don’t look quite so rosy for basketball’s most championship-hungry teams. The two NBA teams that look destined for a run at the championship are the two teams that have spent the last two years dueling it out. The longest streaks, unfortunately, look like they’re at least another few years away from breaking free of the misery Cubs and Indians fans have dealt with for decades.

Here’s a look at the longest championship droughts in the NBA:

Never won an NBA championship: Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets (12 years), Memphis Grizzlies (21 years), Toronto Raptors (21 years), Minnesota Timberwolves (27 years), Orlando Magic (27 years), Charlotte Hornets/New Orleans Pelicans (28 years), Denver Nuggets (40 years), Brooklyn Nets (40 years), Indiana Pacers (40 years), Utah Jazz (42 years), L.A. Clippers (46 years), Phoenix Suns (48 years).

Rochester Royals/Sacramento Kings (65 years) – The Royals won this franchise’s only championship in 1951, and the team has moved from Rochester to Cincinnati to Omaha to Kansas City to Sacramento since. In Rudy Gay’s “basketball hell,” this drought doesn’t look like it will end any time soon, either.

St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks (58 years) – The Hawks’ lone championship came in 1958, when they toppled the Boston Celtics in six games thanks to the elite play of future Hall-of-Famer Bob Pettit. They played in the Finals in 1957, 1958, 1960 and 1961 but only managed the single championship in that strong half-decade. They really haven’t come close since.

Milwaukee Bucks (45 years) – Upon acquiring Oscar Robertson to pair with Lew Alcindor during his second year in the league, the Bucks steamrolled to 66 wins and the franchise’s lone NBA championship.

New York Knicks (43 years) – Madison Square Garden might be basketball’s Mecca, but it only has served as home to two championship teams over the course of the organization’s 70 years of existence. Those came in 1970 and 1973 thanks to legends like Clyde Frazier, Dave DeBusschere and Willis Reed.

Portland Trail Blazers (39 years) – After picking up Maurice Lucas in the ABA dispersal draft and adding Jack Ramsay as head coach, a team led by Bill Walton managed to get Portland a winning record for the first time in franchise history the same year they won their first and only championship.

Washington Bullets/Wizards (38 years) – In the late 60s and early 70s, very good Washington teams led by Wes Unseld and Elvin Hayes flirted with success over and over again with little to show for their efforts. Finally, in 1978, the Bullets won the NBA Finals, ending a 36-year championship drought. They were the only team to make the Finals four times in the 1970s, and they haven’t come close to winning another championship since.

Seattle SuperSonics/Oklahoma City Thunder (37 years) – Behind the efforts of Gus Williams and Finals MVP Dennis Johnson, as well as burgeoning star Jack Sikma, the 1979 Sonics won their franchise’s first and only championship series. Since the team’s move to Oklahoma City they have only made the Finals a single time, and with Kevin Durant now gone, it may be a while before they even hope to get back there.

Philadelphia 76ers (33 years) – This was Moses Malone’s “Fo, Fo, Fo” year, during which his dominant team blasted through the league, winning 65 games and storming through the Finals for a sweeping win over the L.A. Lakers. They only lost one game that entire postseason, which is what happens when you’ve got Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and other great players stacking the roster.

Houston Rockets (21 years) – Houston’s two championships in the mid-90s may have come during Michael Jordan’s absence, but Hakeem Olajuwon was a truly transcendent player in that era and helped bring the Larry O’Brien trophy to Texas for the first time.

Chicago Bulls (18 years) – All six of Chicago’s championships came during the Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen epoch, with the most recent having come in 1998. It wasn’t fun to be a Utah Jazz fan in the late 1990s.

Detroit Pistons (12 years) – In what might have been the biggest playoff upset of all time, the 2004 Pistons stunned a Lakers team that featured Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton and Karl Malone, all without a single transcendent “star” on the roster. Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, though, were big enough stars to earn rings in one of the league’s best-ever David vs. Goliath stories.

Boston Celtics (8 years) – Boston’s “Big Three” featuring Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen did attend three consecutive NBA Finals but only won in 2008, giving Garnett and Pierce the only (but much deserved) championship of their respective careers.

L.A. Lakers (6 years) – Like Boston, the Lakers have won an obscene number of championships over the course of the franchise’s history, the most recent of which came in 2010. It would be the last championship Kobe Bryant would win in L.A., and a year later Phil Jackson would move on as head coach of the team. That 2010 title really was the end of an era for the Lakers.

Dallas Mavericks (5 years) – After a historic collapse against Miami in 2006, Dallas redeemed themselves in 2010 thanks to Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Tyson Chandler, Shawn Marion, Peja Stojakovic and Jason Terry, all of whom pitched in tremendously to get the Mavericks their first and only title.

Miami HEAT (3 years) – The HEAT won two of their four championship series with LeBron James in South Beach, making the most of their pricey-yet-effective tactic to steal a couple of rings for the King.

San Antonio Spurs (2 years) – All told, in the 17 seasons that Tim Duncan played under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, the organization won five championships, the last of which came in 2014.

Golden State Warriors (1 year) – As an exclamation point on Stephen Curry’s coming-out party as league MVP, his Warriors took home their first trophy in 30 years. They way they’re going, there could be several more in the team’s immediate future.

Cleveland Cavaliers (0 years) – LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love led the Cavaliers to their first-ever championship in 2016, winning their rematch over 2015 league champion Golden State Warriors.

*****

With Golden State looking so mighty, it could be some time before some of these long-suffering NBA fans get the relief that Cubs fans or Indians fans may get in the World Series this year, but both organizations are proving right now that even the most depressing championship droughts end eventually. Hopefully Kings fans won’t have to wait 108 years for that to happen.

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About Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

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