Kevin Durant needed that ring. Absolutely had to have it.
Which seems unfair, you know—Durant getting lambasted for not having a ring, then trashed again for winning one in a way that displeases the peach basket purists of the league.
When it comes to legacy debates in the National Basketball Association, you're usually damned no matter what.
That being said, there is a small but conspicuous collection of ringless greats who've managed to finesse their way around the title scrum — star players who are still remembered fondly despite never winning a title.
The following are 20 such players who don't need a ring to validate what they've done on the basketball court, along with a suggestion of something they do need more than a title.
Because some guys don't need your approval or trophies.
He had the shoes, the hops and a jumper that started at sea level and finished somewhere in the troposphere.
T-Mac was cool because he was unique: a 6-foot-9 shooting guard who played the game like a Big & Tall Kobe Bryant — a Kobe who smiled and didn’t visibly hate everyone he ever faced on a basketball court.
This charming combination of dominance and swag sees McGrady out of most “But rings” blathering, and aside from that weird moment with Robert Horry, he seems to be at peace with his place in the shooters shoot pantheon.
What he does need: Some better suits.
Another example of a guy whose ringless career is remembered with lament instead of derision.
Penny could’ve won it all, but injuries derailed things and Shaq had to go and dress up like a genie.
I think most people assume Hill won like three championships but have never checked up on it.
What he does need: An evil alter ego so he can stop being nice for one second of his adult life.
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Miller is a unique case among ringless greats in that he’s almost universally revered despite being one of the biggest loudmouths in the history of the NBA and an unrepentant flopper who talked a big game but never took home the goods.
Nine times out of 10, that’s three strikes and a bust for an NBA player. For Reggie, it’s part of his charm.
What he does need: Someone to tell him when his color commentary shifts into that mode where he's just saying things that are happening in front of him.
If anyone ever says a cross word against Kemp’s legacy, you are legally allowed to hunt down their entire family and dunk on them one at a time.
Westbrook will probably retire without a championship, and I say that as someone who believes in him like I believe in the sun rising each morning.
But the NBA is an unforgiving hell-mountain, and between Golden State looking primed for a dominant stretch and Westbrook’s apparent desire to stay in OKC and fight the good fight, he probably won’t be winning a title anytime soon.
And that’s fine.
Because the rule we have as sports fans is: If you entertain and astound me, even in a losing effort, I’ll remember you favorably.
Which is why 20 years from now ringless Russ will be remembered for his flying velociraptor dunks while Kevin Durant’s title(s) will lead any discussion of his greatness as long as his name is remembered.
Again, Kevin Durant will go to his grave with the authenticity of his first title still being argued. That’s not fair, but that’s how it is.
And while Westbrook will go down in NBA history as the tragic show stopper of OKC’s original big three, the Beard will likewise skirt most of the legacy morass as a one-of-one kind who’ll be remembered for his unique skill set and reinvention of himself and the resurrection of Mike D'Antoni's career.
What he does need: A cure for his fever, and that cure is more threes.
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Nobody dogs Dominique Wilkins because Dominique Wilkins was a soul-crushing monster who just happened to be be marooned on a team that couldn’t compete for championships.
Also, dunking on most of the league is a great way to make sure people don't throw dirt on your name later on down the line.
What he does need: Somebody, anybody, who can get this Hawks team in gear.
If you don’t know who Gervin is, I highly recommend looking him up.
The longtime Spurs small forward earned the nickname "Iceman" by terrorizing NBA defenses in the '70s and '80s, and one of my favorite stories about him involves the time he scored 53 points in a half despite being triple-teamed simply because he wanted to beat out David Thompson for regular-season scoring champ.
That sentence is more badass than any ring.
What he does need: These whipper snapper NBA fans to do their homework and recognize game.
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The only correct response to “What do you think about Allen Iverson not winning a championship?” is a long sigh followed by any non-verbal cue indicating you have never and will never give a damn.
What he does need: NBA-aged people in his basketball league.
Stockton gets a pass in my book for reasons that I cannot explain but probably have something to do with him seeming so joyless and miserable for the entirety of his NBA career.
Surely this hard-working, put-upon dadsketball player cannot be blamed for the Jazz never rolling their Sisyphean rock all the way up championship hill.
What he does need: A glass of Dewar’s and some alone time in the garage.
Dwight crawled through 900 feet of legacy babble in Orlando and Los Angeles and, like a giant, disappointing Andy Dufresne, has come out clean on the other side with zero expectations attached to his name.
What he does need: Howard needs to admit the jig is up and go to China, where they will build pyramids in his honor.
Did you know he didn’t win a title? I didn’t.
What he does need: A barber who doesn’t also work in the mess hall.
In the likely outcome that he doesn't Dragonball-fuse with Anthony Davis and bring a slew of bully-ball championship teams to New Orleans, absolutely nothing will change for Cousins.
Boogie will still be Boogie, and he’ll always be remembered as the most graceful tower of slow-boiling rage to suit up in the NBA this side of the millennium.
What he does need A tall glass of you minding your business.
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Pistol Pete never won a championship, and I’m pretty sure they based Woody from Toy Story on his youth.
So dream medium, kids.
What he does need: Fewer kids confusing him with John Havlicek.
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He’s a fringe candidate, but Mutombo’s entire being is a good introduction to the idea that you can be badass at basketball and not win it all and still make it out of the NBA an all-timer.
What he does need: Bismack Biyombo to start earning the finger wag.
If the first, second or third thing you think of when Steve Nash’s basketball career is brought up in conversation is “Yeah, but he didn’t win a chip,” that’s just a personal problem.
What he does need: Fewer questions about that time he popped his nose back in place.
A borderline example in “greatness” discussions, but Jamal Crawford is nonetheless another example of a player who will be remembered for his singularity on the court over all else.
What he does need: To team up with Lou Williams as a package deal.
Z-Bo will never win a championship, and I like him more for it.
What he does need: A renaissance for the exercise ball-shaped power forward in the National Basketball Association.
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Vince Carter is the poster child of the No Won Rings No One Cares movement—a singular talent whose legendary individual achievements supersede any chatter about rings, and who managed him to imprint himself in a time and place in NBA history as few others could.
This is a fancy of saying “He’s done such dope stuff we forget to be jerks to him."
What He Does Need: To stay far away from the Warriors and vet minimum contracts.