There’s a famous quote by one of the most legendary coaches in the history of American sports, Vince Lombardi, that sums up all of sports: “If winning isn’t everything, why do they keep score?”
Greatness tends to be measured solely on the number of rings on your fingers in pro sports. Everyone remembers how much criticism LeBron got before selling his soul, and joining with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. But how about now? He is in the conversation with the likes of Jordan, Kobe and Wilt as the greatest basketball player of all time. This is undisputed proof of what a single piece of jewelry can do for your legacy. Throughout all of the major sports, there have been and are still dozens of MVP’s and all stars that never won the big game. This list will take a look at just a few of those guys.
First on the list is the “great” Dan Marino. Regarded as one of the five best quarterbacks of all time, Marino tops our list as the greatest athlete with a naked ring finger. When he finally hung up his cleats, Marino was the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns. It’s often said in professional sports that you only get one chance in the big game, and for Marino that rung true. In just his second season, Marino led the Dolphins to the Super Bowl against Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. That game ended in a 38-16 blow-out loss for Marino and he never again returned to the Super Bowl.
The next star that never got to hold the trophy is Teddy Ballgame. Ted Williams is regarded by many as the greatest hitter in the history of the national pastime. Number 9 batted a career .344 with 521 home runs. These numbers could have been even more impressive had Williams not sacrificed four of his prime seasons for military service. Unfortunately for Williams, and the rest of his teammates: Williams’ tenure in Boston was during that of the “Curse of the Bambino.” The Splendid Splinter did make it to one World Series, but was never able to hang a banner in Beantown.
Unlike the others on this list, the third best athlete without a ring had 3 different tries to win an NBA championship. “The Mailman,” Karl Malone was a once in a generation player, who played during the most competitive time frame in NBA history. Overshadowed by Michael Jordan, Malone was a two-time MVP and Olympic gold medallist along with being a fourteen-time NBA All Star. Malone is second on the all-time scoring list with 36,928 points and sixth in rebounds with 14,968, but never could win when it counted. The Utah Jazz, led by Stockton and Malone, saw two chances at an NBA title, both of which were thwarted by the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan. After becoming the leading scorer and rebounder in Jazz history, Malone moved on to the L.A. Lakers for one final chance at a title. Though they had one of the greatest lineups in NBA history with the likes of Gary Payton, Shaq, Kobe and Malone; they could not get the job done and lost in the finals to the Detroit Pistons. Malone made the playoffs each year he was in the league, but never made the push to becoming a champion.
Who doesn’t love Allen Iverson? The Answer was one of the most electrifying and galvanizing players in the history of The Association. He was as talented as he was trailblazing. Iverson changed the face of the NBA and did so by having some of the best seasons we’ve seen from any player. Iverson is an eleven-time All Star, Four-time scoring champion and NBA MVP. Like Marino and Ted Williams, Iverson saw his one chance to win an elusive champion slip away. Kobe, Shaq and the rest of the L.A. Lakers beat A.I. and the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Maybe if Iverson didn’t miss so many practices, his trophy closet would be a bit more full.
Honorable Mentions for this list could be massive but here are the best of those that missed the big win: John Stockton, Cris Carter, Charles Barkley, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Barry Sanders, Patrick Ewing.