By Brian Kalchik @BrianKalchik on April 15, 2014
Last year, the San Antonio Spurs were a mere seconds away from their fourth championship in the Gregg Popovich era. If not for a miracle three-pointer by Ray Allen, the Spurs would have been considered one of the greatest dynasties of all time, and the Heat's legacy would have been tarnished.
This begs the questions, who are the greatest teams to never win a title? Previous or future championships from these teams don't affect their status.
The greatest team in the Orlando Magic's brief history, the 1994-95 squad was led by a young Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway. After beating the Chicago Bulls after Michael Jordan came back in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic were swept by Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
One of the many Philadelphia 76er teams that came up short in the postseason, the 1979-80 team had everything fall in place in the NBA Finals, yet still came up short. Even without Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Game 6, the Los Angeles Lakers started Magic Johnson at center, and the Lakers defeated the 76ers.
The 1997-98 Indiana Pacers had the best chance to dethrone any of the Michael Jordan-led Bulls of the 1990's. The Pacers, coached by Larry Bird and led by Reggie Miller, took the Bulls to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals before losing a close game. The Bulls would go on to complete their second three-peat of the decade.
A 64 win team in 1996, the 1995-96 Seattle SuperSonics finally made the NBA Finals after repeated early exits in the decade. Unfortunately for them, they had to take on Jordan and the 72-win Bulls. The Sonics would somehow take two games from the Bulls before losing in Game 6.
Perhaps the Bulls' toughest test of their title runs, the 1992-93 Phoenix Suns, led by Kevin Johnson and Charles Barkley, came within seconds of forcing a Game 7 at home to the Bulls. With just seconds left, John Paxson hit a series-clinching three-pointer to spoil the Suns' dream of a championship and Barkley's best opportunity to win a championship as a player.
Perhaps the best Utah Jazz team in the Jerry Sloan era, the 1997-98 Utah Jazz, led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, seriously tested the Bulls in their final championship of the decade.
After holding a late lead in Game 6, the Jazz and Malone imploded, allowing Jordan to eventually tie and win Game 6 at the Delta Center.
The initial season of the "Big Three" in Miami was expected to bring a championship to Miami, but the Miami Heat fell to a determined Dirk Nowitzki and a scrappy Dallas Mavericks squad.
LeBron James struggled late in many late-game situations, allowing the Mavericks to pull off a tremendous upset. Since then, the Heat have won back-to-back championships.
Whether you want to cry foul or not, the 2001-02 Sacramento Kings were the best team in the NBA that season despite the Lakers having the two best players in the NBA in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Tim Donaghy's issues aside, the Kings squandered their opportunity at the Finals by repeatedly coming up small in the clutch in Game 6 and Game 7.
The first season of the initial "Big Three," the 1968-69 Los Angeles Lakers, led by Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, were the favorites to dethrone Boston in Bill Russell's final season as a player.
The Lakers lost in Game 7 at home 108-106 on a Don Nelson miracle shot and Chamberlain's absence in the final five minutes of the game.
In the final matchup in the NBA Finals between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics, Magic and the Lakers defeated Bird's Celtics in one of the greatest NBA Finals in history. Magic's hook shot in Game 4 secured a Laker win, and the Lakers would defeat Boston in the Boston Garden in Game 6 for the second time in three years.
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