I hear so many sports fans say “Well, [player name here] never won a championship so that will always be a stain on his legacy” or some variation of this. On its face, the logic is ridiculous. The topic of athletes without a championship is a popular conversation among sports fans, so I’ve started my research there.
I found two lists that ranked the best athletes to never win a championship (Askmen.com and BleacherReport.com). Apparently, this is a popular list as there are dozens of them out there — but the Top 10-20 is pretty clear. I did take a few examples from the others, here they are if you are interested in reading them (Yahoo!, SI/CNN, Bleacher Report).
Overall, I just wanted to confirm some of the athletes I had thought up for this category on my own. There are dozens of these lists by bloggers, but let’s be honest, bloggers are annoying and self-centered and pretty much need to be stopped. I stuck to reputable, known websites, which is why I even included the AskMen.com list; it was a surprisingly good list [shrug]. I included a 2nd list from a different editorial because it included 20 athletes, which I thought was a good expansion.
I have no long analysis, as there does not need to be. It is sort of a slam dunk. Team achievements and individuals achievements do not go hand-in-hand (any Minnesota sports fan has learned this multiple times over). Every comparison to a champion will be a current example. This is make the stark reality as clear as night and day to people who actually use their eyes.
As I go through the leagues, their list rankings are in parentheses (AskMen, BleacherReport – Top 10, Yahoo!, SI/CNN, Bleacher Report – Top 20)
Marcel Dionne, C – NHL (3, -, 8, 9, 7)
Pat LaFontaine, C – New York Islanders (-, -, -, -, 17)
Curtis Joseph, G – (-, -, -, -, 20)
These are the top 3 NHL players to never win a title. I think it’s mainly because the other sports have more popular athletes. Daniel Paille and Tuukka Rask both won a Stanley Cup title this year with the Boston Bruins. Dionne and LaFontaine are both Hall of Famers, and Joseph will be, without question. Would you put rank these two solid players above Hall of Famers due to a team championship?
As a bitter Minnesota sports fan, I can’t help but wonder where Mike Modano would be on this list had the North Stars never left Minnesota. While it is logical to think that the same teams would’ve been put on the ice each year, we all know that the Stanley Cup, 2 Conferences, and 7 Division Titles that he won while in Dallas would’ve escaped the franchise.
Charles Barkley, PF/SF – Philadelphia 76ers (10, 5, 10, 8, 14)
Karl Malone, PF – NBA (2, -, -, 4a, 6)
Elgin Baylor, SF – Minneapolis Lakers (5, -, -, 7, 4)
Patrick Ewing, C – New York Knicks (9, -, 6, -, 9)
John Stockton, PG – Utah Jazz (-, -, -, 4b, -)
I am a much bigger fan of the final two sports, and basketball is (by far) my least favorite. While I pay attention on SportsCenter and online very casually, I cannot claim any sort of expertise on the NBA; other than, of course, how diligently the Minnesota Timberwolves have contributed to the Minnesota Curse.
Interestingly, Barkley never ranked higher than 5th on these lists, while the other 4 were all ranked higher on one list, but ignored on at least two others. (I have since looked at 10 lists total, and Barkley is 1 of 3 to be on each list — the others being Ted Williams and Dan Marino, consistently always ranked 1 or 2.)
This season’s Dallas Mavericks were a pretty stacked bunch, with a number of future Hall of Famers, or borderline Hall players. So, I’ll just throw out the one consistent starter on the team that proves my point: DeShawn Stevenson. It’s not even close.
Other NBA athletes of note on the lists: Steve Nash & Allen Iverson.
Dan Marino, QB – Miami Dolphins (1, 2, 1, 1, 2)
Barry Sanders, RB – NFL (8, -, 2, 6, 11)
Jim Kelly, QB – Buffalo Bills (-, 3, 7, HM)
Warren Moon, QB – Houston Oilers (-, 9, -, HM, 12)
Dan Fouts, QB – San Diego Chargers (-, -, 9, HM, 16)
Eric Dickerson, RB – NFL (-, 6, -, HM, -)
The NFL had the most athletes on the list, likely due to the current popularity of the sport. It’s also hard not to argue that the popularity of Fantasy Football didn’t play into QB’s and RB’s dominating the Top 10 NFL players on these lists.
Quarterback in the NFL is constantly burdened with a W-L record like a MLB pitcher. It is quite ridiculous, as a QB only spends half the game even affecting the outcome — unlike any major sport. While it is clearly the most important position on the team, this show the complete flaw in equating individual accomplishment with team championships.
Due to this obvious bias, I would also like to highlight the few defensive players that were any of the lists I’ve analyzed. The top vote getters on defense were:
Dick Butkus (-, -, -, 10, -), Deacon Jones (-, -, -, HM, -), Alan Page (-, -, -, HM, -), Bruce Smith (-, -, -, HM, -). As you can see by their position on the five lists, defense is simply not burden with the team failure as others. Dick Butkus is easily Top 5 all-time at his position, was essential on that side of the ball, and only got to one Super Bowl. This profile is quite similar to all the same you see at the top — and guys like Fouts and Moon are nowhere near Top 5 all-time at their position.
So comparing these players to the 2010 Green Bay Packers, I want to use Matt Flynn as the QB example, because this argument really needs to be hammered home, but I’ll stick with starters: Brandon Jackson? Desmond Bishop?
Aaron Rodgers is a bad example. He could turn out to be a Top 10 all-time QB. Is he better than Brett Favre? No(t yet). If it happens, it won’t (shouldn’t) be because of championships. If you think Eli Manning is better than Dan Marino because of a pass that was trapped and a sack not called, well, then I got nothing for you.
Other NFL players on these lists: O.J. Simpson, Gale Sayers.
Ted Williams, LF – MLB (4, 1, 4, 2, 5)
Ty Cobb, OF – Detroit Tigers (-, -, 3, 3, 3)
Barry Bonds, LF – MLB (-, 4, -, -, 15)
Ken Griffey, Jr., CF – Seattle Seahawks (-, -, 5, -, 10)
I could talk for days about baseball, even just these athletes. Griffey should be in the same league as Ted Williams — but when you play fair in a league where 40% of players cheat — you don’t get compared accordingly. Apart from that, I will digress.
On the 2010 San Francisco Giants, there are no position players that can be put anywhere in the category of these 4. From Huff to Posey, or Renteria and Burrell. It’s not even close. It’s pretty easy.
Interesting, there were not any pitchers on these five lists. I found one that was a Top 50, that included Ferguson Jenkins and Juan Marichal were in the 30’s. Looking at games played without playing in World Series, there are no pitchers on the level of Dan Marino or Jim Kelly. It’s not even close. It seems that “great” pitchers will win a title, they have more control over the outcome — and while they only play in 20% of their games, they also often appear on good teams with other solid rotations.
Ask Dan Marino and Brett Favre about being on good teams, with, say, good defenses.
Other MLB legends of note on the lists: Carl Yastrzemski, Tony Gwynn, Ernie Banks.
This was an exercise in futility. This isn’t really a debate, as the only people who would make the other argument must have a bias against the player being debated, or have no idea about sports. A real debate about an idea or theory has to have strong principles on both sides. I just wanted to show why some people shouldn’t be allowed to speak. In reality, it’s not even close.