Nike Air Max CB94
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Greatness in professional basketball is often measured by a singular achievement: Championship rings. Being a part of a team that goes all the way is the NBA’s ultimate goal, the sort of thing aspiring players dream about at night. What about those players who were individually outstanding, and may have been part of championship-caliber rosters at some point, but for one reason or another, were unable to capture the bling? From the legends of the black-and-white era rocking their Converse All-Stars to more recent superstars who had championship hopes cut short by Michael Jordan, the NBA Championship has eluded some of the game’s greatest players. Even some of today’s heroes, praised for their team leadership and winning ways, have yet to lock down the NBA’s holy grail. In this piece, we’ll reminisce on some of the best sneakers worn by championship-less players of the past as well as today’s standouts who are still on the hunt. These are The Best Shoes Worn by the 15 Greatest NBA Players to Never Win a Championship.

Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.

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Converse CONS
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No. 15 - Converse Cons PE

Player: Karl Malone

Karl Malone’s sneaker endorsements are up there with Hakeem Olajuwon for the most obscure of all time. Throughout his career, “The Mailman” wore styles from brands like Apex, L.A. Gear, and even Dada —what up, Drake? His Converse models were the best of them all though, and Malone wore them for some of his most successful years, including the ’89-90 season where he averaged a career-high 31 points per game. Malone helped lead the Jazz to division titles in 1989 and 1992, but their NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998 were nixed by His Airness.

Nike Air Foamposite One
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No. 14 - Nike Air Foamposite One

Player: Penny Hardaway

During the ‘90s, the word was that basketball analysts had made the bold proclamation that Penny Hardaway was the “next Michael Jordan.” Now, there’s no doubt that Penny Hardaway was a wizard on the court, but unfortunately injuries put a damper on the career of one of the ‘90s most exciting players. That hasn’t stopped his signature sneakers from remaining popular with fans, and there is none more revered than the Nike Air Foamposite One. Worn by Penny in a Magic-appropriate neon royal blue, this revolutionary sneaker served as the introduction for a technology that Nike still uses on its top tier basketball models.

Nike Shox BB 4
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No. 13 - Nike Shox BB4

Player: Vince Carter

In his prime, Vince Carter was known for his uncanny athleticism and throwing down some of the fiercest dunks the league has ever seen. The springy technology of his Nike Shox line, in particular the Shox BB4, had everyone asking the age old question, “is it the shoes?”

adidas Mutombo
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No. 12 - adidas Mutombo

Player: Dikembe Mutombo

After swatting their shots into the stands, Dikembe Mutombo said “no, no, no” to countless NBA stars over the years. Unfortunately, the big man was rejected by the NBA Championship for the entire length of his entire year career. Nevertheless, Dikembe Mutombo will go down as one of the greatest defenders of all time. The vibrant adidas Mutombo signature high-tops were without a doubt his most memorable kicks, and this year adidas paid tribute to the 7’2” standout  with a re-release of the classic model.

Nike Air Up
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No. 11 - Nike Air Up

Player: John Stockton

John Stockton’s play-making abilities were second to none, and to this day he stands as not only the league’s all-time assists leader, but also the leader in career steals. The Stockton-Malone duo in Utah was one of the NBA’s most efficient operations, combining John Stockton’s high offensive awareness with the Mailman’s aggressive finishing. Although John Stockton never won a ring, he was known for wearing a variety of memorable Nike models, including the Air Up and the re-appropriated Zoom Court Challenge.

Nike Air Max Sensation
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No. 10 - Nike Air Max Sensation

Player: Chris Webber

Since his days as a member of Michigan’s Fab 5, Chris Webber’s been known for his dominant, rugged style of play and his mean sneaker game. In college, Chris Webber and his Fab 5 teammates helped make the pairing of black socks and Nikes, such as the Flight Huarache and Air Force Max, a full-blown trend that was emulated by college and pro players alike. Upon entering the league, Chris Webber often opted for models with sturdy, high-impact protection cushioning such as the Nike Air Max Sensation.

Jordan Melo M4
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No. 9 – Jordan Melo M4

Player: Carmelo Anthony

Along with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony entered the league in the star-studded 2003 NBA Draft. Since then, their careers have gone in two distinctly different paths, but Melo’s been able to maintain his status as one of the game’s very best. He won the NBA Scoring Title last season and has made 6 All-Star Game appearances, but the NBA Championship has managed to elude the Brooklyn-born forward. Carmelo Anthony’s had a nice run with Jordan Brand, but the Foamposite-infused offerings of the Jordan Melo M4 made for his best model yet.

Nike Zoom BB II
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No. 8 – Nike Zoom BB Low II

Player: Steve Nash

Get this: 2 NBA MVP awards, 8 NBA-All Star appearances, 3 All-NBA First Team selections, but no championship ring. On paper, Steve Nash’s accolades might be the most impressive of any player that lacks an NBA title. Nash has had noteworthy stints with the Suns and Mavericks, but despite his league-leading play, it’s never translated into a championship run. Steve Nash is also one of the most deserving players without an official signature shoe, although the Nike Zoom BB Low and its sequel are often associated with the speedy scorer. Players of all levels loved the models for their low-profile and reliable Zoom Air cushioning.

Nike Total Uptempo
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No. 7 – Nike Total Max Uptempo

Player: Reggie Miller

Before Ray Allen, there was Reggie Miller. Known as one of the deadliest perimeter shooters in the game, Reggie Miller was the cause for many of Michael Jordan’s headaches and sleepless nights throughout the ‘90s. Despite his remarkable accuracy, Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers were usually stopped in their tracks by their Eastern Conference rivals, the Chicago Bulls. Reggie Miller wore classics such as the Nike Air Flight ’89, but the Nike Total Max Uptempo stands out as his definitive model. In 2009, Nike Sportswear honored Miller with a special House of Hoops-exclusive release of the Total Max Uptempo.

Jordan CP3.VI
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No. 6 – Jordan CP3.VI

Player: Chris Paul

By the end of the 2014 NBA postseason, Chris Paul may very well be ineligible for this list, but the superstar Clippers point guard has yet to lock down a title after seven years in the league. He’s been selected for the All-Star game on six consecutive occasions, and won the night’s MVP honors last February. In 2006, he won Rookie of the Year, and he’s also been selected for the All-NBA First Team three times. On top of this seemingly endless list of accomplishments, Chris Paul’s currently part of one of the most talented duos in the league with Blake Griffin. If there was ever a time for a title run, it’s now.

Reebok Kamikaze II
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No. 5 – Reebok Kamikaze II

Player: Shawn Kemp

While powerhouse forward Shawn Kemp’s individual statistics may not justify this sort of ranking, his signature line with Reebok helped make him one of the ‘90s most iconic players. Shawn Kemp was an NBA All-Star from 1993 to 1998, and his run with Gary Payton and the Seattle Supersonics amounted to a Finals appearance in 1996. Of course, like so many names on this list, they were shut down by Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Shawn Kemp’s Reebok Kamikaze II model embodied the feel of ‘90s basketball sneakers perfectly, with its aggressive design, wavy lines, and supportive cushioning. After years of demand from fans, Reebok dug into their archives to re-issue the original Kamikaze II this year, and its predecessor, the Kamikaze I, is set for a 2014 release.

Ewing 33 Hi
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No. 4 – Ewing Athletics 33 Hi

Player: Patrick Ewing

NBA Championship ring or not, Patrick Ewing holds a unique distinction that sets him apart from every other player on this list: his own sneaker line. No, not a signature line with another brand (although he had that, too.) During the early ‘90s, the 11-time NBA All-Star saw a void in the marketplace and looked to fill it by launching the Ewing Athletics brand. The towering center from Jamaica was outfitted in a number of exclusive styles as he had unforgettable clashes with Jordan and the Bulls in Madison Square Garden. Although Ewing Athletics eventually folded, it was revitalized last year with the re-introduction of the Ewing 33 Hi, the brand’s flagship sneaker, and they’ve continued to pump out classic styles in 2013.

Nike Air Max CB94
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No. 3 – Nike Air Max CB94

Player: Charles Barkley

When it comes down to pure skill and statistical achievements, Charles Barkley may be the NBA’s greatest player to never win a championship. After 26 years in the league, Barkley was an 11-time NBA All-Star, the 1993 NBA MVP, and was selected for the All-NBA First Team on five occasions. Charles Barkley averaged 22.1 points per game and 11.7 rebounds per game, and did it all in one of the best Nike Basketball signature lines of all time. From the Air Force 180 to the CB34, Barkley’s sneakers were as rugged and in-your-face as the big man himself. It was the Air Max CB94, with its highly supportive cushioning and straight jacket inspired lace system that captured Charles Barkley’s personality to a T.

Nike Zoom KD 4
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No. 2 – Nike Zoom KD IV

Player: Kevin Durant

Currently in his seventh NBA season, it’s almost not a matter of whether or not Kevin Durant will win an NBA title, but when? After winning the Rookie of the Year honors in ’08, Durant has been on a tear, with three NBA scoring titles, 4 All-NBA first team selections, and 4 NBA All-Star Game appearances. Kevin Durant's Nike Basketball signature line has been equally successful, raising the bar with each addition while maintaining a budget price point. Kevin Durant’s best model yet is arguably the Nike Zoom KD IV, which made use of an Adaptive Fit strap, Zoom Air cushioning, and a sleek Hyperfuse construction.

Reebok Question
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No. 1 – Reebok Question

Player: Allen Iverson

No, we’re not talking about practice, we’re talking about championships and the shoes that (should’ve) gotten them there. In the mid-late ‘90s, Allen Iverson became a household name due to his outstanding on-court play, but also his embarrassing off-court antics. Still, there’s no denying that when Allen was in top form, he was one of the greatest offensive players ever. 11 NBA All-Star appearances and the 2001 NBA MVP award are high honors, but Allen Iverson has always voiced his displeasure for not being able to win an NBA championship. Reebok did manage to win, though, with their longest running and most successful signature line of all time. Starting with the recently-revamped Question and continuing with the Answer series, Allen Iverson’s Reebok line was an undeniable champion.

Riley Jones is a freelance writer from Charlottesville, VA and contributor to Sneaker Report. With an unshakable affinity for basketball and all things ’90s, he can be found on Twitter @rchrstphr.

RELATED: The 10 Best Basketball Sneakers of 2013 (So Far)
RELATED:
The 10 Best Basketball Shoes for Power Forwards