With The Denver Nuggets striking gold in their first NBA finals appearance, they defeated not only the Miami Heat, but the Cleveland Cavaliers as well. Cleveland according to the TV broadcast had gone 45 seasons prior to securing that first Larry O’ Brien trophy in 2016. Denver had waited 46 seasons before toppling the Heat in Game 5 for their first chip in season 47. That landmark puts the Nuggets into the number one spot of “Most Seasons Prior to first title” in NBA history. Now, that may seem like a somewhat unsexy list at first glance. You can laugh at Denver or Cleveland for producing 45 plus years of failure, or even at Detroit for wasting 40 years before their first victory over the NBA world. But the key word here is “prior.” This means these teams, despite being muddled in years of mediocrity, have finally reached the peak at least once. No one in the world can ever say those teams are not NBA champions no matter how long it took to get there.  

For Denver’s mountain range brothers, our Utah Jazz, that isn’t the case. The Jazz have appeared in one more final than the Nuggets, losing to the omnipotent Bulls in back-to-back seasons in 1997 and 1998. Yet I’m sure they would be willing to trade the two appearances for Denver’s 1-0 finals record. Utah is on an entirely different list in basketball’s historic archives. When you look up “teams to never win an NBA championship” you’ll fail to find the newly minted Nuggets, but the Jazz will be right there among 10 of the NBA’s 30 squads. The Jazz don’t look too shabby on the list as the previously mentioned two appearances at least prove them capable of getting close to the ultimate goal. The Suns lead the losers with 3 appearances and no championship. Next to Utah’s two finals berths without a chip are the Orlando Magic and the multiple iterations of the Nets.  The Indiana Pacers are a one and done team losing in the 2000 finals. The last five have yet to even show up in a championship series, let alone lose it. That list consists of the Hornets, Clippers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves, and Pelicans.  

For longevity’s sake, the Phoenix Suns are the oldest team without a title coming in at 55 years. The Clippers trail closely at 53. Then sitting right there at number three are our beloved Utah Jazz with a 49-year span of ultimate disappointment including their days in the big easy. The Pacers and Nets have both dealt with 47 years of falling short. The teams without as much history, find themselves a bit more hopeful, with the Hornets credited with 35 years. For Charlotte it would technically be 33, but the NBA considers the Hornets two years of inactivity as valid after the team moved to New Orleans according to The Bobcats, of course, would stroll into town to carry on the tradition in 2004. Both the Magic and the Timberwolves entered the league in 1990 and have both witnessed 34 seasons of unrewarded labor. The Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies showed up in 1996 making it 28 seasons and counting. Lastly, the freshest team of them all is the New Orleans Pelicans, founded in 2003. The Pelicans get the privilege of feeling the least pressured to do something epic to snap season after season of failure because they just barely surpassed the 20-season mark at 21 total.   

Sports are built on glorified histories of the most epic proportions. Dynasties, winners, underdogs and comebacks. But for every beautiful success, we have a blatant failure, a disappointment, a loser. Which of these 10 losers is next to join the Nuggets on the other side? We can only hope it’s the Utah Jazz, but whoever it may be, it may come sooner than you think. Since Adam Silver took over the reins of the NBA 7 of the 10 NBA champions have all been unique winners. Parity is alive and well, but whether that parity includes any of these squads is to be determined.  

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