It’s always easier to remember teams that won a championship than the team they beat to win the championship. After all, to the victor goes the spoils. However, there are plenty of teams that fell a little short worth remembering. In the NBA, for example, plenty of teams have had impressive seasons, only to lose a competitive series. While not every NBA Finals loser is worth remember, let’s take a look at some of the best teams in NBA history that won their conference but couldn’t take home an NBA title.
1992-93 Phoenix Suns
This was the year that Charles Barkley won MVP. Dan Majerle and Kevin Johnson also had outstanding seasons, as the Suns won 62 games during the regular season.
This was Barkley’s chance to win a championship, only for Michael Jordan and the Bulls to get in the way. The Suns couldn’t even utilize their home-court advantage, dropping all three games at home with Chicago winning the finals in six games.
1997-98 Utah Jazz
This was Utah’s year, and everybody knew it. The team barely broke a sweat in the playoffs, beating the Spurs in five games and sweeping the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. The stars were aligned for the Jazz with the Bulls getting older and losing some of their depth.
Before the series, everyone would have agreed the Jazz would have been worth title recipients. Alas, Michael Jordan had one more amazing series in him, carrying the Bulls to one last championship, depriving the Jazz of a well-deserved title.
1996-97 Utah Jazz
This Jazz team was even better than the one the following year. Karl Malone won MVP honors while John Stockton hadn’t quite started to decline just yet. Utah won 64 games during the regular season and was finally ready to take their shot against the Bulls.
However, not even Michael Jordan suffering from food poisoning was enough to help Utah topple Chicago. The Jazz fell short in six games, but not for the first time.
1995-96 Seattle Sonics
Behind George Karl, this Seattle team was something special. Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton were both at the top of their game, leading the Supersonics to a 64-18 record during the regular season. Detlef Schrempt, Sam Perkins, and Hersey Hawkins weren’t a bad supporting cast either.
They survived a seven-game battle with the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals. However, Michael Jordan and the Bulls were too much and the Sonics never got another chance in the NBA Finals.
2015-16 Golden State Warriors
It’s still a little baffling how a team that won a record 73 games during the regular season couldn’t finish the job. After being pushed to seven games by the Thunder in the conference finals, one assumed that Golden State wouldn’t take anything for granted.
However, Stephen Curry and company couldn’t stop LeBron James in Games 5, 6, and 7, as the Warriors made history during the regular season, only to ruin everything by losing in the NBA Finals.