Most of the time, NBA players are praised for their achievements in their basketball careers. But it’s unusual to focus on their mistakes or failures on the court. However, that’s what we’re doing today – looking at the players who have lost the most playoff games in NBA history.
Just so you understand, to be on this list, a player must have been in a lot of playoff games and had some success too. If a player lost every playoff game they played, they wouldn’t even come close to making this list. That said, it’s important to remember that these 10 players also achieved great things in their careers.
- Top 10 Players Who Lost the Most in NBA Playoffs
- 10. Al Horford – 85 Playoff Losses
- 9. Kobe Bryant – 85 Playoff Losses
- 8. Shaquille O’Neal – 87 Playoff Losses
- 7. Robert Horry – 89 Playoff Losses
- 6. Tony Parker – 89 Playoff Losses
- 5. John Stockton – 93 Playoff Losses
- 4. Tim Duncan – 94 Playoff Losses
- 3. Karl Malone – 95 Playoff Losses
- 2. Derek Fisher – 98 Playoff Losses
- 1. LeBron James – 100 Playoff Losses
Top 10 Players Who Lost the Most in NBA Playoffs
Today, we won’t be talking about their wins. Instead, we’ll be focusing on the times these players couldn’t lead their teams to victory. Of course, we’ll give some background for each situation, but it’s a fact that these players have more playoff losses than anyone else in NBA history.
These are the NBA players who have the most playoff losses ever.
10. Al Horford – 85 Playoff Losses
Al Horford was chosen as the third overall pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2007 NBA Draft. He’s been a top player for 16 seasons, playing for the Hawks, Sixers, Thunder, and Celtics. He’s been selected for five All-Star teams and has been named to the All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams once each. Throughout his career, he’s averaged 13.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game.
In his time with these four teams, Horford has been part of the playoffs 14 times. Unfortunately, four of those times his team was eliminated in the first round, and five times they couldn’t make it past the Conference Semifinals. He reached the NBA Finals only once, with the Celtics in 2022, but they lost to the Golden State Warriors.
In the 85 playoff games that his team lost, Horford’s performance averaged 12.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game. Even though a player can make a big impact on helping their team win in the playoffs, they can also struggle and not meet expectations when their team needs them the most. Unfortunately, Horford’s overall playoff record of 82 wins and 85 losses reflects a lack of significant success in the postseason, which seems to be a recurring theme in his career.
9. Kobe Bryant – 85 Playoff Losses
Except for those who strongly dislike Kobe Bryant, most people recognize and appreciate Kobe Bryant’s greatness and his impact on five NBA championship-winning teams during his 20 seasons in the NBA. His 85 playoff losses shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments, especially considering his impressive overall playoff record of 135 wins and 85 losses, which is 50 games above .500.
However, this doesn’t mean Bryant didn’t have some rough games in playoff losses. There’s the well-known instance of him struggling in the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons, as well as seven occasions where he couldn’t lead his team past the second round. But these moments are pardoned, given the immense challenge of winning an NBA championship, and Bryant played a key role in securing five championships during his career.
Even in the 85 playoff losses, Bryant maintained a high level of performance. He averaged 25.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game in those matches. His shooting percentages were solid, with 44.8% from the field overall and 33.1% from three-point range. Unfortunately, his outstanding efforts weren’t always enough to lead the Lakers to victory on those particular days.
8. Shaquille O’Neal – 87 Playoff Losses
During his prime, Shaquille O’Neal is considered the most overpowering player in NBA history. While guiding the Lakers to three consecutive NBA championships, he earned the Finals MVP award each time. He would later win a fourth NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006.
Certainly, along with those victories, there were also losses and performances that weren’t up to par. There was the 1995 NBA Finals sweep by the Rockets and another one in the Conference Finals against the Bulls in 1996. His struggles against Detroit in the 2004 NBA Finals are also remembered, as well as four times his teams got knocked out in the first round.
Nevertheless, he wasn’t only dominant in wins; he also performed admirably in losses. In a total of 216 playoff games, O’Neal’s record was 129 wins and 87 losses. In the 87 games his team lost, he averaged 24.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Any reasonable coach or general manager would gladly accept those 87 losses in exchange for the four NBA titles he helped secure, particularly the three he played a direct role in during his career.
7. Robert Horry – 89 Playoff Losses
Robert Horry played a big role in winning seven NBA championships during his career, making him one of the most successful players in NBA history. Even with so many wins, there were games that didn’t go his way. Horry stood out in the NBA playoffs with important baskets and last-second three-pointers. He won two championships with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995, achieved a three-peat with the Lakers from 2000 to 2002, and secured two more with the Spurs in 2003 and 2005.
Horry’s overall playoff record is 155 wins and 89 losses, giving him a winning percentage of 57.4%. Anything above .500 is considered really good in the NBA playoffs. While he wasn’t known as an all-time great scorer or a top-notch defender, Horry consistently performed well in crucial moments. In the 89 playoff games his team lost, Horry’s averages were 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. But having seven NBA championships certainly helps overshadow those tough moments quickly.
6. Tony Parker – 89 Playoff Losses
Tony Parker’s contribution to the San Antonio Spurs’ four NBA championships is incredibly significant. He was a patient and strategic point guard who fearlessly attacked the basket and elevated the performance of his teammates on the court.
During the peak of the Spurs’ success, Parker stood out as a crucial player, even winning the Finals MVP award in 2007. He was instrumental in guiding the Spurs to five NBA Finals appearances. Throughout his NBA playoff career, Parker’s overall record was 137 wins and 89 losses, resulting in a strong winning percentage of 64.9%. In the 89 games his team lost, Parker maintained his usual performance level, averaging around 17.9 points and 5.1 assists per game.
For me, it’s hard to criticize someone for 89 losses when they managed to win almost 65% of their playoff games. But that’s just my perspective.
5. John Stockton – 93 Playoff Losses
Only five players in NBA history have experienced 90 or more losses in their playoff careers. One of these players is the highly regarded point guard, John Stockton. Stockton teamed up with forward Karl Malone in the Utah Jazz, forming an exceptional offensive partnership. Their pick-and-roll collaboration made them one of the best duos ever, and they reached two NBA Finals during their careers.
Despite their efforts, Stockton and the Jazz could never secure an NBA championship. Overall, Stockton’s playoff record was 89 wins and 93 losses, making him one of the two players on this list with a playoff record below .500. Despite being one of the greatest point guards in history, Stockton faced challenges in the competitive Western Conference and couldn’t overcome Michael Jordan’s Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Throughout his 93 playoff losses, Stockton averaged 13.4 points, 10.1 assists, and 1.9 steals per game, shooting 47.3% from the field. Despite his impressive skills, Stockton’s legacy is often affected by the difficulties he and his teams encountered in the NBA playoffs.
4. Tim Duncan – 94 Playoff Losses
Although Tim Duncan ranks fourth all-time with 94 playoff losses, this statistic doesn’t carry much weight for the greatest power forward in NBA history. Duncan played a pivotal role in elevating the San Antonio Spurs to become one of the most successful franchises in NBA history, winning five titles and earning three Finals MVP awards. On the big stage of the playoffs, Duncan’s dominance stood out, as he held a 5-1 record in the NBA Finals throughout his career.
His overall playoff record stands at 157 wins and 94 losses, giving him an impressive career winning percentage of 59.8%. Duncan faced and conquered some of the toughest opponents, including Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers, Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavericks, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh’s Heat, and numerous other legendary teams.
The 94 losses in the playoffs are just minor setbacks in Duncan’s remarkable NBA journey. His legacy is that of one of the most accomplished NBA players in history, firmly established as one of the top 10 greatest players ever. When considering the bigger picture and the context of his losses, they pale in comparison to his significant contributions and achievements in the NBA playoffs.
3. Karl Malone – 95 Playoff Losses
Here’s where evaluating a player’s career becomes complex. Karl Malone formed one half of the Utah Jazz duo that left an indelible mark on the NBA during the 1980s and 90s, setting records and lighting up scoreboards. Malone also ranks third in all-time NBA scoring and holds two league MVP awards. Regrettably, despite these achievements, he never managed to secure an NBA championship, even with three different chances in the NBA Finals, all of which he fell short in.
Malone faces criticism for his inability to clinch an NBA championship, a challenge that many players face if they don’t win one. His overall playoff record stands at 98 wins and 95 losses in his career, and his final four losses happened during the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons. In those losses, Malone posted averages of 24.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.3 steals per game. However, the question remains: Do these statistics justify the ultimate outcome? Many people do not believe so.
2. Derek Fisher – 98 Playoff Losses
In the realm of NBA playoffs, few players consistently exceeded their role as much as Derek Fisher. Over his 18-year career, Fisher secured five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, contributing both as a starter and coming off the bench in a smaller capacity. Fisher had a special talent for sinking clutch and unexpected shots during crucial moments of games, often extending or concluding them.
Emerging as an unexpected hero, Fisher’s legacy was cemented among the Lakers’ all-time greats. His comprehensive playoff record stands at 161 wins and 98 losses, giving him a playoff career winning rate of 60.8%. Even though he may not have been as prominent as Kobe Bryant or Shaquille O’Neal, Fisher’s role in his team’s achievements is etched in the memories of Laker fans and anyone who witnessed his play. As time goes on and we reflect on his contributions to five different NBA championships, the fact that he endured 98 playoff losses won’t be what defines him.
1. LeBron James – 100 Playoff Losses
LeBron James is perhaps the most criticized and closely examined player in NBA history when it comes to his playoff performances. However, labeling them as failures doesn’t quite capture the whole picture, given that more than half of his losses have occurred in the NBA Finals—an achievement in itself. Despite being a four-time NBA champion and earning Finals MVP honors with three different teams, there’s a substantial group of individuals who attempt to diminish his achievements.
James is recognized for elevating below-average lineups to championship contender status through his sheer presence on multiple occasions throughout his career. He has faced off against some of the most dominant teams in NBA history and remained steadfast until the final moments of the games. His overall playoff record stands at 182 wins and 100 losses, resulting in a playoff winning percentage of 54.9%.
So, considering that he boasts 10 Finals appearances and an above .500 record in the playoffs, does he truly deserve more criticism than any other player on this list? It seems unlikely. Furthermore, examining his statistics during those 100 playoff losses reveals that he has outperformed anyone else on this list. He has averaged an impressive 28.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.0 block per game in those losses. The undeniable reality is that James’ exceptional playoff track record, coupled with his unwavering efforts, should be acknowledged and celebrated instead of being used to tarnish his legacy.