The road less traveled: In a league defined narrowly by ultimate success or absolute failure, three teams are taking their own path to relevance and maybe someday to a championship.

Everyone wants what the San Antonio Spurs have, yet only a handful of teams can even reasonably aspire to it. As a new season begins, there are maybe a half-dozen challengers with realistic championship hopes; a few caveats and some lucky bounces may allow a few more — at most — to contend.

We count the rings in the NBA and measure champions for history, ranking them and their superstars among the all-time greats. After a time, few remember the valiant losers, let alone those who were…

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