The National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Hockey League (NHL) playoffs are in full swing. Sports shows and sports pages are full of talk about players who want to “win a ring.”

Winning a championship in professional sports is tough. There are lots of good teams and great individual players working hard for the same goal. Not every player, including the very best, can end up a winner.

There have been many great players who didn’t “win a ring.” Let’s look at some.

Elgin Baylor, who grew up in Washington, averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds during his 14-year NBA career (1958 to 1972). His team, the Lakers, lost in the NBA Finals eight times. Baylor never won a championship ring.

Power forward Karl Malone (1985 to 2004) is the second leading scorer in the history of the NBA. His teammate on the Utah Jazz, point guard John Stockton (1984 to 2003), has the most assists in NBA history.This Hall of Fame combination never won an NBA title.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has not been around as long as the NBA. There are great players who have not won a WNBA championship.

Tina Charles has been a force since she entered the WNBA in 2010. The 6-foot-4-inch center has been a five-time all-star and was named the most valuable player (MVP) in 2012. However, Charles does not have a WNBA championship ring. Maybe her luck will change now that she’s on the Washington Mystics.

Marcel Dionne (1971 to 1989) scored 731 goals during his NHL career. Only four players have scored more. But Dionne’s teams never did well in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Dionne does not have a ring, and his name is not on the Stanley Cup.

It’s the same in baseball, football, soccer and other team sports. Plenty of great stars never played for teams that won the ultimate prize.

Kids who play team sports understand this. You can have a great game in which you get a bunch of hits or score a lot of points and your team can still lose. In team sports, one player can’t win a game all by himself or herself.

This bothers some kids so much that they switch to individual sports, such as tennis or golf, in which a player has more control over the outcome.

I get angry when sportswriters or announcers make it seem there is something wrong with great players because their teams don’t win the championship. The Lakers were not losing because of Baylor, and the Jazz didn’t fall short because of Stockton and Malone.

In sports, teams win and lose games. Sometimes even the best players can end up without a ring.