10 Blockbuster Trades That Changed the NBA Forever

  • Wilt Chamberlain for scraps

    Rumors abound on why exactly Philly felt the need to trade Wilt the Silt after the center averaged 24.3 points, 23.8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game while leading the 76ers to 62 wins in the 1967-68 season. (Those are real numbers, by the way.) In the end, though, they did it, getting Archie Clark, Jerry Chambers, and Darrall Imhoff in trade for the most dominating player ever. Hmm.

    With Wilt over the next five years, the Lakers made the NBA Finals four times and won one title. In the end, this move perhaps didn’t make as big an impact as others on this list, but hey, you trade Wilt Chamberlain and you deserve whatever criticism you get. Philly had won a title with Wilt just the year prior. Then in the last 48 years, they’ve won only one. Over the same period, the Lakers have won 11 rings.

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  • Dirk Nowitzki for Tractor Traylor

    I’m sorry, but Dirk might be the modern era’s most underrated superstar. You can make a case this is the third-greatest forward of all time. He’s been that good, and has somehow found a way to still be extremely efficient despite being 36 years old.

    Tractor Taylor was never that good in the NBA but you have to understand that when Dirk was first coming up, there were SO many stereotypes about the European player. Being super skinny and perimeter-based, Dirk had many accusations thrown his way, yet eventually found his confidence and completely turned around a Dallas franchise that had been bad for a very long time. If this trade never goes down, who knows where Mark Cuban is today? Who knows if Nowitzki ever becomes perhaps the greatest international player ever?

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  • LeBron James for draft picks

    Was this a trade? Well, technically it was. James got dealt from Cleveland to Miami in the summer of 2010 for two future second- and two future first-round draft picks, the Cavs doing so because James had already announced he was leaving. The sign-n-trade was a mere formality. But no matter how you slice it, the move instantly turned the Heat into the league’s hottest team and they went on to win four straight Eastern Conference championships, including two NBA titles. This’ll forever be one of the most memorable summers in league history.

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  • Shaquille O'Neal for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, and Brian Grant

    If you hadn’t noticed, this list isn’t necessarily about lopsided trades. It’s more about trades that changed the course of the NBA. This is definitely a case of the latter. If you look at the totality of the deal, it wasn’t THAT bad for the Lakers, as they traded Shaq for Odom, who played a big part on two title teams; Butler, who was traded for Kwame Brown, who was traded for Pau Gasol, who played a huge role on two title teams; a pick that become Jordan Farmar; and the team was bad enough the following season because of this deal to draft Andrew Bynum.

    But in the end, this deal signaled the end of a dynasty and perhaps one of the biggest what if? scenarios in league history. How many titles could Kobe and Shaq have won together? Could the Lakers have rebuilt around them? Probably not, but either way, they might’ve been the most devastating duo ever created and this deal officially put a cap on it. Both won titles without one another but the league was never the same after this move.

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  • Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice

    Pippen was drafted No. 5 overall in the 1987 Draft by Seattle and promptly shipped to Chicago for 6-11 center Polynice and future draft pick considerations. Not only was this a lopsided trade, but without it who knows if Michael Jordan ever wins a championship? At that point, Jordan still hadn’t won a playoff series, and the whispers were starting to grow about how he was just a selfish player who couldn’t win in a team setting. Without Pippen, perhaps he leaves Chicago, perhaps he never becomes the best player of all time…perhaps instead it’s the Knicks who dominate the East in the early 1990s.

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  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for four players

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was traded from Milwaukee to Los Angeles right in his prime, one of the biggest blunders ever made. (Even if the big man wanted out of Milwaukee — in part because he hated the winters there — it’s still a viciously bad deal.) It set the foundation for the Lakers’ incredible run through the 1980s and early ’90s, when they made the NBA Finals in nine of 11 seasons despite playing in the most competitive era in league history. Kareem didn’t make it out of the Western Conference Playoffs with the Lakers until Magic Johnson arrived in the 1979-80 season, yet that doesn’t really matter. The Bucks traded the eventual all-time scoring leader for Junior Bridgeman (a rookie), Dave Meyers (played just four seasons), Elmore Smith (a career role player who was traded mid-way through his second year with the Bucks), and Brian Winters (a second-year player who made just two All-Star Games).

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  • Robert Parish and Kevin McHale for Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown

    Somehow, the Celtics secured two-thirds of the greatest frontcourt in NBA history on the same day, and only had to give up two picks that would become Joe Barry Carroll (made only one All-Star Game and won just one career playoff series) and Rickey Brown (a career role player who was out of the NBA by ’85). Talk about a fleece. Grabbing Parish in the trade and then drafting McHale with the pick you received in the 1980 Draft was Boston’s way of surrounding new star Larry Bird with all of the artillery he needed. The results yielded three titles in the ’80s, as well as the creation of the greatest rivalry in league history with the Lakers.

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  • Magic Johnson for Gail Goodrich

    The Lakers’ acquisition of Magic was one of the most odd trades you’ll ever see. Basically, here’s what happened: Longtime L.A. scorer Gail Goodrich signed with New Orleans in 1976 and as the league rules stipulated at the time, the Lakers had to receive some type of compensation. The Jazz ended up giving up their first-rounder in each of the next three drafts, as well as an additional second-round pick. Then in 1979, the Lakers (with 26-win New Orleans’ top pick) won a coin flip to earn the No. 1 selection in the draft. Who did they take? Yep, you guessed it.

    Not only was it perhaps the most lopsided trade in league history — technically, Goodrich was traded for draft picks — but it set the stage for the Lakers’ dominance throughout the 1980s, setting them up for titles in yet another generation.

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  • Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac

    Many believe Bryant’s management team never planned on him playing anywhere else outside of L.A. Many others believe his fate was sealed once Jerry West saw the Philly schoolboy’s workout before the draft and called it the greatest individual workout he’d ever seen. Either way, the facts are that Charlotte drafted him and shipped him west for a starting center. The results? Bryant wins five titles in L.A. and becomes arguably the greatest player in franchise history. Divac ended up playing two years with the Hornets, where the team would win a total of four playoff games.

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  • Bill Russell for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley

    Everyone looks at this trade and automatically thinks about what a lopsided deal it was. But you know what? Hagan and Macauley weren’t that bad. In fact, Macauley was a talented 6-8 center who put up some big numbers beforehand while making six All-Star Games in Boston. And Hagan? He made five NBA All-Star Games and averaged at least 20 points four times after the deal. They just weren’t Russell, still the greatest winner in league history.

    The deal went down because the St. Louis owner just did not want to pay Russell as the draft’s No. 2 pick.

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  • Wilt Chamberlain
  • Dirk Nowitzki
  • LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh
  • Shaquille O
  • Scottie Pippen
  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
  • Kevin McHale
  • Magic Johnson
  • Kobe Bryant
  • Bill Russell

We’re not even to the All-Star break yet and there are already some calling for the Cavs to trade Kevin Love. Really? Already? Seems a bit early.

That’s because when Cleveland acquired the three-time All-Star from Minnesota over the summer, it signified a new regime in the NBA. The Cavs not only had LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but they had the new age Big Three, a trio of big-time stars under 30 years old fit to rule the league for the next five years.

While seeing stars team up doesn’t happen every year in this league, it does certainly feel like there’s at least one monster trade per year. In recent years, we’ve seen No. 1 draft picks traded. We’ve seen Dwight Howard traded. We’ve seen Deron Williams traded. We’ve seen James Harden traded. These moves are part of what makes this league so exciting.

However, it’s probable that no recent moves have had the same impact as trades involving Kevin McHale, Dennis Rodman, and Scottie Pippen once had. And today it feels like the perfect day to go digging in the crates.

As Love returns to Minnesota tonight for the first time after the trade, we’re looking back at all of the big trades that made differences. The ‘sota fans will probably boo him…or maybe he’ll get lucky and get a few cheers. Either way, there’s no guarantee that Love’s move from Minnesota to Cleveland will ever resonate the way some of these trades have, but it certainly has the potential to. Here are 10 Blockbuster Trades That Changed the NBA Forever.

Follow Sean on Twitter at @seanesweeney

image via Brian Bahr/Getty Images