10 Biggest Blockbuster Trades in NBA History

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIJuly 9, 2012

10 Biggest Blockbuster Trades in NBA History

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    The "Blockbuster Trade."

    Trades happen all the time in professional sports. Some are big, some are minor. Some seem big when they're made, but turn out to be not as massive as originally thought. Others fly under the radar, but actually turn into significant trades. 

    Then there are the "blockbusters." These are the trades that grab headlines when they happen, and whose impact is felt throughout the NBA for years.

    They don't happen all that often. They usually involve superstars, or players for whom stardom seems inevitable.

    Teams usually aren't in a hurry to jettison big-name players and risk incurring the wrath of fans and media.

    Of course the fact that these types of deals don't happen frequently, only makes them more dramatic when they do happen.

    Most of the following deals will include players who were well-established when they were dealt; there are exceptions, though. Some deals that have transpired over the years have had such a dramatic influence on the league, and its history that in retrospect they have become "blockbusters."

    What are the 10 biggest trades in NBA history

10: June 24, 1998- Dallas Gets Dirk

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    Many of the NBA's biggest trades took place on draft day. 

    The year 1998 saw a fairly large one transpire.

    The Dallas Mavericks had the sixth pick in the draft, and selected Robert "Tractor" Traylor out of Michigan.

    The Milwaukee Bucks had the No.  9 pick and selected a highly touted  20-year-old German named Dirk Nowitzki.

    Dallas shipped Traylor to Milwaukee who then sent Nowitzki and Pat Garrity to Dallas.

    Traylor was out of the league in a few years. Dirk went on to become a major star in the NBA in the 21st century.

    Dallas, led by Nowitzki, won the 2011 NBA Finals. The Mavericks are a perennial contender, and that trade is a major reason why.  

9: July 10, 2010- LeBron Makes a 'Decision'

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    While many people associate LeBron James wearing a Miami Heat uniform, as a free-agent decision. 

    The reality is that it was actually a trade. 

    Of course, the trade never gets made if LeBron decides to stay in Cleveland. 

    To Cleveland's credit, as long as they were losing an irreplaceable commodity such as James, they may as well have gotten something back in return. 

    At the end of the day, LeBron James was formally traded for two future second-, and two future first-round draft picks. 

    The results of the trade were felt immediately. 

    Miami has been to the NBA Finals in both years since LeBron arrived on the scene. This past season, James won the NBA Championship. 

    Cleveland had to start over. To their credit they've made progress. Some shrewd trades and some solid draft picks have already brought the Cavaliers back to being somewhat competitive. 

    The future is bright in Cleveland, but the future is now in Miami. 

8: July 1, 2007- Kevin Garnett Lands in Boston

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    The Boston Celtics were stuck in neutral. The once proud franchise had gone from great-to-bad-to-mediocre, and back to bad again. 

    That cycle of mediocrity was too much for Celtics President Danny Ainge, so on July 1, 2008 Ainge took a bold step. 

    He dealt Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff and Sebastian Telfair, along with two first round picks in the 2009 NBA Draft and in return he got Kevin Garnett

    Ainge gave up a lot. He got back more than his money's worth. 

    Garnett paid instant dividends, by teaming up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to lead the Celtics to their first NBA title since 1986.

    The Celtics have been one of the NBA's most competitive teams since the deal. The Garnett trade was the most important in a series of moves that returned the Boston Celtics to relevance. 

7: July 14, 2004- Shaquille O'Neal Hits South Beach

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    When Shaquille O'Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent in 1996, it was one of the biggest free agent signings in NBA history. 

    Almost eight years later when Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat, the trade sent shock waves through the league. 

    This trade set the stage for two different teams to win NBA championships. 

    The Heat, of course, got Shaquille O'Neal who, along with Dwyane Wade, helped lead the 2006 Miami Heat to the NBA title. 

    The Los Angeles Lakers didn't fare so poorly, though. 

    L.A. received Caron Butler, Brian Grant and Lamar Odom, along with a first-round draft pick in 2006 and a second -ound pick in 2007. 

    Lamar Odom ended up as the key part of the deal. 

    Odom would play a key role in the three trips the Lakers made to the NBA Finals in 2008, 2009 and 2010. 

    This trade resulted in four NBA Finals trips and three Finals wins. That's a blockbuster for sure. 

6: July 9, 1968- Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers

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    When you get the opportunity to acquire the most dominant scorer in NBA history, you don't pass it up. That's why when the Los Angeles Lakers had the chance to package three non-essential players to acquire Wilt Chamberlain, the deal got done. 

    The Lakers sent guard Archie Clark, forward Jerry Chambers and center Darrall Imhoff to Philadelphia, and the 76ers sent Wilt out west. 

    For the Lakers, who were coming off a defeat in the NBA Finals to the Boston Celtics, the move was seen as one that would ensure the Lakers wouldn't just make the Finals, but would win them.

    It didn't work out quite as well as planned. 

    Los Angeles made the NBA Finals in both 1969 and 1970, but they lost both times. 

    Finally it all paid off in the 1971-1972 season when the Lakers went an incredible 69-13 and won the NBA Finals by beating the New York Knicks. 

    The summer that Philadelphia chose to trade Wilt he was coming off a season in which he averaged 24.3 points, 23. 8 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. 

    It's hard to imagine anyone ever replicating those numbers, and even harder to imagine them being dealt in the summer after the accomplishment. 

5: June 22, 1987- Scottie Pippen Becomes a Bull

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    The Chicago Bulls dynasty, that spanned much of the 1990s, is often and deservedly associated with Michael Jordan.

    Michael Jordan is arguably the single greatest individual athlete of the 20th century. At times when he was on the court, he looked like a one-man team.  

    He didn't do it alone, though. 

    Jordan's career was in its infancy following the 1986-1987 season. It was already apparent that the Bulls were going to need someone to play alongside Jordan if the team was to make the leap from annual early playoff exit, to NBA Finals participant.

    Following an impressive four-year career at the University of Central Arkansas, Scottie Pippen was poised to be a lottery pick in the 1987 NBA Draft.

    Pippen didn't have the same North Carolina Tar Heel pedigree that Jordan did, but he was a fantastic athlete who averaged 23.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game his senior season.

    So when the Seattle SuperSonics selected Pippen with the No. 5 overall pick, the Bulls sprung into action.

    Chicago sent center Olden Polynice,a second-round pick in the 1988 draft, and a first-round pick in the 1989 draft to Seattle; in exchange, the Bulls received Pippen and a 1989 first-round draft pick.

    The results? Not much, just the formation of one of the greatest NBA dynasties to ever take the court.

    Pippen made seven All-Star teams, played on the Dream Team, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Bulls won six NBA titles. 

    The SuperSonics? Well they did manage to lose to the Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals. 

4: June 16, 1975-Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers

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    The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the dominant teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Then Wilt Chamberlain retired and the team needed to reload. 

    There wasn't any better way to do that then by acquiring one of the league's best players, and the man who would eventually become the NBA's all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. 

    Abdul-Jabbar had grown unhappy in Milwaukee, and the team dealt him to the Lakers for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, Elmore Smith and Brian Winters. 

    This deal was huge, it ensured the Lakers would be competitive for a while. They were, winning five NBA titles while Kareem was a member of the team. 

    It also ensured that Milwaukee would need to start from scratch. 

    They did, eventually loading up with players such as Bob Lanier, Sidney Moncrief and Marques Johnson. The Bucks were competitive after dealing Kareem, but they never matched what the Lakers accomplished after the trade. 

3: June 9, 1980-Boston Celtics Get Two-Thirds of a Dynasty

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    In June of 1980 the Boston Celtics were already well positioned for a bright future. 

    The team was coming off a 61-21 season in which they lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Philadelphia 76ers. They had the reigning rookie of the year, a guy who was named Larry Bird. 

    Things weren't all rosy though. 

    Boston had aging stars such as Dave Cowens, Tiny Archibald and Pete Maravich. 

    On June 9, 1980 Celtics president Red Auberbach made a deal with the Golden State Warriors that will go down in history as a one of the NBA's most lopsided deals ever. 

    Boston dealt its two first-round picks in the 1980 draft, No.1 and No.13, to the Warriors who in return sent the No. 3 pick on the 1980 NBA draft to Boston along with fourth-year center Robert Parish. 

    Boston chose a lanky power forward named Kevin McHale out of Minnesota, Golden State selected Joe Barry Carroll at No. 1 and Ricky Brown at No. 13. 

    McHale and Parish joined Bird to become Boston's "Big Three" for the 1980's. The results were quick as well, Boston won the NBA Title in 1981. They would go on to reach four more NBA Finals in 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987. 

    Golden State? They're still waiting for a trip to the Finals. 

2: Aug. 5, 1976- the Lakers Set the Stage for Magic

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    Talk about "Magic." 

    On Aug. 5, 1976, longtime Laker veteran Gail Goodrich was signed as a free agent by the New Orleans Jazz. 

    As compensation, the Lakers ended up receiving a first-round draft pick. That draft pick wasn't for three years, and in 1979 the top pick was determined by a coin flip between the two teams that held the top two picks.

    The Lakers won the coin flip, and that's how a veteran free agent, and a coin flip, delivered one of the greatest players in NBA history to the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Magic Johnson played for 12 1/2 seasons. He made eight trips to the NBA Finals, winning five rings. He won three league MVPs and three NBA Finals MVP awards. 

    All of that as a result of an aging free agent signing with another team three years before Magic entered the league, and a coin flip. 

    "Magic" indeed. 

1: April 30, 1956- Bill Russell Becomes a Boston Celtic

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    On Draft Day 1956, the St. Louis Hawks had a problem. 

    They had the second overall pick, but lacked the funds to sign him. 

    Luckily for them, and the entire state of Massachusetts, the Boston Celtics did have the funds to sign the No. 2 pick, who happened to be a 6'10" center from San Francisco named Bill Russell.

    The rest,as they say, is history. Boston shipped Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley to St. Louis and got Russell in return.

    The Celtics, who also selected K.C. Jones and Tom Heinsohn in that very same draft, would go on one of the single greatest runs in the history of franchise sports. Boston won 11 of the next 13 NBA Titles and Russell developed into one of the greatest players the league has ever seen.  


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