Fumbling the Deal: The 10 Worst Trades in Sports History!

Gray GhostSenior Writer IAugust 25, 2008

Ah, the trade!

I’ll trade you two of these for one of those!” I got involved with the business early in my life, and even though it was just for marbles, I still remember the euphoria of pulling off what I thought was a good deal.

Later my passion for making the trade extended to ball cards. That was as close to the real sports deal as I’ve ever come. Eventually, I found out that they actually do this with athletes – not just cards – real people!

The ebb and flow of success and defeat in team sports is impacted by the art of the trade.

There are trades and then there are trades.

The temptation that lures the brightest (and dumbest) of franchise architects is the hope of turning a trade into the trade.


Some coaches are known for their love of trading. George "the future is now" Allen made 131 trades as an NFL coach, a whopping 81 during the seven years he was coach of the Redskins.


Others are known more for their one moment in time, such as Mike Ditka who gave up 8 draft choices for the right to pick Ricky Williams. If you think that number is way too high, you should’ve seen Williams.


Moving on……


Every franchise has worked notorious trades that its fans have never gotten over. The bitter taste is still there after all these years, isn’t it? You might as well admit it.


The trade has derailed many a season, altered many a front office, and left many a coach wondering "What if?".

It can leave you looking like Einstein, or like the north end of a south-bound donkey.

Here is a list of bad trades that left the people orchestrating them looking more like the donkeys bum:


In 422 BC, Leonidas, obviously way past his prime, was traded by the Sparta Decapitators to the Athenian Swordsmen for a new shield and an imported camel-hide loin cloth.

After 3 battles he had no recorded kills, and could muster only a bruise from a supposed head-butt! Turns out he wasn’t worth the shield or the.....

What? Alright, I’ll confine my list to a more modern sports history.

Here we go again:




Selected in 1982 by the Utah Jazz as the third overall pick, he was promptly traded to the Atlanta Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams, and cash.

As a rookie, he averaged 17.5 ppg and was named to the All- NBA Rookie Team. The next season, he averaged 21.6 ppg, and started a streak of averaging above 20 points per game for 11 consecutive seasons.


A nine-time NBA All-Star and the winner of two NBA Slam Dunk Contests, Wilkins registered 26,668 points and 7,169 rebounds in his NBA career, and was 10th in career scoring average at 25.3 ppg His career points total ranks him ninth in career scoring, and he is one of just 14 players to total 25,000 points or more for a career.

The Hawks rewarded "The Human Highlight Film" by trading him, midway through his 12th season, for "Mr. No-Show" - Danny Manning. That season, prior to the trade, Nique had averaged 24.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists in leading the Hawks to a 36-16 record.




On October 12, 1989, the Dallas Cowboys traded Hershel Walker and 4 draft picks to the Minnesota Vikings for 5 players and 8 draft picks.


As much as I love Hershel, this was a poor trade – especially so because the Vikings squandered his talents. The Cowboys were bolstered by this trade, and used one of the picks as part of a trade to draft Emmitt Smith.


What were the people in purple thinking?



Bryant was chosen as the 13th overall draft pick by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996, but refused to play for anyone but the Los Angeles Lakers. The Hornets blinked first.


On July 1, 1996, then L.A. general manager Jerry West traded Vlade Divac, his starting center, to the Hornets in exchange for Bryant's draft rights.


Kobe won three straight NBA titles with the Lakers in 2000-2002.


Whether you like Kobeor hate him, even if you think he can’t win the big one without Shaq, and consider him a ball-hog who shoots too much and whines even more, you have to admit he’s got game.



The Timberwolves decided to trade the franchise to Boston. The 7-for-1 deal constituted the largest number of players traded for a single player in NBA history. Who were the other players involved? No one in the same ballpark as Garnett.


We could talk about KG being voted the Most Valuable Player of the 2003-04 season, NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2007-08, being named to eleven All-Star teams and being named to eight All-NBA and All-Defensive Teams.


All we really need to talk about is the results. KG helped to bring the championship back to the greatest franchise in NBA history – and they did it by dominating the hated Lakers. Minnesota, meanwhile, was staggering to a record of 22-60. Nuff said!




In 1915, the Cleveland Naps traded Shoeless Joe Jackson to the Chicago White Sox for three players and $31,500 in cash.

This was after Joe had set a number of records. His .408 batting average during his rookie season (1911) is a record that still stands. The following season, Jackson batted .395 and led the American League in triples. The next year Jackson led the league with 197 hits and .551 slugging average.

In 1916, Shoeless Joe hit .341 with 40 doubles and 21 triples. Two-years after the trade, Jackson and the White Sox won the World Series. During the series, Jackson batted .307 as the White Sox defeated the New York Giants.

Jackson became one of the greatest pure hitter’s in baseball history…before scandal destroyed his career in 1920.


In 1987 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded Steve Young to the San Francisco 49ers for 2nd and 4th round draft picks.

After a stint in the USFL, Young signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1985 after being the first player selected in the supplemental draft. Young's record as starter was a dismal 3-16. In his 19 games, he threw for only 11 touchdowns with 21 interceptions.

The Bucs drafted Vinny Testaverde, while Young was considered a bust and shipped to San Fran.

We know the rest of the story. The “bust” wound up in the HOF.


Drafted by the Falcons in 1991, Favre was traded to the Green Bay Packers on February 10, 1992 (a day that will live in Falcon infamy) for the 19th pick in the 92 NFL Draft.

Yes, I have heard Favre say how that he wasn’t serious about training etc…, and that the trade woke him up to getting serious about football. However, there’s more to it than that.

Atlanta coach Jerry “The Genius” Glanville did not want to draft Favre to begin with, so Brett started out in the dog house. If you wound up in Jerry’s dog house – you never got out, unless, of course, you were willing to engage in fisticuffs with the coaches, or perhaps kick a team-mate where the sun don’t shine.

Glanville admitted “it would take a plane crash” for him to put Favre into the game. Brett only attempted four passes in his career at Atlanta. The rest is history – for Favre and Glanville.

Alright already! So I’m a bitter Falcon’s fan!


Big John was drafted #1 overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the Baltimore Colts before being traded to the Denver Broncos for Mark Hermann, Chris Hinton and a 1st round pick in 1984.

Elway publicly stated that he would refuse to join the Colts organization, feeling the team could not allow him to be successful. He threatened that if they did not trade him he would play baseball.

Colts owner Robert Irsay capitulated. He traded a legend – a future Hall of Famer.

One year later, March 28, 1984, on a snowy Baltimorenight, Robert Irsay slipped away under the cover of darkness and took the team that Unitas built to Indy.


On August 9, 1988, the Edmonton Oilers trade Wayne Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings for I could care less who was on the other side of the deal.

I wouldn’t trade Gretzky for Spider Man, much less some bunch of mortals. Are you kidding me?

Do you know how much a kid learns about hockey growing up in South Georgia? ZERO – with the circle erased. But along came The Great One and kids were playing hockey on asphalt roads in roller-skates

Sure the Oilers won another cup, but the five mortals he was traded for scored a total of 223 points. Gretzky, meanwhile, scored 918 points.

You don’t trade a Gretzky.


On January 3, 1920, the Boston Red Sox traded Pitcher/Outfielder George Herman Ruth to the New York Yankees for Cash.

It would take a book to list his accomplishments, but nothing really needs to be said here. Boston has just recently escaped the curse of the Bambino.

No doubt about it, the worst trade in sports history!


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