Top Five NBA Trades In League History


Feb 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA former player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during the NBA All Star skill contest at Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In honor of the ongoing Kevin Love saga and his future on the NBA trade machine, what were five of the great trades in league history?  To make this list the trade cannot occur on draft day since it won’t for Love if and when it happens.  So it must occur either before or after the event.

#5 – Chicago Bulls give Spurs a break by taking Dennis Rodman

Arguably the best trade in franchise history was when the Chicago Bulls swiped Scottie Pippen from Golden State in 1987, but that was during the draft.  Their next best move, one that was widely criticized at the time was taking Dennis Rodman off the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in 1996.  The 34-year old forward had become too much of a distration for the conservative fans in Texas, so the Bulls sent veteran center Willie Purdue and some cash to the Spurs for a gamble on Rodman.  What they got an average of 15.3 rebounds per game over three seasons and three NBA championships.

#4 – Miami Heat strike it big with Shaquille O’Neal

A lot of people were stunned when the Los Angeles Lakers announced they had traded All-Star center Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat, especially considering he was fresh off four Finals appearances in five years with the team.  Unfortunately his disconnect with teammate Kobe Bryant had reached a fever pitch and the team couldn’t handle it anymore.  So they shipped the older Shaq to South Beach.  In the end he got the last laugh.  Not only did he reach the All-Star game four times in Miami, he was a key contributor in helping them win the 2006 championship.

#3 – Boston Celtics regain respect with Kevin Garnett

Danny Ainge was called crazy when he gave up five players, including Al Jefferson, and two first round picks in 2009 for the rights to 31-year old power forward Kevin Garnett.  The former league MVP had reached his breaking point after so many frustrating failures in Minnesota, so he was ecstatic for any change of scenery in 2007.  What he got was a chance to pair with fellow All-Stars Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.  Together the “Big Three” as they became known immediately returned the Boston Celtics to greatness, winning the championship that very same season.

#2 – Celtics get Larry Bird his help in one deal

If that trade weren’t impressive enough, it was easily the second best in Celtics history, let alone the NBA.  Boston set the benchmark decades earlier when just prior to the 1980 draft they reached a deal with the Golden State Warriors.  In it the Warriors would get the #1 and #13 overall picks and in return Boston received the #3 pick and a fourth-year center named Robert Parish.  The next day the Celtics selected a slender forward named Kevin McHale with the third pick.  In one deal the team had nabbed two Hall of Fame players who, along with Larry Bird would win three championships together.

#1 – Los Angeles Lakers steal Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Unfortunately for Boston, their hated rival Los Angeles Lakers snare the top spot.  Ever the aggressors on the trade market, L.A. was going through a quiet period in the late 1970s and was in dire need of help.  They lucked out when news began to filter that MVP center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was anxious to get out of Milwaukee and join a bigger market.  The Lakers took advantage, sending four players including eventual All-Star Brian Winters to the Bucks in exchange for Jabbar.  There he would win three more MVP awards and win five NBA championships in the 1980s.