If there's any league that has shown us Superstars can be traded, it's the NBA. Wilt Chamberlain was dealt from Philadelphia to the Lakers after a season in which he averaged more than 24 points per game. Wilt the Stilt retired and the Lakers easily replaced him with another generational player in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar through a trade with Milwaukee. Kevin Garnett was traded from a good-but-never-great Minnesota Timberwolves team to the Boston Celtics, where he helped prove 'ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.'
There's more examples and for every one of those, there's the crazy league-altering deal that almost happened. General Managers speak with each other frequently and names will often come up in passing, but there's never any serious discussion. Danny Ainge could call up David Griffin right now and ask for LeBron James, but there's no chance The King is going to Boston. Every GM in the league could reach out to Minnesota and ask for Karl-Anthony Towns, but it would be a short call. Yet, occasionally one of those conversations leads to substantial trade talk.
Our list of 15 rumored deals that could have significantly altered the NBA features multiple Hall of Famers and potential future members.
15 Isiah Thomas To The Knicks
After guiding the Pistons to NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990, Isiah Thomas was on the downswing of his career when the New York Knicks came calling midway through the 1993-94 season. New York General Manager Ernie Grunfeld was looking for veteran leadership at the point guard position and the Pistons were off to an underwhelming start at 8-20 through their first 28 games, meaning Thomas, 32, might welcome a trade to the Big Apple.
The Knicks offered the Pistons Tony Campbell, Tim McCormick, and a first-round pick the team had acquired from Houston, but Thomas had a no trade clause. The point guard was hoping to retire in Detroit and had an apparent deal in place with the team's owner, William Davidson, to re-sign for one more year. For a short time it appeared Davidson might consider not honoring the deal and trading Thomas, but the two sides later agreed to an extension. The Knicks instead traded for the Mavericks' Derek Harper.
14 Chris Paul To The Trail Blazers
A potential trade in the summer of 2010 could have positioned the Portland Trail Blazers as perennial contenders in the Western Conference. After another losing season with the New Orleans Hornets, it was rumored that Chris Paul, the league's premier point guard, wanted to be traded to a contender. Paul provided management with a four-team list which consisted of the Magic, Mavericks, Knicks, and Trail Blazers.
Paul would have joined an up-and-coming core which consisted of LaMarcus Aldridge, Greg Oden, and Brandon Roy. The Blazers were coming off of consecutive playoff appearances and finished the 2009-10 season with a 50-32 record. The reported deal would have sent Paul and Emeka Okafor to the Blazers in exchange for Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum, Joel Przybilla, Andre Miller, and a first-round draft pick. It never came to pass and Paul would end up going to play for the Clippers.
13 Charles Barkley To The Lakers
Charles Barkley was a Los Angeles Laker for a very brief moment. Or at least he thought he was. Playing with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1992, Barkley received a call from his agent telling him he had been dealt to the Lakers. In true Sir Charles fashion, Barkley ate lunch and began drinking, before learning Philadelphia had retracted the reported deal that would have netted them James Worthy and Elden Campbell in return.
The 76ers did manage to find a better return for Barkley, though that isn't saying much. Barkley was eventually dealt to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang. Sir Charles won the MVP in his first season with the Suns, while Hornacek lasted just a season-and-a-half with the 76ers and Perry and Lang were largely ineffective with the team. Our only word for the trade: Durable!
12 Tracy McGrady For Scottie Pippen
Still finding their way in the NBA as an expansion team, the Toronto Raptors almost made a major splash on draft night in 1997. The Raptors drafted Tracy McGrady with the ninth overall pick and, though T-Mac went on to play three seasons with the Raptors, the franchise had a deal on the table that would send the guard to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Scottie Pippen.
The deal could have significantly altered the careers of both McGrady and Pippen, while also making Vince Carter's Raptors a significant threat in the Eastern Conference. McGrady's career might have gone out in a flame, but he was a dominant scorer for a seven-year stretch and it would have been fun to see him develop playing alongside Michael Jordan. Instead, it was Jordan who reportedly nixed the potential deal - and he was right to do so. The Bulls won their sixth championship in eight years in 1998.
11 Dwight Howard For Hassan Whiteside
It was reported prior to the 2016 NBA trade deadline that the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets were discussing a potential trade that would see Dwight Howard shipped to Miami in exchange for Hassan Whiteside and salary dumps. The deal wouldn't have made much sense for the Heat, though you could perhaps argue in favor of it if the Heat thought they had a better chance to sign Howard in the offseason. Both players were due to become unrestricted free agents in the summer.
Of course, the deal didn't happen and both teams have to be happy they didn't pull the trigger. Howard signed with the Atlanta Hawks in the offseason, freeing up money for the Rockets and allowing them to give more playing time to Clint Capela, while Whiteside re-signed with Miami and is having a terrific season so far in 2016-17.
10 Larry Bird To The Pacers
Achilles and back injuries ailed Larry Bird in his final four seasons in the NBA, but he was still a productive star for the Boston Celtics. If a proposed trade from the Indiana Pacers went through in 1988, Bird would have played out his career in his home state. The Pacers offered the Celtics Chuck Person, Herb Williams, and Steve Stipanovich, but the Celtics opted for loyalty to their longtime franchise player.
The Celtics would have received the 1987 Rookie of the Year in Person, a top shot blocker and double double machine in Williams, and a project in Stipanovich. It might have made them a slightly deeper team, but the Celtics made the playoffs in all four of Bird's final seasons and won two Atlantic Division banners.
9 Kobe Bryant To The Mavericks
You should probably take everything Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says with a grain of salt, but the billionaire thought Kobe Bryant was going to join his team in the summer of 2007. Bryant had demanded a trade from the Lakers and half the league had reportedly approached Los Angeles with packages, including the Detroit Pistons, who would have sent Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and draft picks. The most intriguing deal, however, would have saw Kobe go to Dallas in exchange for Josh Howard and Jason Terry.
The Lakers and Kobe later made up and won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. Without Kobe, that wouldn't have even been close to being possible. The Mavericks, meanwhile, were league champions in 2011 and likely would have won more with Kobe and Dirk Nowitzki presenting an incredible challenge for defenders night in and night out.
8 Allen Iverson To The Pistons
Allen Iverson was an elite 24-year-old scorer for the Philadelphia 76ers prior to the 2000-01 season, but the team was prepared to send him to the Detroit Pistons. Nobody has ever accused Iverson of being too professional or hard-working, so it's no surprise the 76ers were a little fed up with his attitude and tardiness ("We talkin' practice?!''). The team actually confirmed a six-team, 24-player trade in the summer of 2000 that would have sent Iverson and backup center Matt Geiger to the Pistons, but Geiger didn't waive his no-trade clause.
The 76ers would have received Eddie Jones, Glen Rice, and Jerome Williams, among others, as part of the trade. Sure, the team might have had less in-house issues, but they would have been nowhere as successful or entertaining.
7 Hakeem Olajuwon To The Heat
Long before Shaquille O'Neal was helping Dwyane Wade win an NBA Championship in Miami, the Heat were trying to acquire Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992 to combat Shaq, who was then a dominant force for their rivals, the Orlando Magic. Olajuwon, 30, was in the prime of his career at the time and would have been capable of slowing down The Big Aristotle. Rumors persisted about a possible deal for months and the reported trade would have saw Olajuwon and Sleepy Floyd go from Houston to Miami in exchange for Rony Seikaly, Grant Long, and Harold Miner.
The Dream scored 26.1 points per game the following season, a career high at the time, and led the league in blocks with 4.2. He won back-to-back championships with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995, while the Heat struggled with mediocrity.
6 Tony Parker To The Trail Blazers
Looking to bolster a stagnant young squad, the Portland Trail Blazers hoped to add Tony Parker on draft night in 2011. The San Antonio Spurs were looking to get younger and move up in the draft, so the team offered Parker and the 29th pick to the Blazers for Andre Miller, Nicolas Batum and the 21st pick. The reported hold up was the fact that the Spurs wanted to throw in Richard Jefferson, who had three years and more than $30 million left on his contract, which way back in 2011 was reserved for actual good players and not bench depth.
The trade might hold up for San Antonio today, but Parker helped lead the team to two NBA Finals and one Championship since the trade fell through. The Spurs also hit with their 29th pick, selecting Cory Joseph, while Portland selected Nolan Smith, who has played the second fewest games out of any 2011 first-round picks.
5 Blake Griffin For Carmelo Anthony
Sometimes rumors have very little substance, but the Blake Griffin for Carmelo Anthony swap surfaced last season and persisted for several months. The Knicks, well, they were the Knicks, so there were few moves that would make them worse, but a change of scenery could have been good for both players. Anthony's Knicks had been a laughing stock of the league since he joined the team, while many believed the core of Griffin, Chris Paul, and Andre Jordan had reached its ceiling.
No, members of the Clippers didn't converge on the home of General Manager Dave Wohl and keep him from making the trade, but when there's smoke, there's usually fire. Anthony seems to be having somewhat of a resurgence this season for the Knicks, but we can't help but dream of Griffin and Kristaps Porziņģis destroying rims in New York.
4 Steve Nash To The Grizzlies
We're not much into grandiose statements, but if the Phoenix Suns traded Steve Nash to the Vancouver Grizzlies in 1998, there would still be two Canadian NBA franchises. The Suns drafted Nash in 1996, but he was behind point guards Kevin Johnson and Jason Kidd. By 1998, the team was shopping Nash and proposed sending him to his hometown team along with Cliff Robinson in a package deal centered around Bryant 'Big Country' Reeves.
Big Country was the Grizzlies' first ever draft pick and the big man had a productive first three seasons, so management wanted to build him up as the team's star. They were just a tad wrong with that assessment, however, as Reeves was out of the NBA in three seasons, while Nash only went on to win two MVPs and become one of the league's most gifted playmakers.
3 James Harden To The Wizards
The Washington Wizards had a chance to acquire one of the league's premier guards in 2012 when the Oklahoma City Thunder were shopping James Harden. Before Harden was eventually shipped to Houston, the Thunder had agreed to the principles of a trade with Washington that would have saw them receive Bradley Beal and Chris Singleton.
Beal was drafted by the Wizards third overall a month prior, but Harden was the reigning Sixth Man of the Year and poised to become a breakout star after being given regular minutes. Beal and John Wall have formed a capable guard duo in Washington, though with mixed results in recent years, so it's not hard to imagine how good the combo of John Wall and James Harden would look.
2 Kobe Bryant To The Bulls
As incredibly tough as it is to picture now, Kobe Bryant could have played the final nine seasons of his NBA career with the Chicago Bulls. During the summer of 2007, Bryant had openly demanded a trade from the Lakers. The Bulls didn't have much to interest the Los Angeles, but a package of players was put together that included then 22-year-old Luol Deng. Bryant, who had a no trade clause and absolute power in negotiation, reportedly didn't want to go to Chicago if he wasn't going to play with Deng.
A video came out during the summer where Bryant was walking through a mall parking lot. Some fans begged with him to stay in Los Angeles and Kobe responded with, "Get a Bulls uniform, fellas." In the end, it's for the best that Kobe stuck around with the Lakers, avoiding the pressure of trying to be "Like Mike."
1 Michael Jordan To The Clippers
Michael Jordan hadn't won a NBA Championship after his first four seasons in Chicago, but was a dominant scorer who had come off consecutive seasons averaging more than 35 points per game. Still, he found himself the subject of trade speculation in 1988 due to perceived concerns about his attitude - MJ was a me-first player, which, until he won a championship, rubbed team executives the wrong way.
The Clippers, who were coming off of a 17-65 season, offered the Bulls any combination of five players and/or draft picks. The Clippers owned the first and sixth overall picks in the 1986 NBA Draft and the Bulls were high on 7-foot-4 Rik Smits. The deal was ultimately called off as the Bulls felt Jordan was too talented and profitable to trade. Had it happened, we know Jordan would still have won multiple championships with the Clippers, but would the "Crying Jordan" meme exist? That's the real question.