In the NFL, there aren’t very many blockbuster trades. In the MLB, there are a lot of lopsided deals that involve superstar players. In the NBA, however, trades happen seemingly every year that involve one superstar heading to one team while another star gets shipped back in return. It’s what makes it the greatest sports league in terms of transactions to talk about for weeks on end.
In the age of social media where it seems everyone has a source or an insider, trade rumors constantly fly around in every sport, but back in the day, rumors could simply spread by word of mouth, or something leaking to the press.
Some of the biggest free agency moves and trades in the NBA are covered for weeks by the press and the details are leaked almost instantly. We all remember just how frantic the coverage of Lebron James's free agency was both in 2010 and this past summer. Five years ago, speculation and/or rumors ranged from Lebron going to Miami, Chicago, New York or even out west with either the Clippers or Lakers.
Most of these trades happened (or at least get sent in for league approval), while others are just rumors that might not ever be confirmed. It’s insane to imagine what the NBA would have looked like in the 1990s, 2000s and now if some of the craziest rumors had ever come to fruition. Had these come to life, we would practically be living in an alternate universe.
Just imagine if the Portland Trail Blazers were the dynasty team of the 1990s instead of the Chicago Bulls, or if the Los Angeles Clippers would have landed Michael Jordan for a bunch of draft picks. Those are just some of the examples of the craziest trade rumors that never came true, and here is the full list of the 10 craziest NBA trade rumors of all time.
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10 Isiah Thomas for Tony Campbell and Tim McCormick
Isiah Thomas was already winding down his NBA career when the New York Knicks ended up losing Doc Rivers to an injury in 1994. Coming at a time when Michael Jordan had taken a hiatus/retirement from the NBA, it was the Knicks' window to win a championship, so it felt like a time to make a big splash. Their master plan was to call up Detroit and make them an offer for the aging point guard by offering them Tony Campbell and Tim McCormick. Just to sweeten the pot, the Knicks reportedly tried to throw in the 24th overall pick in the 1994 Draft. After not being able to figure out finances of the deal, it was thrown off of the table and Thomas wrapped up his career with the Pistons. Isiah Thomas wasn’t done with the Knicks, though.
9 Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor to Portland for 4 Players
There were a lot of rumors that surrounded Chris Paul back in 2010 when the Hornets were reportedly not able to afford marquee players due to ownership issues. A lot of general managers made their pitches, and the Lakers made the most famous one that included Pau Gasol, but was ultimately denied by the league. One of the stranger rumors was that the Trail Blazers were trying to get Chris Paul from New Orleans by bringing he and Emeka Okafor in for Andre Miller, Joel Przybilla, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless and their first round pick. The Clippers ended up getting Chris Paul while the Trail Blazers drafted Elliot Williams.
8 Stephen Curry for Amar’e Stoudemire
Stephen Curry might be the newest Most Valuable Player in NBA lore, but he wasn’t regarded as one of the five best players in the 2009 NBA Draft to most teams. To one team, he was worth it, and that was the Phoenix Suns. While Amar’e Stoudemire was at the top of his game in 2009 (before heading to the Knicks), the Suns were willing to part ways with him, and ship him to the Warriors for the seventh overall pick to draft Curry. The Warriors declined, but ended up reuniting Steve Kerr (who was the Suns GM at the time) in Golden State.
7 Charles Barkley for James Worthy and Elden Campbell
Charles Barkley has always been known for being vocal with his opinions and being critical of others for not being on the same page as he is. That’s what happened when Barkley said that the 76ers weren’t giving him enough to work with to come close to a title in 1992. After the tirade, general managers got on their phones and started making calls to Philadelphia to see what it would take to get the Round Mound of Rebound. Reportedly, it was the Lakers that offered the sweetest deal, as they were going to ship over James Worthy and Elden Campbell to get him, but the Suns were the ones that won the Barkley sweepstakes.
6 Ralph Sampson for Clyde Drexler and no.2 Overall Pick
The Houston Rockets seemed to have a bright future with Ralph Sampson, who was fresh off of his Rookie of the Year campaign in 1984. Still, the Rockets had their sights set on another player, Clyde Drexler of the Portland Trail Blazers. Houston had the number one pick in 1984 and the Trail Blazers were right behind them at number two. Since the trade never actually happened, Houston never got the chance to have the top two picks of the draft. That means they missed out on having Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olajuwon at the same time. Imagine the amount of titles Houston would've won had they been able to pull the trade off with Portland.
5 Scottie Pippen for Shawn Kemp
Michael Jordan shocked the sports world when he announced before the 1993-94 season that he would be retiring from basketball and pursuing a career in baseball. At first, people thought it was a joke. After a period of time, people realized that he was serious (for a while), and it looked like the Bulls would need to rebuild. Scottie Pippen was the only star player left, and George Karl (who was coaching the Sonics at the time) said that the Bulls offered Scottie Pippen for Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce and several draft picks. The Sonics reportedly turned it down while the Bulls deny that it was ever offered.
4 Scottie Pippen for Tracy McGrady
According to some sources, it doesn’t sound like the Bulls were done shopping Scottie Pippen around when he and Michael Jordan were getting toward the end of their careers. It’s believed that Jerry Krause, the Bulls’ general manager, wanted to ship Pippen away to the Raptors in exchange for the fourth overall pick back in 1997. Many people believe the deal fell through because Jordan didn’t want to play for the Bulls without Pippen there, but the pick would have ended up being Tracy McGrady if the trigger was pulled on the deal.
3 Larry Bird for Chuck Person and no.2 Overall Pick
If you ask the fine people of the Hoosier state who their favorite native son is, a lot of them would say it’s Larry Bird. A lot of that has to do with the fact that Bird was a small town boy playing the state’s favorite sport at a school that had no rivals (such as Indiana, Purdue or Notre Dame). The Pacers wanted to bring Bird back to his home state by making a reported offer in 1988 that would send Chuck Person and the number two overall pick to Boston. The Celtics turned it down and the Pacers instead got Rik Smits for 12 seasons instead of Bird for three.
2 Kobe Bryant to the Bulls for 4 Players
Just like Charles Barkley expressed his disconcern with the 76ers, Kobe Bryant did the same thing with the Lakers back in 2007. Kobe wanted some more pieces around him so that the Lakers could become contenders once again, and wanted out if they weren’t going to do it. One of the rumors that swirled around was that Kobe wanted to go to Jordan’s old stomping grounds of Chicago. The Bulls were prepared to offer Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng to the Lakers for Kobe, but he’s the one that turned it down. The reason? Bryant wanted to play with Luol Deng because he thought he was a vital part of helping the Bulls win a title instead of Noah.
1 Michael Jordan to the Clippers for 5 Players (Of Chicago's Choice)
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Clippers were a miserable mess that couldn’t fill their arena if they were giving away tickets. Donald Sterling (remember him?) wanted to change that back in 1987 when he made an offer to the Chicago Bulls for Michael Jordan. Jordan wasn’t the superstar (yet) he ended up being, but still a good young player. The Clippers offered a king’s ransom, allowing the Bulls to select any five players or draft picks that they wanted. The Bulls reportedly almost made the trade, but pulled out at the last minute.
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