A blockbuster trade, when done right can set your franchise up for years of success. Unfortunetly usually when one side wins a trade like that, one team is decimiated by the same deal. In this list we will touch on the 20 biggest blockbuster trades in sports history
Fans love and hate blockbuster trades, they are very much a boom or bust type of move. Every plausible reason for making a big move are included in this article. Whether it be like the Oilers desperate need for cash forcing them to trade "The Great One" and in a similar move the Boston Red Sox trading "The Great Bambino" to the hated Yankees' so the owner can fund his failing businesses. Or a team like the Dallas Cowboys' realizing Herschel Walker was getting older and it would be best to cash out at a high value.
Some teams have no choice but to make a change. The Lakers' stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal could not co-exist anymore leaving the Lakers with the impossible choice of trading one of them, which they did sending Shaq to the Miami Heat.
Then there are teams that seemingly shoot themselves in the foot, making a huge trade with absolutely no issues with the current team. The Mets seemingly gave up on Tom Server for no reason. Each trade here made headlines around the sports world. I chose not to include soccer transfers on this list, as they are basically teams paying another team for the players which doesn't classify as a trade in my books.
So lets get ready to go back through the history books as we take a look at the 20 biggest blockbuster trades in sports history!
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20 James Harden To The Rockets
Unable to work out an extension with James Harden, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded the Sixth Man of the Year to the Houston Rockets breaking up their young core of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Harden. The Thunder acquired guards Kevin Martin and Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round pick in the surprising deal that was completed Saturday night. Oklahoma City also sent center Cole Aldrich and forwards Daequan Cook and Lazar Hayward to Houston. Since the deal Harden has gone on to become one of the elite scorers currently in the NBA.
19 The Athletics Trade Mark McGwire
Mark McGwire was getting more and more frustrated with the direction the Athletics were going in. The days of "The Bash Brothers" was long gone and by the time 1997 rolled around the team was in turmoil. The fans were staying away, the team was unable to compete and their star player wanted out. Instead of losing him for just draft pick compensation at the end of the year, The Athletics traded their disgruntled star to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Eric Ludwick, T.J. Mathews and Blake Stein. None of the players would make an impact for the A's nut Mark McGwire would go on to captivate the nation in 1998 breaking Roger Maris's home run record in a back and forth battle with the Cubs' Sammy Sosa.
18 The Mets Trade Tom Seaver
On June 15, 1977, the New York Mets dealt with a disgruntled Tom Seaver once and for all, trading the eventual Hall of Famer to Cincinnati spare parts named Pat Zachry, Doug Flynn, Steve Henderson, Dan Norman. While the Mets didn't know what they had in Nolan Ryan when they traded the ace away in '71, Seaver, in contrast, was already a well-established superstar by '77. In his 12 years in New York, the '67 NL Rookie of the Year won three Cy Young Awards and led the NL in wins twice, in complete games once, in ERA three times and in strikeouts on five occasions.
17 New Orleans Trades Chris Paul
Fearing Chris Paul would eventually leave via free agency, New Orleans knew they had to do something or potentially lose the star for nothing. They took the less risky route, electing to trade the NBA's best point guard to the Clippers on December 14, 2011. The move was a franchise-changing one for L.A., as it teamed Paul up with Blake Griffin, who together immediately created Lob City. The Hornets (now Pelicans) received Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and a first-round pick in 2012 (Which they used to select Austin Rivers, who now plays for the Clippers anyway). Fun fact: The Hornets had a deal in place with the Lakers but that trade was vetoed by NBA commissioner David Stern.
16 The Mariners Trade Randy Johnson
After falling out of playoff contention in June and fearing they would soon lose him for nothing during free agency the Seattle Mariners traded Randy Johnson to the Houston Astros in July 1998 for Freddy Garcia, Carlos Guillen, and John Halama. At the time of the deal Johnson was a five-time All-Star, a four-time strikeout champion and the 1995 Cy Young Award winner. In the time after the trade Randy Johnson established himself as one of the best strikeout pitchers in MLB. His overpowering fastball made mincemeat out of opposing batters. Randy would end his career as a five-time Cy young winner and helped lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a shocking upset of the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series, being named MVP of the World Series that year.
15 The Marlins Trade Miguel Cabera
The Florida (now Miami) Marlins were used to having to trade their best players to shed payroll, but this one had to hurt. The Marlins sent their best hitter, Miguel Cabrera, and one of their best young pitchers Dontrelle Willis, to Detroit for Cameron Maybin, pitcher Andrew Miller, catcher Mike Rabelo and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, Dallas Trahern and Burke Badenhop. All Cabrera has done since going to Detroit is continue hitting home runs while becoming the first player to win the Triple Crown since 1968 as well as being a 2 time AL MLB MVP. This will be remembered as a trade that sent a first-ballot Hall of Famer to new home.
14 The BlackHawks Trade Max Bentley
The seven-player deal, which at the time was considered the biggest trade in hockey history, included the Leafs entire "Flying Forts" line of Poile, Bodnar and Stewart, as well as highly regarded defensemen Goldham and Dickens. In return, the Leafs obtained two-time scoring champion Bentley and minor-leaguer Thomas, who would play in only eight games with Toronto. Bentley, who won the Hart Trophy as League MVP in 1946, Would help the Leafs to three Stanley Cup championships over the next four seasons (1948, '49 and '51). Bentley was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1966.
13 The Timberwolves Trade Kevin Garnett
The Boston Celtics were struggling . The once very proud franchise had gone through some pretty tough times in the early 2000s. 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 to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett. Ainge gave up a lot but 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 Timberwolves have yet to make the playoff since the trade.
The Celtics returned to relevancy in a big way after this deal and it all started with the Garnett trade. Garnett stayed a member of the Celtics until 2013 when the Celtic's pushed the reset button sending Pierce and Garnett to the Nets.
12 The Warriors Trade Kevin Mchale and Robert Parish
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, pick 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 center Robert Parish. Boston chose a lanky power forward named Kevin McHale out of Minnesota. McHale and Parish joined Bird to become Boston's "Big Three" for the 1980s. The results were quick as well, Boston won the NBA Title in 1981. They would also go on to reach four more NBA Finals in 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987. This trade could not have worked out any better for the Celtics and once again proved the genius of Red Auberbach.
11 The Reds Trade Frank Robinson
The Cincinnati Reds traded Frank Robinson to the Baltimore Orioles for Jack Baldschun, Milt Pappas and Dick Simpson. To justify this deal, Reds owner Bill DeWitt referred to the outfielder as "an old 30" whose best days were behind him. His evaluation couldn't have been more wrong. Robinson won the 1966 AL Triple Crown and continued to produce into the next decade.The 1970 World Series was surely a satisfying experience, as the outfielder burned his former team with 2 HR and 4 RBI.
10 Both Phil Esposito Trades
Phil Esposito was flourishing in Chicago, but after drunkenly berating the team's management at a party, GM Tommy Ivan traded Espo to the Boston Bruins, along with Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield for Gilles Marotte, Pit Martin and Jack Norris. Needless to say the Bruins won this trade, as Esposito would become one of the greatest forwards of all time.
Heading into the 1975-76 season, Phil Esposito was one of the best hockey players in the world. In the seven years prior he averaged 130 points/season,. He led the league in scoring on five separate occasions. With Esposito leading the way Boston won the Stanley Cup in '70 and '72, with Esposito winning the Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP) in '69 and '74. Despite all these accolades the Bruins decided to move their star scorer, packaging him with Carol Vadnais and sending him to rivals the New York Rangers (there were only six teams they were all rivals.)
Boston received NHL Hall Of Famers Brad Park and Jean Ratelle as well as Joe Zanussi. None of them came close to big Phil's accomplishments though.
9 The Dodgers Trade Pedro Martinez to Montreal
When the Expos existed as a franchise, they tended to sell off players who were in line for big pay raises, in favor of promising prospects. In 1993, the Expos traded popular star Delino DeShields for a skinny pitcher with a rocket of an arm named Pedro Martinez. Martinez would go on to be an eight-time All Star and won the Cy Young in 1997. DeSheilds would never develop into a star and this may very well be the worst trade in Dodgers history.
8 The Colts Trade John Elway
The Baltimore Colts knew they were taking a huge risk drafting John Elway. He had said he would never play for the Colts and would rather go play baseball then ever suit up as a colt. Still the Colts were desperate for a Quarterback so they made Elway the first overall pick of the 1983 draft. Elway drew the line in the sand and refused to sign with the Colts. On May 2 Colts owner Robert Irsay and GM Ernie Accorsi agreed to trade Elway for #4th overall pick in 1983 Chris Hinton, backup quarterback Mark Herrmann, and a first-round pick in 1984 (used to select Ron Solt).
Elway went on to establish himself as one of the best Quarterbacks in NFL history, winning two Super Bowl titles right at the end of his time in Denver. Elway is the current Executive Vice President of Football Operations and General Manager of the Denver Broncos.
7 The Rams Trade Eric Dickerson
The 1987 trade may have included four players and six draft picks but Eric Dickerson was the principal reason for the blockbuster move. During his time in Los Angeles which spanned from 1983 to 1987, the 1983 NFL MVP made it to four Pro Bowls and led the league in rushing on three separate occasions ('83, '84 and '86). Yet despite his on-field dominance, contract disputes convinced the Rams to part ways with the best 'back on the planet. The complicated trade broke down like this.
The Colts traded linebacker Cornelius Bennett, whom they drafted but were unable to sign to a contract, to the Buffalo Bills for their first-round pick in 1988, first- and second-round picks in 1989, and running back Greg Bell. The Colts in turn traded Bell and the three draft choices from Buffalo plus their own first- and second-round picks in 1988, their second round pick in 1989, and running back Owen Gill to the Rams for Dickerson.
6 The 76ers Trade Wilt Chamberlain
When you have the chance to acquire the most dominant scorer in NBA history, you don't pass it up. When the Los Angeles Lakers had the chance to package three non-essential players to acquire Wilt Chamberlain, the deal got done. On July 9, 1968 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 would be able to handle the Celtics and their big center Bill Russell. It took a few seasons but the Lakers won it all in 1972.
5 Montreal Trades Patrick Roy To Colorado
Just 23 games into the 1995-96 hockey season, Patrick Roy and Montreal head coach Mario Tremblay had a major falling out after Tremblay left Roy in for 9 goals in a game. Roy came off the ice and told Canadiens President Ronald Corey, who was sitting behind the bench, "It's my last game in Montreal."
Four days later Roy was traded along with Mike Keane to the Colorado Avalanche for Jocelyn Thibault, Martin Rucinsky, Andrei Kovalenko. Montreal has yet to win another Stanley Cup, while Patrick Roy made the Avalanche instant contenders winning the cup in 1996 and 2001.
4 The Dallas Cowboys Trade Herschel Walker
The Herschel Walker trade, was arguably the most consequential deal in NFL history, at least among those involving players and draft picks. And, boy, were there plenty of those involved. To get the two-time All-Pro and former USFL star, the Minnesota Vikings sent five players and six draft picks to the Dallas Cowboys in a trade that is as much praised in Texas as the reason for the rise of the Cowboys as it is reviled in Minnesota for the demise of the Vikings. Most notably, the Cowboys turned one of those picks into Emmitt Smith, who, along with Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, helped build Dallas into a dynasty in the 1990s on the way to becoming the NFL's all-time leading rusher.
3 The Bucks Trade Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
In a sport where quality centers are a hot commodity, trading away the game's very best is far from a usual occurrence. Yet that's exactly what the Bucks did in 1975, when they sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers in exchange for Brian Winters and three average pieces. Kareem's superstar standing at the time could not be questioned: he was dominant in six seasons with the Bucks, he averaged 30.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.4 blocks per game and led Milwaukee to its first and only NBA championship in '71. Of course, Milwaukee's major loss was L.A.'s major gain. The Hall of Fame center spent the next 14 seasons in L.A. and led the Lakers to five NBA titles.
2 The Red Sox Trade Babe Ruth
On Dec. 26, 1919, a day that will forever live in infamy in Boston, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold George Herman Ruth Jr. to the then-abysmal New York Yankees for cash. Some say Frazee made the deal to fund his other business ventures, namely the staging of No, No, Nanette on Broadway. Others contend that Frazee sold the "Sultan of Swat" after Ruth demanded that Frazee double his salary. Either way, Ruth went on to win four World Series titles in New York after earning three with the Red Sox. He became the most iconic athlete in the history of American sports.
1 The Edmonton Oilers Trade Wayne Gretzky
This was a sale more so than a trade but you can't exclude it. The Oilers were facing financial troubles and L.A. Kings owner Bruce McNall knew this and offered big bucks for the Oilers star player. Other pieces were added of course but this strictly broke down to Wayne Gretzky being sold for $15 million. The Oilers acquired Jimmy Carson, winger Martin Gelinas, first-round draft picks in 1989, 1991 and 1993, and $15 million. No matter what the Oilers received for The Great One it wouldn't have been enough. The arrival of Gretzky brought new excitement to hockey all over the USA.
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