Every now and then, a trade comes along that ends up shifting the landscape of the NBA.
There are quite a few NBA legends who have been traded, forever altering the course of franchises. Today, we're revisiting some of the biggest trades in NBA history.
Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics
One of the most significant trades in NBA history occurred in 1956 when the Celtics acquired Bill Russell from the St. Louis Hawks in a draft-day trade. In a stroke of genius by Celtics coach and general manager Red Auerbach, Boston acquired No. 2 overall pick Russell in exchange for Cliff Hagan and Ed Macauley. Russell, a dominant defensive force and rebounder, quickly became the linchpin of the Celtics' dynasty, leading them to an unprecedented 11 NBA championships in his 13 seasons with the team. His shot-blocking prowess and unyielding will to win solidified his legacy as one of the greatest winners in sports history. The trade not only transformed the Celtics into a perennial powerhouse but also established Russell as a symbol of defensive excellence and team-oriented basketball. His impact on the franchise and the league as a whole remains unparalleled, making this trade a cornerstone of NBA history.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers
In 1975, the Milwaukee Bucks sent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Los Angeles Lakers. At that time, Abdul-Jabbar was already established as one of the league's dominant forces, but his desire for a change of scenery led to this monumental deal. The Lakers gave up Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Junior Bridgeman and Dave Meyers for Abdul-Jabbar and Walt Wesley. This trade proved to be a game-changer for the Lakers, as Abdul-Jabbar's presence immediately elevated them to championship contention. Abdul-Jabbar and his unstoppable skyhook led the Lakers to five NBA championships in the 1980s, solidifying Kareem as one of the greatest players in basketball history and cementing this as one of the most impactful NBA trades of all-time.
Wilt Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers
In another major trade that reverberated throughout the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers from the Philadelphia 76ers in 1968. Chamberlain, already an established superstar and prolific scorer, brought his dominant presence and unparalleled scoring ability to the Lakers. The trade was a strategic move by the Lakers to bolster their roster and create a formidable trio of Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Chamberlain's arrival in Los Angeles marked the beginning of a successful era for the Lakers, culminating in a championship in 1972. The trade reshaped the Lakers' fortunes and added another illustrious chapter to Chamberlain's storied career, solidifying him as an all-time great.
Kobe Bryant to the Los Angeles Lakers
While Kobe Bryant only ever suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers throughout his 20-year NBA career, he was actually drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. However, immediately after the selection, a pre-arranged trade sent Bryant to the Lakers in exchange for Vlade Divac. This trade, orchestrated by general manager Jerry West, proved to be a stroke of genius that forever altered the course of the Lakers' franchise. Bryant went on to become one of the most iconic figures in NBA history and a five-time champion. This trade not only transformed the Lakers' future but also set the stage for Bryant to become one of the greatest players to ever grace the basketball court.
Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to the Boston Celtics
In 2007, the Boston Celtics orchestrated a masterstroke by acquiring Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join forces with Paul Pierce. While these were two separate trades, Garnett and Allen were in communication throughout the process and Boston pulled off both moves over the course of three days – transforming the Celtics from a struggling franchise to a powerhouse contender. The Celtics' Big Three revolutionized the concept of superstar collaborations, and their union culminated in an NBA championship in 2008, rejuvenating the storied Celtics franchise and igniting the era of superteams.
LeBron James to the Miami Heat
While many NBA fans know about "The Decision" and LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach, they may not realize that James ultimately landed in Miami via a sign-and-trade. James, the league's reigning MVP, made the highly controversial decision to leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers and join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Heat. In exchange for parting with James in the sign-and-trade, the Cavs received two first-round picks, two second-round picks and a pick swap (as well as a large traded-player exception).
The move instantly transformed the Heat into a juggernaut and created a new era of superteams. While "The Decision" ignited a firestorm of criticism, it also showcased the power and influence that superstar players had in shaping the league's landscape. With James leading the way, the Heat reached the NBA Finals in all four years of his tenure, winning two championships in 2012 and 2013. This trade not only marked a pivotal moment in James' career but also had a profound impact on the way teams approached team-building, ushering in the player-movement era in the modern NBA.
What's your favorite league-altering trade? Tweet us your thoughts here! And for a list of the biggest free-agency signings of all-time, click here!