Worst Sports Trades of All Time
Trades within sports are as old as the games themselves. It used to be the primary form of player movement within leagues — free agency did not exist before the 1970s for MLB and the NHL, and unrestricted free agency began even later for the NBA (1988) and NFL (1993).
Some trades have kick-started dynasties by stockpiling draft picks or landing prized prospects. Other trades have ended great teams before they started. This has happened for a variety of reasons, including a lack of patience for young or developing players, teams overestimating what they’re receiving in return, and even financial issues requiring a hefty contract to be moved.
Let's look back at the worst of the worst one-sided trades. Some of the moves were recent, so the full ramifications have not been felt yet. Others were bizarre and didn’t even involve the trading of players, draft picks or money. But all of these trades were lopsided and had teams wishing for a mulligan.
Steve Young to the 49ers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the worst win percentage of any sports team from the big four leagues (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL). What they did in 1987 is a big reason why.
First, they forfeited their rights to Bo Jackson, and the Raiders drafted him. Then, the Bucs traded their 1984 first-round pick, Steve Young, because they felt he was a bust.
Young had a 3-16 record in Tampa, but those results were due more to a lack of talent around him, both on the field and in the front office.
Bill Walsh and the 49ers saw something special in Young, and he became Joe Montana’s eventual successor during the 49ers’ dynasty.
In exchange for Young, the Bucs received two draft picks. Those picks became Winston Moss and Bruce Hill. They were solid players, but Tampa needed stars, and the Bucs let two get away from them in a matter of weeks.
Scottie Pippen to the Bulls
Former Chicago Bulls general manager Jerry Krause has received a lot of flak for his infamous quote: "Players and coaches don’t win championships. Organizations do."
Of course, the Bulls had the best player in the world, Michael Jordan. But Krause still deserves credit for getting a cornerstone of that dynasty, Scottie Pippen, in one of the most lopsided trades in history.
Krause moved up in the 1987 draft by sending the Seattle Supersonics a couple of draft picks highlighted by Olden Polynice. A 15-year journeyman, Polynice is best known for being arrested for impersonating a police officer. Pippen became an all-time great in Chicago on the way to winning six NBA championships.
Years after the trade, Krause admitted that he knew he was fleecing Seattle's GM, Bob Whitsitt. "I gave him everything I had, all the garbage I had," Krause said. "I didn’t have any more to give him."
Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers
The then-Florida Marlins had another one of their offseason fire sales in 2007 as they traded away their best two players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. They got a haul of six players in return, but only two of them ever did anything notable in the majors, and that wasn’t even in a Marlins uniform.
Cabrera became arguably the game’s best hitter in his new location of Detroit as he won four batting titles, two MVP awards and one Triple Crown.
It seems unfathomable that the Marlins would get rid of a 24-year-old four-time All-Star, but they are a franchise strapped for cash and felt that younger, cheaper players fit their long-term profile more so than an established star.
The Marlins made the same type of trade a decade later by sending away Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees.
Willie Brown to the Raiders
Late Raiders owner Al Davis always loved sticking it to the rival Denver Broncos, and in 1967, he straight-out hustled coach/general manager Lou Saban.
The Broncos were a losing franchise with cornerback Willie Brown, so they figured they couldn’t be much worse without him and sent him to Oakland for a third-round draft pick.
Brown already was a two-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but he became a Hall of Famer in Oakland, making another seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams.
Brown played in 17 postseason games in a Raiders uniform while the Broncos had just four playoff games over the same span.
As for the person Denver drafted with that third-round pick, Mike Current, he turned into a starting offensive tackle but not an impact player like Brown.
Frank Robinson to the Orioles
Frank Robinson had a Hall of Fame career by the time he reached 30 years old, but Cincinnati Reds owner/general manager Bill DeWitt felt Robinson was "not a young 30" as the 1966 season approached. Thus, DeWitt traded Robinson to the Orioles for pitcher Milt Pappas and others.
Pappas was just 27, but apparently, he was "not a young 27" as his career tailed off, and he had more wins by the age of 27 than he had afterward.
Meanwhile, Robinson won the AL MVP award and a World Series in his first season in Baltimore.
He later won another World Series as an Oriole in 1970 against his former team, the Reds.
Wilt Chamberlain to the 76ers
In the early days of the NBA, owners often made moves for purely financial reasons, and that is why the most dominant player in NBA history was traded in his prime.
San Francisco Warriors owner Franklin Mieuli traded Chamberlain to the Sixers in 1965 for three players and, most importantly, $150,000. One of the traded players was so distraught to leave Philadelphia (where he grew up) that he chose to retire at 25 rather than move to the Bay and play for the Warriors. The other two were nothing more than role players and had no impact with their new team.
With the trade, Chamberlain got to return to his hometown of Philadelphia and was reenergized after years of playoff failure with the Warriors. He led the 76ers to the best single-season record in NBA history during the 1966-67 season, which also culminated in Chamberlain’s first NBA championship.
He also won the MVP award in all three of his full seasons in Philadelphia before getting traded in 1968 to the Lakers.
Jerome Bettis to the Steelers
When you have Hall of Fame talent like Jerome Bettis, most coaches would choose to build their offensive system around his abilities. But Rams coach Rich Brooks went the other way and got rid of players who didn’t fit his system.
Brooks tried to convert Bettis into a fullback, and when that didn’t work, he shipped him to Pittsburgh for a second-round draft pick that would become Ernie Conwell.
Conwell became a solid tight end and helped the Rams win a Super Bowl during their "Greatest Show on Turf" era, but Bettis became an all-time great in the Steel City. He ran off six straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons as a Steeler and won a Super Bowl in his final game in 2006.
The Eric Lindros Trade
There are many parallels between the Eric Lindros trade and the Herschel Walker trade, including the fact that both moves merit their own Wikipedia pages.
The Quebec Nordiques drafted Lindros in 1991, but he refused to play for them. After a holdout of one year, Lindros was shipped to the Philadelphia Flyers for five players, draft picks and $15 million.
While Lindros excelled in Philadelphia, was a two-time All-Star and became an eventual Hall of Famer, the bounty that Quebec received turned their franchise around.
The team soon relocated to Denver and became the Colorado Avalanche, and those players helped the team win the Stanley Cup in 1996 and 2001.
With Peter Forsberg being one of the players sent to Quebec and Patrick Roy being acquired from one of the traded draft picks, the Nordiques/Avalanche essentially traded one Hall of Famer (Lindros) for two (Forsberg and Roy).
Randy Johnson to the Mariners
Randy Johnson was a second-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1985 and posted a 2.42 ERA over 26 innings as a rookie in 1988. But he got off to a rough start the next year in 1989, and the Expos decided to flip the 25-year-old giant to the Mariners for pitcher Mark Langston.
Langston was a solid pitcher and made three more All-Star teams, but none of those came in an Expos uniform. In fact, he pitched in just 24 games with Montreal before departing in free agency at the end of the season.
Johnson became an elite pitcher in Seattle, led the American League in strikeouts four times and won his first Cy Young award.
Bill Laimbeer to the Pistons
Sometimes the "throw in" in a trade ends up being the best player, and that was the case with Bill Laimbeer. He and Kenny Carr were traded from the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1982, and Carr was seen as the main piece — to everyone except Pistons general manager Jack McCloskey.
"Trader Jack" had seen Laimbeer play and knew he just had to have him on his team.
"I saw him play when we played Cleveland," McCloskey recalls of his initial interest in Laimbeer. "We beat them pretty good that night, but I saw him compete until the last whistle goes. We didn’t have too many big guys then. I said, 'I’ve got to try to get him. He doesn’t have fancy footwork or anything like that, but he wants to win.' "
So, McCloskey sent four journeyman players to the Cavaliers for Carr and Laimbeer. Proving that the deal centered around Laimbeer with Carr, instead, as the "throw in," he then traded Carr for a first-round pick.
Laimbeer became the backbone of the Bad Boys Pistons and helped the franchise win its first two NBA championships.
Matt Hasselbeck and Steve Hutchinson to the Seahawks
In the late 1990s, Mike Holmgren jumped from the Packers to the Seahawks and sought to acquire many of his former players. One of those was Matt Hasselbeck, who was Brett Favre’s backup in Green Bay.
To acquire Hasselbeck in 2001, Seattle traded the No. 10 overall draft pick plus a third-rounder for Hasselbeck and the No. 17 overall pick. When the dust settled on those draft picks, the end result was that Seattle got the two best players in the deal.
The Seahawks used that No. 17 pick to draft guard Steve Hutchinson, who made three straight Pro Bowls for Seattle. Hasselbeck also was a three-time Pro Bowler and is the all-time leader in passing yards in Seahawks history.
The two players the Packers got in return, Jamal Reynolds and Torrance Marshall, combined to start all of two games in their careers, and both players were out of the NFL by 2004.
Adrian Dantley for Spencer Haywood
The rare Hall of Famer-for-Hall of Famer trade worked out for the Utah Jazz and was an utter disaster for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Utah acquired Adrian Dantley, and he averaged nearly 30 points per game over seven seasons with the Jazz.
The Lakers acquired Spencer Haywood who, at one point, was an All-NBA player but at this point was a cocaine addict. Haywood played just one season with the Lakers and averaged less than 10 points per game.
However, it's his actions during the 1980 playoffs that make this one of the worst trades ever. During the 1980 Finals, Lakers coach Paul Westhead dismissed Haywood for falling asleep during practice due to his addiction. Haywood became so enraged that he planned on hiring a hitman to kill his head coach.
Fortunately, his mother talked him out of it, and the basketball community forgave Haywood as he was inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame a few years after Dantley.
Lou Brock to the Cardinals
In 1964, Lou Brock was a speedy but light-hitting 24-year-old for the Chicago Cubs. The team wasn’t happy with his lack of progress up to that point, so they traded him to the rival St. Louis Cardinals.
Pitcher Ernie Broglio was the main piece the Cubs got in return. Broglio had led the National League in wins three seasons before and was just 28, but he would be out of the majors just two years later after winning all of seven games for the Cubs.
Brock went on to a Hall of Fame career with St. Louis and collected over 3,000 career hits. He also became MLB’s all-time stolen bases leader until Rickey Henderson broke his mark in 1991.
This trade was so lopsided that the phrase "Brock for Broglio" is used to signify anytime someone shows bad judgment or decision-making.
Nick Rimando and Freddy Adu to Real Salt Lake
Remember Freddy Adu? The wonderkid who debuted as a 14-year-old and was billed as the next Pele?
Well, he was supposed to be the headliner of this 2006 trade from D.C. United to Real Salt Lake, but that role ended up going to the throw-in, Nick Rimando.
Rimando has spent over a dozen years in Salt Lake and still is going strong in the net. With RSL, he’s set the MLS records for career shutouts, wins, saves and appearances, along with making five All-Star teams.
The player who was traded back to D.C. United, Jay Nolly, made all of one appearance for the team before being waived.
As for Adu, he spent just one season as a teammate with Rimando in Salt Lake before moving onto the next team in his long and winding pro soccer career.
Paul Warfield to the Dolphins
Just like LeBron James, Paul Warfield left Cleveland for South Beach — although leaving wasn’t Warfield’s choice. A native of Ohio, Warfield was shocked in 1970 when his hometown team unloaded him to get the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and select quarterback Mike Phipps.
Phipps is in the College Football Hall of Fame for his career at Purdue, but Purdue isn’t in the NFL, and the quarterback threw twice as many interceptions as touchdowns in a Browns uniform and never won a playoff game.
Warfield soon adjusted to life in Miami, becoming a vital cog on the early 1970s Dolphins dynasty that included three straight Super Bowl appearances, two Super Bowl victories and one perfect season. He made the Pro Bowl in all five of his seasons in Miami before returning to Cleveland to finish out his career catching passes from the guy he was traded for, Mike Phipps.
Alex English for George McGinnis
The Indiana Pacers learned a valuable lesson in trading away Alex English: Never give up a rising star simply for nostalgia.
George McGinnis was the ABA MVP for the Pacers before the ABA-NBA merger. He then joined the 76ers in 1975 and later played for the Nuggets as the Pacers joined the NBA.
Five years later, the Pacers were struggling with attendance. They hoped trading for their former star, McGinnis, would help the box office.
To acquire McGinnis, Indiana sent lanky forward Alex English to Denver, where he had a Hall of Fame career and won a scoring title.
McGinnis got his Indiana homecoming, but was a shell of his former self and retired two years later.
Jose Bautista to the Blue Jays
In the defense of the Pittsburgh Pirates, no one saw Jose Bautista developing into one of the game’s premier power hitters.
In 2008, Bautista was a 27-year-old career .240 hitter with four different franchises on his resume. The Pirates traded him to Toronto for the dreaded "player to be named later," which ended up being someone who played 44 games in the majors.
Bautista retooled his swing north of the border thanks to hitting coach Dwayne Murphy, and went from being a replacement-level player to an MVP candidate. Bautista led the American League in home runs in 2010 and 2011, and his home run increase of 39 from 2009 to 2010 is an MLB record for a single season.
No one hit more home runs than "Joey Bats" from 2010 to 2017 (272), and he is second in Blue Jays history for career home runs with 288.
Kobe Bryant to the Lakers
Most NBA fans are aware that Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets and then immediately traded to the Lakers. But even Kobe diehards may not be aware that the reason the trade happened was because of Shaquille O’Neal first and Kobe Bryant second.
The main reason the Lakers traded away Vlade Divac to the Hornets for the rights to Bryant was to get more cap room to sign Shaq. Not even the Lakers' pockets were deep enough for both O’Neal and Divac, so the obvious choice was to get rid of Divac.
He was sent to Charlotte, but nearly retired before reporting, and Bryant was sent to Los Angeles.
Divac had a good NBA career, but his two seasons with the Hornets lacked memorable moments.
Bryant became the greatest Laker ever, according to Magic Johnson, and helped bring five NBA championships to Hollywood.
Corey Kluber to the Indians
The two-time Cy Young winner was an afterthought in his early years with the San Diego Padres. In 2010, and before he made his major league debut, Corey Kluber wasn’t even among the top 30 prospects in the Padres’ farm system.
So the Padres thought they were committing highway robbery when the Cardinals offered them Ryan Ludwick for Kluber in a three-team deal. Ludwick had clocked 37 home runs two years earlier, but that season ended up being an outlier for his career.
After trading for Ludwick, the veteran outfielder hit 17 home runs over a season’s worth of games for San Diego, while batting just .228.
Kluber greatly exceeded expectations and became one of the game’s premier aces in Cleveland. Since 2014, he ranks second in wins, third in strikeouts and fourth in ERA out of all starting pitchers.
Ryan Leaf to the Chargers
If you remember the 1998 NFL draft, the consensus top two players were Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf. The Chargers had the No. 3 overall pick and wanted to guarantee themselves one of those quarterbacks, so they traded up one spot to draft Leaf.
Even Leaf, himself, would tell you that he is one of the biggest busts in NFL history as he posted a 4-17 record with 14 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
While people know about Leaf’s struggles, what they forget is the bounty that the Arizona Cardinals got in return for letting the Chargers move up one spot in the draft. The Cards received three draft picks and two players who combined to start 110 games for the team.
The highlights of the Cardinals’ return were All-Pro receiver David Boston and defensive back Corey Chavous.
Dominique Wilkins to the Hawks
The Human Highlight Film, The Mailman and the all-time leader in assists/steals all on the same team? It could have happened had the Utah Jazz not traded Dominique Wilkins after drafting him in 1982.
In the Jazz's defense, Wilkins didn’t want to play in Utah, so they shipped him to Atlanta for John Drew, Freeman Williams and $1 million.
Wilkins went on to make nine All-Star teams with the Hawks, get a statue erected in his honor and is arguably the best player in Atlanta Hawks history.
Drew was a two-time All-Star before the trade, but he became a cocaine addict and went to rehab two months after joining Utah. Williams played only 18 games with the Jazz before being waived and joining the Continental Basketball Association (CBA).
It turns out that $1 million in compensation was the best part of this trade for Utah.
Marshawn Lynch to the Seahawks
Remember when Marshawn Lynch played for the Buffalo Bills? He had two 1,000-yard seasons and one great Applebee’s video while in Buffalo. But the Bills had a stacked backfield and decided to trade the 24-year-old to Seattle for fourth- and fifth-round draft picks in 2010.
Those picks became Chris Hairston and Tank Carder, respectively, and Carder didn't even make the team out of training camp. Hairston started just 15 games on the offensive line for the Bills, and both players, despite being on the right side of 30, were out of the league by 2018.
Meanwhile, Lynch became Beast Mode in Seattle and one of the most popular players in the NFL. He made four straight Pro Bowls, helped bring the team its first Super Bowl and created one of the most famous plays of all time, the Beast Quake.
Jeff Bagwell to the Astros
The next time you want your favorite team to trade a minor league prospect for a middle reliever, think back to the Jeff Bagwell trade.
Bagwell won a minor league MVP award while in the Red Sox farm system, but they really wanted 37-year-old Larry Andersen from the Astros.
Andersen wasn’t a starting pitcher, or a closer, but rather a setup man who pitched all of 22 innings for Boston after being acquired at the 1990 waiver deadline. To make matters worse, Andersen blew a lead and took the loss in a postseason game en route to the Red Sox being swept by the Athletics.
Bagwell became the greatest player in Astros history and won the franchise’s first MVP award. He was named special assistant to the general manager upon his 2006 retirement and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2017.
Brett Favre to the Packers
You’d be forgiven if you forgot about Brett Favre’s brief tenure with the Falcons. He threw just four passes, two of which were intercepted.
Thus, Atlanta thought it was getting the better end of its deal when the team sent Favre to Green Bay for a 1992 first-round pick. The Falcons then drafted running back Tony Smith who, ironically, was Favre's teammate at Southern Miss.
You’ve probably never heard of Smith. He scored fewer touchdowns (2) in his NFL career than Favre won MVPs (3).
In Green Bay, Favre restored the Titletown moniker, leading the Packers to a Super Bowl win and setting numerous records along the way, including becoming the all-time leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Ozzie Smith to the Cardinals
Ozzie Smith was an All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner at the age of 26, but the Padres were frustrated with his lack of development at the plate (as well as his agent), so they shipped him to St. Louis in a six-player trade.
The main piece going back to San Diego was shortstop Garry Templeton, a decent player in his own right but also a poor man’s version of Smith.
Fourteen All-Star games and 11 Gold Gloves later, Smith became one of the greatest players in Cardinals history with a Hall of Fame career and a World Series win.
Templeton nabbed one All-Star appearance in San Diego, but Padres fans were robbed of the chance of having Smith as Tony Gwynn’s running mate for the next 15 years.
Patrick Roy to the Avalanche
Not only was Patrick Roy just 30 years old and a two-time MVP at the time of his trade from Montreal, but he also was a Quebec native who had spent his entire life in the province.
However, a public disagreement with the team’s new coach led to Roy being shipped to the Colorado Avalanche for three serviceable players. None of them ever made an All-Star game with Montreal.
All Roy did in Colorado was lead the team to its first Stanley Cup in his debut season. Then, he won another Stanley Cup five years later.
And from an individual standpoint, he performed better with Colorado than Montreal as his save percentage increased and his goals allowed average decreased.
Randy Moss to the Patriots
John Bowie. That’s the answer to the trivia question: "Who did the Raiders draft with the fourth-round pick they received in the Randy Moss trade?"
Granted, Moss showed no interest in playing for the Raiders while he was playing for the Raiders. But the Patriots fleeced Oakland in the trade, and poor John Bowie started as many NFL games in his career as you and me. That would be zero.
In Moss' first season catching passes from Tom Brady, Moss broke the single-season record for touchdown receptions, and the Patriots posted an undefeated regular season.
In 52 games with New England, Moss scored 50 touchdowns and solidified his status as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Dirk Nowitzki to the Mavericks
The greatest player in Mavericks history could have been the greatest player in Bucks history. But Dirk Nowitzki was a Milwaukee Buck for all of 15 minutes before being traded to Dallas for Robert "Tractor" Traylor.
As his nickname suggests, Tractor Traylor was a wide body in the mold of an end-of-the-career Charles Barkley. Traylor, however, was just in his early 20s, and his health and conditioning got worse as he got older.
In 2005, Traylor ended his NBA career after failing a physical with the Nets and had to head overseas to continue playing.
Meanwhile, Nowitzki won the MVP award the following season and is in the discussion for the greatest foreign player in NBA history. Traylor passed away in May 2011 while playing in Puerto Rico, and just one month later, Nowitzki won the Dallas Mavericks their first NBA championship.
On top of all that, Nowitzki averaged 21.6 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in 33 career games against the Bucks.
Nolan Ryan to the Angels
The Mets could have had a decade of Nolan Ryan and Tom Seaver atop their rotation. Instead, they only got a couple of seasons due to impatience regarding Ryan. The team felt that the 24-year-old right-hander had amounted to all he would ever be, so they shipped him and three other players to the Angels for six-time All-Star Jim Fregosi.
Too bad Fregosi’s six All-Star appearances all came before joining the Mets, and he played only 1.5 seasons in New York.
The legend of Nolan Ryan began with the Angels, where he led the American League in strikeouts in seven of his eight seasons with the team. In 291 career games (288 starts) with the Angels, Ryan went 138-121 with a 3.07 ERA and 2,416 strikeouts.
Ironically, the man Ryan was traded for, Fregosi, became Ryan’s final manager during his stint with the Angels. After leaving the California team, Ryan made 411 more starts in 14 more MLB seasons, retiring at the age of 46.
Fred Roberts for Two Preseason Games
Wait, what? Yes, you read that correctly. In 1986, Fred Roberts was traded from the Utah Jazz to the Celtics for a third-round pick and two preseason games.
Roberts was a power forward who enjoyed a 13-year NBA career, but Utah had no need for him after drafting Karl Malone the year before. What Utah really wanted was the revenue from preseason games against the Celtics since Boston had three players on their team from nearby BYU.
Utah packed the house for those preseason contests while Roberts played two seasons in Boston, averaging 5.8 points and 2.4 rebounds. He played eight more seasons in the NBA with four different teams and finished his career averaging 7.3 points and 2.8 rebounds.
Oh, and that third-round pick thrown in turned out to be current Oklahoma City head coach, Billy Donovan, who played one season in the NBA.
Chuck Tanner to the Pirates
It’s not every day that you see Major League Baseball managers traded for players, but that’s what happened in 1977. Chuck Tanner went from managing the Oakland Athletics to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for the A's receiving catcher Manny Sanguillen.
The 33-year-old Sanguillen played just one season in Oakland before he was traded back to Pittsburgh, where the person he was traded for was now his manager. The icing on the cake for the Pirates was that they won the 1979 World Series with Tanner as their manager and Sanguillen as a key bench player.
Meanwhile, the A's lost 108 games that season, the most in the American League.
Mark McGwire to the Cardinals
The most feared slugger of the 1990s was in the last year of his deal with the Athletics, so they shipped him to former manager Tony La Russa and the St. Louis Cardinals at the 1997 trading deadline.
Oakland received three young pitchers in return who combined to win 30 games in A's uniforms.
What was supposed to be a two-month rental for the Cardinals — with McGwire an impending free agent — turned into a five-year relationship once he re-signed with the team.
The season after the trade, McGwire and Sammy Sosa and some "enhancements" rejuvenated baseball in 1998.
Steve Largent to the Seahawks
Before becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives, Steve Largent became the greatest Seahawk of all time. But he could have been a member of the Houston Oilers had they not traded him after drafting him in 1976.
The Oilers acquired an eighth-round pick that became former Georgia receiver Steve Davis, who never played a snap in the NFL.
Largent developed into, statistically, the greatest receiver in league history. When he retired in 1989, he was the all-time leader in the receiving triple crown: career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
Bill Belichick to the Patriots
Maybe the greatest NFL coach of all time was the head coach of the Jets for all of one day in 2000. He resigned during his introductory news conference and was named the Patriots head coach a short time later.
The Jets argued that Belichick was under contract with them, and as a result, they deserved compensation from New England. The NFL’s commissioner agreed, and the Patriots sent three draft picks, including one first-rounder, to New York.
The Jets used that first round pick to trade up in the 2000 draft and selected Shaun Ellis, who was a two-time Pro Bowler.
However, would you rather have a two-time Pro Bowl defensive end or a five-time Super Bowl-winning head coach?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers
Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and anyone else who has demanded a trade always can say they were just following in Cap’s footsteps.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won an NBA championship and three MVPs with the Milwaukee Bucks, but he simply didn’t like living in the Midwest, so he demanded a trade to a big market like New York (where he was born) or Los Angeles (where he went to college).
"I had only one year left on my contract, and I told them I really wasn't interested in signing up again," Abdul-Jabbar said. "I wanted to leave Milwaukee. If they would trade me, it would be the best thing for everybody."
The Bucks sent him to the Lakers, and Milwaukee got four serviceable players in return, but the sum of those parts wasn’t nearly equal to the value of Abdul-Jabbar.
In Los Angeles, Abdul-Jabbar solidified his status on the Mount Rushmore of NBA players — making 13 All-Star teams, winning three more MVPs and claiming five more NBA championships as part of Showtime.
Wayne Gretzky to the Kings
This trade was depicted well in a "30 for 30" film and had more to do than just "The Great One" switching jerseys. This trade had a cultural effect and led to a seismic shift in the NHL, just as LeBron James going to Miami had a shift in the NBA.
Gretzky wasn’t just the best NHL player in the world. He was Canada’s greatest athlete and had won his fourth Stanley Cup with Edmonton the season before the trade. But the NHL is a business, so the four players Edmonton got in return for Gretzky weren’t as important as the $15 million that also was sent to the Oilers.
Gretzky’s impact in Los Angeles was immediate both on the ice, as he won three MVPs in Los Angeles, and off it, as the Kings’ attendance skyrocketed. His impact on Los Angeles was so profound that the NHL then saw California as a place for further NHL expansion, and the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks were founded shortly thereafter.
The Herschel Walker Trade
Few trades merit their own Wikipedia page and "30 for 30" documentary, but this one does the trick. Known as “the trade that birthed a dynasty,” the 1989 deal gave the Dallas Cowboys a bounty of draft picks, which then became pillars to their three Super Bowl-winning teams.
Walker was a good player, but the Minnesota Vikings overestimated his value, and he never ran for 1,000 yards in any of his three seasons with the team. While the Vikings went all in for a Super Bowl push, they couldn’t even manage to win a single playoff game.
In North Texas, Jimmy Johnson used the draft picks to select Emmitt Smith, Darren Woodson and a group of players who would combine to win 15 Super Bowl rings with the star on their helmets.
Babe Ruth to the Yankees
The Boston Red Sox sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for $100,000 in 1919. In today’s terms, he would have been traded for "cash considerations." But at the time, Ruth was a 24-year-old pitching and hitting star who led the American League in ERA and home runs in prior seasons.
Red Sox owner Harry Frazee also was a theatrical producer and needed some money to finance his next musical. Thus, not only did the Red Sox give away the greatest player of all time, but the team got nothing back in return as all of the compensation went to a musical.
The subsequent Curse of the Bambino resulted in the Red Sox not winning a World Series for the next 86 years, while the Yankees won 26 World Series titles during that same span.
Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to the Celtics
A trade that nets one Hall of Famer is good enough for this list. But a trade which returns two Hall of Famers is twice as nice.
The Boston Celtics’ dynasty in the 1980s was first started by drafting Larry Bird and then completed by acquiring Kevin McHale and Robert Parish in a trade from the Golden State Warriors.
What the Warriors received in return is often forgotten — and for good reason. The Warriors acquired the first and 13th picks in the 1980 draft. They became Joe Barry Carroll and Rickey Brown, respectively.
Carroll had all the talent in the world, but the fact that his nickname was "Joe Barely Cares" tells you all you need to know about him. Brown didn’t even last three seasons with the Warriors.
In Boston, McHale and Parish combined for 16 All-Star appearances, six NBA championships, and both were inducted into the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for Three First-Round Picks
After trading for two Hall of Famers (Kevin McHale and Robert Parish) in 1980, the Celtics traded away two Hall of Famers (Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce) in 2013. In both cases, Boston ended up with the better end of the deal.
The Garnett-Pierce trade netted the Celtics Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and a draft pick which enabled them to trade for Kyrie Irving. This gift just keeps on giving for Boston as the Celtics still have another first-round pick in 2019 that resulted from the trade.
Garnett and Pierce were 37 and 35, respectively, when they were shipped to Brooklyn, and neither player lasted two seasons with the Nets. From 2015 to 2018, the Nets had the second-fewest wins in the NBA and the worst attendance.