Trades in the NBA have always been significant happenings, going back to the Boston Celtics landing Kevin Garnett, the Los Angeles Lakers shipping Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat, or the L.A. landing Pau Gasol. But, some of the biggest trades in history never happened.
Let’s take a look at the 6 craziest NBA trades that ultimately didn’t happen:
6. Michael Jordan to the Clippers
In 1987, the Los Angeles Clippers were desperate for a young star to build their team around, and the 24-year-old Michael Jordan was the perfect player.
Owner Donald Sterling offered the Chicago Bulls their choice of any five players or draft picks that the Clippers possessed. Although GM Jerry Krause strongly considered the proposal, owner Jerry Reinsdorf struck down any chance of it happening.
Reinsdorf is no doubt thrilled with his decision, as Jordan led Chicago to sis NBA titles over the next decade. It’s almost impossible to picture a prime Jordan wearing another uniform other than the Bulls’ red, black, and white. Also, there’s no telling how he would have developed if he hadn’t got the chance to play for coach Phil Jackson.
5. Kobe Bryant to the Bulls
In 2007, Kobe Bryant was vocal about his desire to be traded away from Los Angeles.
The talent surrounding him was poor, and he had just witnessed his disgruntled former teammate, Shaquille O’Neal, win the NBA Finals with the Heat. The Lakers found a suitable destination for their franchise player: the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls put together multiple trade proposals.
However, Bryant exercised his no-trade clause each time, as he refused to play for a team that would be unable to win with him. Young big man Joakim Noah was a necessary trade piece, and the rest of Chicago’s roster was weak. No trade materialized. Instead, the Lakers acquired Gasol, who teamed up with Bryant to win two of the next three championships.
4. Charles Barkley to the Lakers
Hall of Fame point guard Magic Johnson’s retirement in 1991 left the Los Angeles Lakers in a peculiar position.
The Showtime era had come to a close, and the Lakers needed a new direction. They attempted to find it by trading for then-Philadelphia 76ers star Charles Barkley, who was only 28 years old at the time. Jerry West offered the veteran James Worthy and Elden Campbell, but the Sixers instead decided to ship Barkley to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Andrew Lang, Tim Perry, and Jeff Hornacek. Barkley was named the MVP and played in the NBA Finals in his first season for the Suns. The Lakers, on the other hand, went through a transition in the early 90s with the retirement of Johnson.
3. Shawn Kemp to the Bulls
In 1994, the Chicago Bulls were coming off of a 55-win season without the help of Michael Jordan, who was busy attempting to forge a baseball career.
Looking to improve their future, the Bulls offered 29-year-old Scottie Pippen, who was then playing a career year in a led role for the Bulls, to the Seattle Supersonics in exchange for 25-year-old big man Shawn Kemp. Seattle politely declined, and both teams moved on.
Pippen and the Bulls went on to three-peat once again after Jordan returned — with the first title against Kemp and the Sonics. On the other hand, Kemp forged a respectable career with Seattle until he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately, Kemp’s play dwindled and became a forgotten NBA player until retirement.
2. Chris Paul to the Lakers
In one of the most famous failed trades, the Los Angeles Lakers were all set to acquire Chris Paul in exchange for a package that would have sent Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets, and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, and Goran Dragic to the New Orleans Hornets.
Paul and Kobe Bryant could have formed the greatest backcourt ever, had commissioner David Stern not vetoed the trade for “basketball reasons.” The Hornets managed to ship Paul to the Clippers. New Orleans received Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2012 first round pick, which would become Austin Rivers. The Lakers would go on to form a “super team” by adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, which ended in a colossal failure.
1. LeBron James to the Lakers
While searching for a suitor to satisfy Kobe Bryant’s trade request in 2007, the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t looking to settle.
The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, who was just beginning his ascent had caught their eye. Los Angeles offered Bryant to Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert straight up for James, a proposal Gilbert of course declined. He proceeded to offer a combination of any other player or draft picks on Cleveland’s roster for Bryant, but the Lakers hung up.
Any of these failed trades would have completely changed the NBA landscape for years. The league would be quite different if even one of these went through. It’s only a matter of time until a new deal falls through, and fans are left to wonder “what if?”