10 Blockbuster NBA Trades That Changed The League

Getty Images

Blockbuster trades are legendary. As soon as one occurs, you know that every NBA fan will be talking about it, regardless of whether the trade is connected to their team or not. 

You can even use that trade to learn how long someone has been a fan of the game, as a blockbuster trade that happened two years ago will still be big news to someone who was there when it happened.

When these decisions come out of the blue, they can massively affect the NBA Finals Odds. But what were the biggest blockbusters in NBA history?

What Is A Blockbuster Trade?

First off, what is a blockbuster trade? The term blockbuster was used to refer to cinema screenings where people would queue around the block to watch the movie. They essentially busted the block because the line was so long.

In the NBA world, a blockbuster has the same energy. It’s when a trade is so dramatic, unexpected, or lucrative, that all of the news outlets make it their headline. 

For it to be a true blockbuster, the impact of the trade has to affect the NBA for years to come.

So what trades made this effect and why?

1. Bill Russell Joins The Boston Celtics

In 1956 the Boston Celtics had an unusual problem. They were allowed the second overall pick, and they knew exactly who they wanted. 

The problem was the funding. The Celtics were going down financially, and their main choice – Bill Russell – was an expensive buy.

Massachusetts knew how important this game was for the overall economy, and if the Celtics couldn’t put a bid down for a good player they might not survive the season. 

So what did the government do? They lent money to the team, allowing Boston to buy the player they needed. It was a groundbreaking move, and the rest is history.

2. Magic Johnson Becomes A Free Agent

The Lakers were heading for a bad season when legendary Gail Goodrich decided to become a free agent. He moved over to the New Orleans Jazz team, leaving the Lakers gasping for new talent.

The Lakers were given the first-round pick after a very tense coin flip and they took that opportunity by the horns. New to their team was Magic Johnson, another player who had recently become a free agent.

With Magic on the side, the NBA Finals was in the bag.

3. The Big Three Was Born

In 1980, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors made a deal that would go down in history as stupendous.

Boston had the first pick and chose Kevin McHale, the Warriors were second, and picked Joe Barry Carroll. They should have picked Robert Parish who was quickly picked up by the Celtics to create a trio that would eventually be nicknamed The Big Three.

4. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Is Snatched By The Lakers

Abdul-Jabbar was unhappy with his Milwaukee team and although he was the NBA’s all-time scorer at the time, Milwaukee refused to put in the time or effort to keep their star player.

Frustrated, Adbul-Jabbar looked elsewhere. He was snapped up by the Lakers and soon after won 5 NBA titles.

5. Scottie Pippen Joins Michael Jordan

In 1987 Michael Jordan was in the infancy of his career, but he was still considered a stand-out player. When it came to the drafts, Jordan was picked first and Pippen 5th.

The Bulls knew that they needed the two best players to team up, but everyone had their eyes on Jordan, not Pippen. The Bulls managed to persuade a swap and in 1989 they managed to pull Pippen onto their team. 

What came next was a dynasty on the court, and a mistake the Supersonics would always regret.

6. Wilt Chamberlain Brought The Lakers To The NBA Finals

When the Lakers had the chance to reach the Finals, they couldn’t pass up on it. They bought Chamberlain in the hopes of climbing up the leaderboard. They reached the Finals but still couldn’t grab the win.

7. Shaquille O’Neal And The Lakers

The Lakers love to pick up free agents, and in 1996, they did the same with O’Neal. However, after 8 years signed in, a swap was made and O’Neal was traded to Miami Heat.

8. Kevin Garnett And Boston

In the late 2000s, the Bostons were in a doomed cycle of good-to-bad-to-meh. It got to a point where real change was needed. The president of the club decided to swap four good players for the chance to get someone great – Kevin Garnett.

Garnet instantly paid his dues by winning the Celtics their first NBA title in 20 years.

9. LeBron James Moves Around

Whatever team James LeBron is in, you knew they would make it to the semi-finals at least. In 2010, LeBron was moved left, right and center, putting NBA titles in every corner he fought for.

10. Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas

Dirk was a 9th pick player but after a new year in the league, he became an instant NBA star. When he was traded to Dallas, the Mavericks finally won an NBA championship.


Each time one of these trades was made, the newspapers and sports sites go into a frenzy. What will the next blockbuster trade be?

Share this on:

More articles