No. 1 Kareem to the Lakers
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar established himself as a dominant individual in his six seasons with the Bucks in Milwaukee. He was no stranger to greatness, as he earned three MVP awards before his departure from Milwaukee in 1975. Kareem loved the Bucks fan-base, however; he claimed that he just could not formally adapt to living full time in the mid-west and requested a trade to two of the most famous cities in the United States – the Knicks in New York and the Lakers in Los Angeles.
The Lakers jumped on the chance to pursue the previous 3-time MVP and quickly finalized a deal in exchange for the generational talent. Milwaukee received players Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, and Elmore Smith – all of whom became rather insignificant to Milwaukee in the following years.
Jabbar won 5 national championships with the Lakers in addition to earning another three MVP awards, not to mention becoming the NBA all-time scoring leader with 38,387 points. Jabbar eventually retired in 1989, but not before a prolific career – a career that may have been much different should his move from Milwaukee been nonexistent.
No. 2 Kobe Bryant
A forever Laker. A legend and coach for many generational young athletes. Kobe Bryant elected to forgo his college eligibility in 1996 by declaring for the NBA draft straight out of high school. Many teams let him slide on their draft board, even though he was the number one high school recruit at the time for the graduating class of 1996.
Kobe would wait to hear his name called, hopefully in the top 10, before being ultimately selected by the Charlotte Hornets at13th overall. He would be flipped that same night to the Los Angeles Lakers in a relatively small move for backup center Vlade Divac – allowing the Lakers to create cap space to make a lucrative offer to free agent Shaq. We know how the story goes from here. 5 time NBA champion. Lakers legend. Loving husband and father. Storyteller.
No. 3 Scottie Pippen to the Bulls
In short, the SuperSonics had cold-feet. As the SuperSonics were on the clock with the 5th overall pick in the 1987 NBA draft, they were faced with minutes to choose between a general manager’s worst nighttime in a time crunch. That nightmare was – do you draft the best available positional player or draft the player that immediately fills a need on your roster?
Pippen was selected 5th overall by the Sonics who then consequently traded him for him straight away to the Chicago Bulls. But for what? Pippen was exchanged for the 8th overall pick, Olden Polynice – who was in the SAME draft, selected only three spots lower than Pippen. Polynice and a future draft selection were traded to Seattle while Chicago got their complimentary piece to MJ in a sweet yet overall confusing trade.
No. 4 Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics in 2013
The Celtics owe a great deal of their modern-day star power to the Brooklyn Nets. In 2013, the Brooklyn Nets jumped on an offer to acquire aging stars Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Paul Pierce (and DJ White). The Nets, fresh off of their inaugural season in Brooklyn (2012) were confident that the Celtics trio would be lethal sharing the court with already rostered players Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, and Joe Johnson.
They were so incredibly confident that Celtics GM and former player Danny Ainge only asked for a few things in return – three future first-round picks – 2014, 2016, and 2018 – and swap rights in 2017. Not to mention five NBA players – Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace.
Not one player dealt to Brooklyn following the blockbuster trade was on the team the following season. However, the 2016 and 2017 first-round picks received by the Celtics were used to draft two players you may have heard of – some guys named Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
No. 5 Dirk Nowitzki
Similar to Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki would play for only one team for the entirety of his career, yet never for the team that originally drafted him. The lanky German was drafted in the first round of the 1998 draft, yet few people cared or thought much of him as an impact player due to his international status.
However, after sliding into the bottom half of the top 10 in the 1998 draft, the Milwaukee Bucks ultimately selected Nowitzki at number 9. He was traded that same night to the Dallas Mavericks in a multi-team deal that included Steve Nash’s arrival to the Dallas locker-room as well.
Nowitzki became the fourth player of German descent to ever step foot on an NBA court in his rookie season. Nowitzki would live out his days on the Mavericks court in legendary fashion, becoming a certified household name to NBA fans across the globe.