As with most big-time sports, NBA players can be bought, swapped, and traded by teams in the hope to boost their chances of taking home a win.
Teams will spend millions to transfer the best players, but the trade doesn’t always work out for the better.
To illustrate this, here are the top four most unfortunate player trades in NBA history.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leaving the Bucks
Great for the Lakers—not so great for Jabbar’s previous team back in Milwaukee. Kareem loved his time with the Bucks and the team’s fan base. However, living full time in the Midwest was too much, leading him to requesting a trade to either the Lakers or the Knicks (lucky Lakers!).
The already three-time MVP (most valuable player) led the Lakers to national championships, winning five times and taking home another three MVP awards before retiring in 1989. Kareem became an all-time leader in NBA history, scoring 38,387 points in total.
While his Lakers career and beyond was hugely successful, the same can’t be said for the players that Milwaukee received in the swap; Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, and Elmore Smith, all of whom were picked from the generational talent.
Kobe Bryant’s quick switch to Lakers
Kareem isn’t the only success story for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant was initially selected to play for the Charlotte Hornets before being flipped to the Lakers the same night. Without even playing for the Hornets, Bryant cemented his place in history—going on to become a five-time NBA champion with the Lakers. A serious miss for the Hornets.
2013 Celtic Trio to Brooklyn Nets
The Celtics can thank the Brooklyn Nets for their star power in the NBA betting odds.
In 2013, the Nets acquired three Celtic stars—Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, and Paul Pierce—with the hope that they would be an unstoppable force on the court with their other rostered players.
Celtics’ terms were three future picks from the first round and swapping rights for 2017, which is the year the team gained Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and we all know how that panned out.
Nowitzki from Bucks to Mavericks
Despite only ever playing for one team, Dirk Nowitzki is a household name for global NBA fans.
Originally drafted in 1998 by the Milwaukee Bucks, he was immediately traded to Dallas Mavericks as part of a multi-team deal. The German player had very little fan base in the US, based on his international status, but this quickly fizzled.
Nowitzki became the fourth German player to ever step onto the NBA court in his first rookie season. He owes the Mavericks his entire career, as they were the only team ever to take a leap of faith on him.
As with any trade off, there’s a winner and a loser, which is why for some, these trades will be the best in NBA history. So, whether you’re picking your own team at school, or are creating a dream team in a video game, remember that sometimes the underdog is the best choice.