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5 biggest blockbuster NBA trades in history

Vincent Frank
Biggest NBA trades in history: Anthony Davis Lakers
NBA: Finals-Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat

The blockbuster that just sent three-time reigning scoring champion James Harden from to the Nets got us thinking. What are the biggest NBA trades in history? Obviously, Harden being moved from the Houston Rockets to Brooklyn has to be in the top 10.

However, it is not the biggest trade in NBA history. Perhaps, that title belongs to the Phoenix Suns acquiring Sir Charles Barkley from the Philadelphia 76ers in a lopsided trade. Decades earlier, the San Francisco Warriors sent all-time great Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers.

These are among the five biggest blockbuster trades in NBA history.

Related: NBA world reacts to James Harden blockbuster trade

5. Pelicans trade Anthony Davis to the Lakers

Biggest NBA trades: Anthony Davis to Lakers
Oct 11, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) and forward Anthony Davis (3) celebrate during the fourth quarter in game six of the 2020 NBA Finals at AdventHealth Arena. The Los Angeles Lakers won 106-93 to win the series. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsMandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
  • Lakers get: Anthony Davis
  • Pelicans get: Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart and three first-round draft picks

The first blockbuster on our list did not prove to be all too lopsided. That’s primarily because the Pelicans received an All-Star forward in that of Brandon Ingram in exchange for unibrow. All the 23-year-old Ingram did in his first season with the Pelicans was average 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 45% shooting from the field. He’s among the best young forwards in the game.

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With that said, this deal centered around Los Angeles acquiring Anthony Davis to team up with LeBron James. Like clockwork, the two brought these Lakers their 17th championship. It came in the same year that all-time great Lakers star Kobe Bryant tragically died in a helicopter accident a decade after leading Los Angeles to its most-recent title. Just think about that for a second.

4. One of the biggest modern NBA trades sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics

Kevin Garnett trade to the Celtics
Feb 11, 2018; Boston, MA, USA; Former Boston Celtics (left to right) Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, coach Doc Rivers and current general manager Danny Ainge look on during the second quarter of the game between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
  • Celtics get: Kevin Garnett
  • Timberwolves get: Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and two first-round draft picks

Perhaps, the single-biggest deal in Celtics history came after Garnett grew tired of the Timberwolves’ losing ways after a whopping 14 seasons with the team. He forced his way to Boston to team up with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Much like the Anthony Davis trade to the Lakers, this brought Boston a title immediately.

The Celtics went 66-16 during the 2007-08 season, defeating the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Two years later, Los Angeles would exact revenge against Boston in the Finals. However, this blockbuster deal changed the landscape of the Association for a good half-decade.

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As for the long-downtrodden Timberwolves, this deal did not pan out. The team would win a total of 61 games over the next three seasons. The centerpiece in this trade, Al Jefferson, played just those three seasons in the Twin Cities. To make matters even more bleak for Minnesota, one of the first-round picks it acquired in the trade was used on Jonny Flynn when Stephen Curry was available during the 2009 NBA Draft. Welp!

3. Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns

Biggest NBA trade: Charles Barkley to the Suns
Jan 12, 2018; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Former Phoenix Suns player Charles Barkley is introduced during a halftime ceremony against the Houston Rockets at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
  • Suns get: Charles Barkley
  • 76ers get: Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang

After earning an All-Star appearance in his final six seasons with the 76ers and after failing to lead the team to the NBA Finals, Barkley was done in the City of Brotherly Love. In this, one of the biggest blockbuster NBA trades in history came to pass. Barkley was dealt to the desert for three players in that of Hornacek, Perry and Lang who would played less than six combined seasons in Philadelphia.

Related: If you’re a fan of the Suns, check out #RisePHX rumors, rankings, and news here.

As for the Suns, they earned an NBA Finals appearance in Barkley’s first season with the team — ultimately losing to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. Phoenix would go on to make the playoffs all four seasons Barkley was with the team, the greatest stretch in franchise history.

2. Oscar Robertson to the Milwaukee Bucks

Biggest NBA trade: Oscar Robertson to the Bucks
  • Royals get: Flynn Robinson and Charlie Paulk
  • Bucks get: Oscar Robertson

A triple-double machine before Russell Westbrook became synonymous with the term, Robertson remains one of the most-underrated players in Association history. He was also the centerpiece of one of the biggest NBA trades in history.

After spending his first 10 NBA seasons with the Kansas City Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), Big O was dealt to Milwaukee to team up with a player that would ultimately become known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The two would not disappoint, winning the NBA title against the Baltimore Bullets in their first season together. While Robertson just played four seasons with the Bucks, he remains an all-time franchise great. As for Robinson and Paulk, each played just one season in Kansas City. Ouch!

1. Wilt Chamberlain to the Philadelphia 76ers tops our list of biggest NBA trades in history

Biggest NBA trades: Wilt Chamberlain to the 76ers
May 21, 2020; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; The statue of Philadelphia 76ers great Wilt Chamberlain at the Wells Fargo Center is seen between Lincoln Financial Field (R) and Citizens Bank Park (L) which all remain closed due to Coronavirus. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY NETWORK
  • 76ers get: Wilt Chamberlain
  • Warriors get: Paul Neumann, Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer and cash

After just two-plus seasons with the Warriors in Northern California following their relocation from Philadelphia, Chamberlain returned to his Philly roots in one of the single-biggest midseason NBA trades in history. His first full season back in Philadelphia saw Chamberlain average NBA highs in points (33.5) and rebounds (24.6). Yeah, those are real stats. He ultimately led these Sixers to the NBA title over his former Warriors team in 1967.

Related: If you’re a fan of the 76ers, check out #PhilaUnite rumors, rankings, and news here.

As for the Warriors, none of the three players they acquired in a salary dump by then-owner Franklin Meuli would pan out. Heck, Shaffer opted to retire than play in San Francisco. That’s a big ouch right there.