Top 10 Infamous Trades in North American Sports

These moves left one team smiling and one team crying. Sometimes, it’s a new player who hasn’t even gotten to prove himself yet. Sometimes, it’s an average player who goes on to greatness after a change of scenery. And sometimes, it’s a franchise player who’s unceremoniously shipped off to supposedly greener pastures – but these situations always leave fans in mourning. In honor of the anniversary of Wayne Gretzky’s trade from the Edmonton Oilers to the Los Angeles Kings on August 9th, 1988, and Babe Ruth’s death on August 16th, 1948, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the top 10 most infamous trades in North American sports history.
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Top 10 Infamous Trades in North American Sports History


These moves left one team smiling and one team crying. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 infamous sports trades.

#10 – The Bust: NHL – Eric Lindros – Quebec Nordiques to Philadelphia Flyers

Size, strength and scoring skills meant Lindros went first in the 1991 Draft. Unfortunately, the Quebec Nordiques picked first that year, and Lindros flat-out refused to join them. So, Quebec dealt him to the Philadelphia Flyers for players like Peter Forsberg, Jocelyn Thibault, draft picks and more. Did Captain Concussion and Philly win the Cup? No. But the Nordiques did their first season as the Colorado Avalanche.

#9 – The Unexpected: NFL – Brett Favre – Atlanta Falcons to Green Bay Packers

It’s tough to picture Favre in anything but Packers green and gold; but his first season was a terrible one in Atlanta, where the coach hated him and he completed exactly no passes. Relocating to Green Bay for a first-round pick was the catalyst Favre needed to up his game: he played 16 seasons with the Packers, set records there and helped them win Super Bowl XXXI.

#8 – The Lopsided Trade: NBA – Robert Parish and Kevin McHale – Golden State Warriors to Boston Celtics

Two-thirds of the Big Three went to the Celtics the same day, courtesy of the Warriors. In exchange for the top pick and another first-rounder, Red Auerbach nabbed Parish and the third overall pick – which gave him McHale. The Warriors’ chose injury-prone Joe Barry Carroll, while Parish, McHale and teammate Larry Bird proved this to be a lopsided deal by bringing Boston three titles in the ‘80s.

#7 – The Kitchen Sink Trade: NFL – Herschel Walker – Dallas Cowboys to Minnesota Vikings

Walker established himself as a key player on the Cowboys roster within a few seasons. So Dallas leveraged Walker’s talents to get five players and six draft picks from the Vikings – which they parlayed into three Super Bowls and one of the most impressive dynasties of the ‘90s. Walker played in Minnesota three uninspiring seasons, during which time he competed at the Olympics in bobsled. Obviously.

#6 – The Prodigy: NBA – Kobe Bryant – Charlotte Hornets to Los Angeles Lakers

This is how you build dynasties. Draft Day ‘96 saw the Charlotte Hornets draft Kobe Bryant 13th overall. However, a deal between the Hornets and the Lakers had already been reached, sending the rookie to LA in exchange for center Vlade Divac. Divac’s time in Charlotte was lackluster at best. Kobe became a franchise player for the Lakers, helping the team Three-Peat from 1999-2002. Hindsight’s 20-20.

#5 – The Dream Builder: MLB – Joe Jackson – Cleveland Naps to Chicago White Sox

Because of Shoeless Joe’s supposed involvement in the Black Sox Scandal, he’s still not in the Hall of Fame, but that shouldn’t diminish his accomplishments on the field. Jackson set records, and was a league leader in hits and slugging percentage. So Cleveland shipped him to Chi-town for $31,500 and three players. Jackson promptly helped Chicago win the 1917 World Series, and the rest is history.

#4 – The Dynasty Trade: NBA – Bill Russell – St. Louis Hawks to Boston Celtics

No sports dynasty is more impressive than the Celtics team that won eight consecutive championships. Bill Russell was that club’s foundation, but he never woulda been in Beantown if not for a trade with St. Louis. The Hawks selected Russell second in the ’56 Draft, but dealt him to Red Auerbach in exchange for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan. Overall, it was a critical day in Boston sports history.

#3 – The Draft Pick: NFL – John Elway – Baltimore Colts to Denver Broncos

Poor Baltimore: they’re one of the league’s worst teams, they get first pick in the ‘83 draft but their choice won’t even play for them – and threatens to play baseball instead. Lotsa teams were in the Elway sweepstakes, but only Denver could give the Colts offensive lineman Chris Hinton, a backup quarterback and a first-round pick in ‘84. Elway became a Hall of Famer; the Colts moved to Indianapolis.

#2 – The Heartbreak: NHL – Wayne Gretzky – Edmonton Oilers to Los Angeles Kings

Months after their fourth Stanley Cup win, the Oilers dismantled their dynasty and dealt The Great One to LA for comparative nobodies, draft picks and $15-million. Canada didn’t take “The Trade” well: politicians tried stopping it, #99 was labeled a traitor, and the team’s owner was burned in effigy. Meanwhile, the closest Gretzky and the Kings came to the Cup was a ’93 Finals loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

#1 – The Franchise Hex: MLB – Babe Ruth – Boston Red Sox to New York Yankees

From 1918 to 2004, the Boston Red Sox couldn’t buy a championship, and superstitious fans blamed the Curse of the Bambino. At the end of 1919, Boston owner Harry Frazee sold Babe to New York, because he’d gotten too pricey or he had to fund a doomed Broadway play or something. Either way, Babe Ruth became a baseball great, and Boston was licking their wounds for decades.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think are the most infamous trades in sports history? For more top 10s about your favorite sports moments, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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