5 Most Shocking Trades in Sports History

When it comes to our favorite teams, there are certain athletes that find themselves in an echelon of popularity where we can’t envision them wearing another team’s uniform. At the end of the day, however, sports is a business and players come and go, changing teams on a regular basis. This even includes superstars across all sports, and sometimes seeing them in a new uniform just doesn’t look right.

Between all of the major sports, which ones have been the most shocking to loyal fans? Let’s take a look at the five trades that caused legends to head to new pastures while leaving fans hanging up their jerseys in the back of their closets. 

Wilt Chamberlain (Los Angeles Lakers)

The 7’1” Wilt Chamberlain was an NBA icon who had already established himself as the best player in basketball during his time with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors. At one point, Chamberlain was averaging more than 50 points and 25 rebounds per game, which will never happen again. In his rookie season, Chamberlain won the league’s MVP title and was in the midst of a season where he was averaging nearly 40 points per game in 1964-65.

However, the people of San Francisco never really embraced Chamberlain as they did in Philadelphia. Because of that, Chamberlain was traded in the middle of the season to the Philadelphia 76ers, a franchise that had just moved to the city from Syracuse, New York. Chamberlain played three and a half seasons with Philly and remained the league’s best player.

Ken Griffey Jr. (Cincinnati Reds)

Throughout the 1990s, Ken Griffey Jr. was the fresh new face of Major League Baseball and a bona fide superstar of the sport. After he made his MLB debut in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners, Griffey spent a decade with the team before being involved in a truly shocking trade. At the end of the 1990s, Griffey had stated he wanted to be closer to home and raise his children.

With that, Griffey requested that he be traded to Cincinnati, becoming a member of the Reds while still in his prime. Griffey was traded for Mike Cameron, Brett Tomko, and two minor leaguers, with “The Kid” signing a nine-year deal with Cincinnati. Unfortunately, injuries would take their toll and Griffey was never the same after a great first season with the Reds.

Joe Montana (Kansas City Chiefs)

Before Tom Brady and Peyton Manning came along, many considered Joe Montana to be the best quarterback in NFL history. The former Notre Dame star was a third-round pick in the NFL Draft but quickly blossomed as a great NFL quarterback. Montana won two Most Valuable Player Awards and four Super Bowls as a member of the 49ers, but was traded to Kansas City after the 1992 NFL season.

The 49ers wanted to move on to Steve Young, who had many prime years left in his career. Montana was traded for a first-round draft pick and signed a three-year contract with the Chiefs. Montana played in two of those seasons before retiring, putting together an impressive 17-8 record with 5,427 yards to show that he wasn’t done just yet, making the Pro Bowl in his first season.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Al-Nassr)

You can count on one hand the number of soccer players who have had the type of success as Cristiano Ronaldo. From winning the Ballon d’Or multiple times as the world’s top player of the year to several league titles, Ronaldo has done it all except for winning a World Cup. He spent many years with Manchester United and Real Madrid, but in 2023 had his most shocking move.

While there aren’t ‘trades’ in soccer quite like in American sports, we decided to count this acquisition to get the sport involved. Ronaldo wanted out during his second stint with Man U, and the two sides reached an agreement at the end of November 22. Just weeks later, Ronaldo announced that he had signed a deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr worth $200 million per year over three years.

Wayne Gretzky (Los Angeles Kings)

While other sports have a debate over who the best all-time player is, that’s not the case in hockey as it’s almost unanimous that Wayne Gretzky is the G.O.A.T. Gretzky is known as “The Great One” and that goes back to his time with the Edmonton Oilers, his first NHL team.

Following nearly a decade with the Oilers, Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, shocking the sports world. Gretzky was acquired (along with Mary McSorley and Mike Krushelnyski) in exchange for three first-round draft picks, $15 million cash and two players (Jimmy Carson and Martin Gelinas).

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