June 16th: The Day Kareem, Moses Malone & David Thompson were all traded
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On this day in history, June 16th, Michael Jordan won his 4th NBA championship in a pretty boring but emotional GM6 win over the Sonics in 96. Jordan also scored a much more exciting 55 points against the Phoenix Suns in GM4 of the 93 NBA Finals.
But what I’m going to celebrate today is three other NBA legends, including Jordan’s favorite player, getting traded.
KARREEM TO THE LAKERS (1975)
The most significant of the three trades came in 1975, when the Bucks traded 28-year-old Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (by request) for Elmore Smith, Dave Myers, Junior Bridgeman and Brian Winters. Now that is what you call a steal! Highway robbery by the Lakers, who ended up winning five NBA championships with Roger Murdock.
NO MO MO IN PHILLY (1986)
Another frowned upon big man trade happened a decade later in 1986, when the 76ers traded away Moses Malone, Terry “alcohol in his Gatorade” Catledge and two future 1st round picks for………JEFF RULAND AND CLIFF ROBINSON (no, not Cliff with the headband and weed Robinson).
Sixers owner Harold Katz saw Moses as over the hill. Malone could have been over the mountain and spent the rest of his career dropkicking the ball into the basket and still have been better than Ruland. To put how bad this trade was in perspective, consider this: Malone scored more points in his first five games on the Bullets than Ruland would score in his entire Sixers career. (Cliff Robinson for Terry Catledge was a wash, with Robinson being slightly better but Catledge being a lot healthier. And as reader Steve pointed out, the Sixers also shipped off two future first round draft picks, )
But the Sixers weren’t done. They still felt the need to throw away the first pick in the draft. And they did just that, trading the #1 pick (who everybody knew would be Brad Daugherty) to the Cavaliers for Roy Hinson and cash. What was remarkable about the deal is that the Cavaliers made it despite not having a GM or a coach at the time. Yep, the Sixers got fleeced by a dead end franchise without a front office or a coach. Said Katz a couple of years later (btw, the 1988 article I just linked to is a must read if you want to see the anatomy of this disaster.)
SKYWALKER TO THE SONICS (1982)
Denver was looking to trade David Thompson for a while. He had a huge contract and issues with injuries and substance abuse. In 1982, the Nuggets were able to send him to Seattle for Bill Hanzlik and Wally Walker. Walker ended up being ruled ineligible so the Sonics sent a future 1st round pick in his place.
Thompson averaged 16 points and made the All-Star team in his first season with the Sonics, but played just one more year before retiring due to an injury that came from falling down the steps of the infamous Studio 54 club. It was a sad ending for a player that Dan Issel once said, “would have been probably the best scorer ever to play in his era if he was to stay in the NBA longer. If David played until he couldn’t play any longer, he would be mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan.”
He still is in other ways. Thompson was Jordan’s favorite player and in 2009, MJ even asked Thompson to present him at the Hall of Fame.