Forget TOMS shoes and flannel shirts. Stacking has become the ultimate trend of 2010-2011.
However, it is not the simple occurrences of “Dream Teams” like the 2006-2007 Celtics or 2007-2008 Lakers that are the most intriguing. Instead, it is how and why those teams were created. In light of recent trade rumors surrounding Carmelo Anthony and the Lakers, let’s examine the history and popularity of unbalanced trades in the NBA.
Teams have a variety of reasons for trading away star players, but the 7-to-1 trade that sent Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to the Celtics was groundbreaking and largely lopsided. To become championship contenders, the Celtics only gave up a couple expiring contracts, a few young tater-tots and draft picks. This was a measly sum for the nine-time All-NBA selection franchise player, who supported the Timberwolves (by himself) for 12 seasons. Why McHale was so hell-bent on shipping Garnett to his old team, the Celtics, and his old teammate, Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge, despite Garnett’s initial unwillingness to go to Boston, is only something he can answer.
The Celtics also picked up the best overall three-point shooter in the history of the NBA, Ray Allen, for the not-so-fearsome duo of Delonte West and Wally Szczerbiak. They even got Delonte back! At the time, Sonic GM Sam Presti said that the Celtics played their cards so “impeccably” that he couldn’t turn the offer down. That is like saying you couldn’t turn Osama bin Laden down for a date because he courted you “impeccably.”
Likewise, the Lakers’ 2008 trade for Pau Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies was one of the most stunning, wildly lopsided acquisitions the NBA may see for a long time. As the only legitimate player on the Grizzlies, 7-foot Gasol, who was averaging 20 points and nine rebounds per game, garnered a 2001 Rookie of the Year award, as well as a 2006 All-Star nod. For him, Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace got Pau’s little bro, Marc, Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and a couple of draft picks. As legendary coach Gregg Popovich stated at the time, it was “incomprehensible.”
The overwhelming consensus surrounding the “donation” was that Laker-great Jerry West had a hand in the deal. The Lakers were in a downturn, spiraling towards another year out of the playoffs with Andrew Bynum sidelined again with an injury. After the Gasol trade, one of the most famous sports franchises in the world located in one of the prime sports markets in the country with one of the largest fan bases in the NBA, was suddenly on its way to greatness once again — and the league was on its way to better ratings, more advertisers and more money.
The trades instigated more positive buzz that the NBA needed at the time. The previous NBA seasons were swirling with negativity and relatively poor NBA Finals ratings, compared to the league’s prime in the 1980s with the Bird-Magic Rivalry and the 1990s with Michael Jordan. The league had lost its Jordan-esque role model in Kobe Bryant to a rape trial. The Brawl at the Palace in the 2006 fight between the Knicks and the Nuggets that resulted in 10 player suspensions didn’t help, either.
Perhaps Stern and his NBA-operating cohorts around the league were looking for a way to foster a more positive image. What better way to do this than resuscitate the most glorious franchises in its history? Coincidence or not, these trades went through and both teams have won championships since. Over 28 million people watched Game Seven of the NBA Finals last season — the most since 35 million watched Jordan hit a Finals-winning jumper against the Jazz in Game Six in 1988.
The league definitely isn’t complaining.