The history of Los Angeles sports is rich and filled with memorable moments and championships. Of course, team success is achieved with great talent.
There have been numerous athletes who helped the Dodgers, Lakers, Rams, Kings, Clippers, and (formerly) Raiders to success in southern California. Sometimes those elite athletes have been acquired via blockbuster trades.
These are the best trades in Los Angeles sports history (note: trades only, free agent signings are not included).
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- Tim Belcher: The righthander went 12-6 in the regular season and 2-0 in the NLCS for the Dodgers in 1988 after coming over from the A’s the previous year.
- Adrián González: LA picked up the four-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner at the trade deadline from Boston in 2012. Starting in 2013, the left-handed first baseman was an MVP candidate and helped the Dodgers to four straight division titles.
- Robert Horry: “Big Shot Rob” had lots of big shots in the gold and purple after coming to LA on January 10, 1997, from Phoenix for Cedric Ceballos and Rumeal Robinson. He won three titles as a shooting specialist and role player for the Kobe/Shaq Lakers.
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5. Matthew Stafford
We don’t have to go far back to get to our first great LA trade. Before the 2021-22 season, the Rams dealt quarterback Jared Goff and three future draft picks to the Detroit Lions for QB Matthew Stafford. For years, Stafford had been one of the least appreciated passers in football, saddled with a losing franchise. But his arm is huge and his guts are unmatched.
Welcomed to a much better team and great coaching staff who allowed Stafford to be himself, the QB led LA to a stellar regular season and postseason wins over the Cardinals, Buccaneers, and 49ers. Then, in Super Bowl 56 played on the Rams home field, Stafford calmly guided his new team to a championship. Talk about a storybook first year.
4. Mookie Betts
This trade was more notable at the time for the sadness it blanketed over New England, as Boston Red Sox fans had a collective heartbreak losing Mookie Betts. The sparkplug right fielder had led Boston to the World Series title less than 14 months earlier. The Dodgers sent Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs, Connor Wong to Boston in exchange for Betts, David Price and cash, on Feb. 10, 2020.
That first season in 2021, Betts helped the Dodgers to its first championship in more than three decades. Trade verdict? Unqualified success.
3. Wilt Chamberlain
There may have never been an athlete who was so clearly better than his competition than Wilt Chamberlain. But in the first half of his career, Wilt the Stilt was usually the bridesmaid and rarely the bride. He lost in the NBA Finals four times with only one victory in 1967 for the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Wilt threatening to jump to the rival American Basketball Association in the summer of 1968, he was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers instead. It was the first time a reigning NBA MVP was traded the following season. LA handed their new big man an unprecedented $250,000 deal. He helped the Lakers win the NBA Finals a few years later, continuing to dominate in the middle of the paint.
2. Wayne Gretzky
When the LA Kings traded for Wayne Gretzky on August 9, 1988, it shook up the entire sporting world and made ice hockey relevant in the United States.
How big was this deal that likely saved hockey in California? It’s known simply as “The Trade.”
The Kings got “The Great One,” Mike Krushelnyski, and Marty McSorley from Edmonton for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, and some picks. The price was worth it.
In his first season, Gretzky led the Kings to an upset of his former team in the playoffs. In 1993 he took LA to the Stanley Cup Finals. Only one other superstar has been traded to LA and had a larger impact on the future fortunes of his franchise.
Which leads up 86 inches to…
1. Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul Jabbar) never seemed to fit in Milwaukee. After four incredibly successful years at UCLA, he was drafted by the Bucks and soon established himself as the most talented big man in the game of basketball. But Jabbar wanted out of Wisconsin, and following the 1974-75 season, he requested a trade.
The Lakers acquired Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from the Bucks for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters, Dave Meyers, Junior Bridgeman, and money.
In his first season with The Purple, Kareem poured in 27.7 points per game and won the rebounding title with 16.9 per. That year, The Big Fella set an NBA record that still stands, with 1,111 defensive rebounds. He was also very happy to be back in sunny SoCal.
“When I was going to UCLA, I was a young man and young men tend to be dissatisfied and blame it on location,” Abdul-Jabar said. “I’m now happy that I have come home here. I am looking forward to playing for the Lakers. I will do everything possible to help our club win many championships here.”
Among the Best
Kareem, who remains one of the grossly underrated all-time legends in any sport, won five titles with the Lakers, becoming the center piece and inside presence for “Showtime” led by teammate Magic Johnson. His skyhook was undefendable, and his grace on the court was unmatched. Kareem set the NBA record for points, minutes, and rebounds.
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