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The Ten Greatest Trade Heists in Boston Sports History

So it’s officially been 48 hours since Steven A. Smith went on ESPN and presented us with his crazy, unsubstantiated, completely speculative and highly irrational theory that the Celtics were ready to trade Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce AND Doc Rivers to the LA Clippers for Blake Griffin.  There’s no more reason to respond to the trade coming out of Steven A.’s ass than there is to comment on InfoWars saying the FBI, TSA, ATF  and NKOTB were behind the Finish Line bombings.  Because, with all due respect to KG, Pierce and Doc, if Danny Ainge ever did pull that trade off, he’d need to wear a mask and probably go lie low in a safe house for a few years until the statute of limitations on robbery lapsed.

But the one thing the crazyass rumors did do was get me thinking about the all time best, most lopsided, most swindle-y trades on Boston sports history.  At least over the last 50 or so years.  And there’s no way I’d attempt something like this without consulting with the best hockey writer in the city.  So Rear Admiral gave me his take, and I plugged the Bruins picks in where I believed they fit best. (The order is mine; the hockey talk is all RA’s.)  Anyway, the Top 10:

10) Harry Mangurian for John Y. Brown (1979)

I start with a weird one. In the late 70s, the Celtics were proof positive of the old adage that a fish rots from the head. John Y. Brown had made a fortune owning Kentucky Fried Chicken and for some goddamned reason in the late 70s owned the Celtics and was running them into the ground. His wife was TV sports cupcake Phyllis George,  former beauty queen and the Erin Andrews of the Late Cretaceous Period. At some point Phyllis had gave an interview where she was asked who her favorite basketball player was, and she said Bob McAdoo, who was basically the Anti-Celtic. But being the hot trophy wife of a bazillionaire has its privileges so >voila!< the Celts traded away a boatload of picks Red Auerbach had carefully squirreled away to get McAdoo. Red was incensed. He famously took interviews with the Knicks to take their GM job. And he was on his way to NYC to take the job until a Boston cabbie, charged with taking him to the airport, talked him out of it. Red stayed. Brown swapped franchises with Mangurian, owner of the then Buffalo Braves. He moved the Braves to San Diego where they became the Clippers. Mangurian went to work putting Red iback n charge of running a basketball team. Within a year he had Larry Bird, and within 3 years, another title.

9) Wes Welker and Randy Moss for Three Draft Picks (2007)

I’m cheating by lumping these two trades in together. (Not that anyone would ever include “2007 Patriots” and “cheating” in the same sentence.) In 2006, the Patriots damn near went to the Super Bowl with a receiving corps of Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney and Troy Brown’s career being read its Last Rites. The ’07 draft class was a notoriously bad one so rebuilding there wasn’t an option. Instead, Belichick traded his mid-round picks for two veterans no one wanted. Welker came for a 2nd and a 7th. And on Day 2 of the draft, he got Moss for a 4th he’d picked up from San Fran the day before. And all those two did was break every record in the book over 4+ years and come within Asante Samuel’s butterfingers of making the Pats the greatest team ever.

8) Cam Neely and the 3rd Overall Pick for Barry Pederson (1986)

Rear Admiral’s take: The Bruins trade two-time 40-goal-scorer Barry Pederson to Vancouver for a tough, scrapping BC kid named Cam Neely and the Canucks’ 1st rounder (3rd overall). This trade not only delivered the position-defining HOFer in Neely and a few nice playoff runs, but it actually helped build the current iteration of the Bs. Wesley was sent to Hartford for three 1st rounders (McLaren, Aitken, Samsonov). McLaren to Jillson to Boyes to Wideman to Horton & Campbell. Samsonov to Lucic. 27 years later and it’s still paying off.


7) Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen for… a Bunch of Stuff (2007)

I’m counting these two as one since neither would’ve happened without the other. In the 2007 offseason, Danny Ainge caught exactly zero breaks. The Celtics whole rebuilding plan was built on landing one of the top two picks, grabbing Greg Oden or Kevin Durant and building around him. Instead they got the draft lottery equivalent of hitting $1 on a scratchie and had to go to Plans B through Z. So instead of taking the easy way, Danny had build a championship team through brilliant trades and shrewd drafting.

*To get Allen – The 5th pick, Wally Szczerbiak & Delonte West. Plus they got the 35th pick which became Glenn Davis.

*To get KG – Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Theo Ratliff, Gerald Green and Sebastian Telfair. Plus a swap of conditional 1st rounders.

Which is how Ainge took the same buzzard’s luck with the ping pong balls that destroyed Rick Pitino’s NBA career and turned it into Banner 17. Which is why I say his 2007 is the best offseason any Boston GM has ever had, period.

6) Dennis Johnson for Rick Robey (1983)

Robey was a backup center. Johnson was a former playoff MVP. After the deal, Robey played three more seasons, Johnson won two more titles. A story went around that could be apocryphal but I think is true: In 1984 a guy in Arizona was being sentenced to prison. The judge asked him if he had anything to say on the record before they hauled him off. Supposedly the guy said “Yeah. Tell Jerry Colangelo not to make any more trades with Red Auerbach.” I believe it just because I want to believe it.

 5) Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocum (1997)

A classic by Dan Duquette. The ultimate example of how to fleece a contender when you’re going nowhere. Seattle was in the hunt, needed a closer, and Duquette did the right thing by exploiting their desperation. This one pretty much tlaid of the cornerstone of the 2004 World Series win.


4) Phil Esposito, Ken Hodge and Fred Stanfield for Pit Martin, Jack Norris, and Gilles Marotte (1967)

Rear Admiral’s take: This was the trade that gave the Big, Bad Bruins of the early ’70s a missing piece—a dominant scoring forward. Hodge and Stanfield were solid players in their own right but Espo became a Boston legend with his goal-mouth game, nutso personality, and prolific scoring ability. He would later be traded to the Rangers in another trade that would breath life into a Bruins squad.

3) A Ton of High Draft Picks for Jim Plunkett (1976)


Four years into his Patriots career, Plunkett was miserable. He hated Chuck Fairbanks, the fans were booing him, and he was demanding a trade to the West Coast. Enter the 49ers, one of the worst franchises in sports who were desperate to bring back a Stanford hero to put asses in the seats. So they gave the Pats two-1st rounders in the ’76 draft and a 1st and a 2nd in ’77, plus solid QB Tom Owen. New England turned the picks into: C Pete Brock, S Tim Fox, CB Raymond Clayborn and RB Horace Ivory. Plunkett was released by SF after two seasons. Those 70s teams had championship caliber talent and only crooked refs in the playoffs and Fairbanks pulling a nutty in ’78 stood in their way.

2) Kevin McHale and Robert Parish for Two Draft Picks (1981)

It was the year after Larry Bird’s rookie season and the Celts had just pulled off the biggest one-year turnaround in NBA history (29 wins to 60). Due some manuvering by Red, the Celts had the No. 1 and No. 13 picks overall. The debate was whether to go big with Joe Barry Carroll of Purdue or guard with Darrell “Dr. Dunkenstein” Griffith out of Louisville. Red did neither. He flipped both picks to Golden State for Parish and the No. 3, then sat back puffing on a stogie while GS and Utah left him with the pick he wanted all along, McHale. Parish was so good in camp that Dave Cowens retired rather than get in his way and the original Big Three was born.

1) Pedro Martinez for Brian Rose and Tony Armas, Jr (1998)

Duquette’s Sistine Chapel. Two top prospects who never made a dent landed the Sox an Ace who not only put together arguably the two best seasons ever by a pitcher (1999 & 2000), the trade eventually led to a championship. Pedro was so dominant for so long it’s not even worth looking up what Rose and Armas did with their careers. They each could’ve been 10-time All Stars and 6-time MVPs (spoiler alert: they weren’t) and it still would’ve been the Steal of the Century.

Honorable Mentions: The Sox dumping of Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett on LA, Kessel for Seguin, Hamilton and Jared Knight, a 1st round pick for a 30 year old Richard Seymour, a KC’s 2nd for Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel.  Send all corrections, complaints, criticisms and demands that I kill myself to: @JerryThornton1