The biggest trades in sport history
Not only is today October 3rd (hi, Aaron Samuels), it’s also the day Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback (QB) Tom Brady makes his highly anticipated return to Foxboro after leaving the New England Patriots for the Bucs...and then winning the Super Bowl with his new team.
- So today we’re highlighting some of the biggest and most shocking trades and free agency signings that still haunt loyal fanbases to this day. Let’s scroll.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
It’s like when your high school friends meet your college friends 😬
— Brady’s response on Twitter when the NFL announced tonight’s game earlier this year. Yeah, it’ll be something like that...
🏀 The Decision
Perhaps the most infamous free agency signing occured back in 2010 when NBA star LeBron James signed with the Miami Heat instead of returning to his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. His announcement was met with fanfare, fury and even flames.
- In 2003, the Cavs selected the Akron, Ohio native with the No. 1 overall draft pick. James won plenty of hardware in Cleveland (like Rookie of the Year, MVP and NBA All-Star), but never a championship title.
- So, in 2010 he controversially decided to “take [his] talents to South Beach,” joining forces with superstars Dwyane Wade and (former Toronto Raptor) Chris Bosh to form one of the game’s most elite Big Threes.
The Heat went on to make three NBA Finals appearances in four years, winning back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013. But in 2014, after losing in the Finals, James was a free agent once again and decided to move back to Cleveland, bringing one title home to the Cavs in 2016.
- Of course, James changed teams once again, joining the LA Lakers in 2018 and leading them to the NBA “bubble” title in 2020.
- And while James turning his 2010 free agency decision into a 75-minute TV spectacle is often made fun of, what’s lost is that he raised over $2 million for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America during the program. Now that’s why he’s the King.
🏠 Who says you can’t go home?
There’s been no shortage of blockbuster moves in the WNBA’s 25-year history, and the 2017 trade which sent Elena Delle Donne (EDD) from the Chicago Sky to the Washington Mystics is certainly one of the biggest.
- The Sky selected EDD No. 2 overall in the 2013 draft. She won Rookie of the Year, three consecutive All-Star nods from 2013 to 2015 and her first MVP award in 2015.
- But EDD reportedly grew unhappy playing in ChiTown. So, in exchange for Stefanie Dolson, Kahleah Copper and the No. 2 pick in 2017, the Sky sent their star to the Mystics, closer to her home state of Delaware.
In Washington, EDD led the Mystics to their first franchise semifinals appearance in 2017, first finals appearance in 2018 and first title in 2019. Oh yeah, and she was named the league MVP in 2019. What a homecoming.
- Speaking of, former LA Sparks star Candace Parker’s move to the Sky earlier this year was the latest major W move. A Chicago native, Parker is currently on the hunt for her second WNBA title and first with her hometown team. There’s no place like home.
⚾️ The Curse of the Bambino
For baseball’s biggest trade, we have to go all the way back to 1920. Last week, we covered the comeback that broke “the Curse,” so this week, we’re diving into its origin story.
Before LA Angel Shohei Ohtani, Babe Ruth was baseball’s original two-way star. Led by the young Babe, the Boston Red Sox won three World Series titles in four years, hoisting the trophy in 1915, 1916 and 1918. Ruth continued to dazzle during the 1919 season, leading the league in RBI all while pitching for the team, too.
- Despite their success with Ruth, Red Sox team owner Harry Frazee shockingly announced in January 1920 that the Babe would be traded to Boston’s archrival, the NY Yankees. *gasps*
- You might be thinking, surely the Sox received a great trade for the superstar. Nope. Boston sold Ruth to NY for a mere $100K (about $1.3 million today), which Frazee reportedly used to finance a Broadway play. How’s that for a curtain call?
The trade’s aftermath still haunts Sox fans to this day. Ruth went on to win four World Series titles with the Yankees and set countless baseball records before retiring as one of the greatest players the game had ever seen.
- Meanwhile, Boston experienced an 86-year World Series title drought post-Ruth, which is commonly referred to as “the Curse of the Bambino.” Spooky.
🏒 The Trade
No list of league-altering sports transactions is complete without the NHL deal known simply as “The Trade,” which sent “the Great One” Wayne Gretzky to the LA Kings just three months after he won the 1988 Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers.
- Gretzky’s status as a hockey legend was already solidified. He had won the Hart Trophy (NHL’s MVP award) in eight consecutive seasons, the Conn Smythe trophy (playoff MVP) twice and four Stanley Cups.
- Naturally, LA wanted in. In August 1988, it was announced that Gretzky and two of his Oilers teammates were California-bound in exchange for two Kings players, draft picks and $15 million.
While Kings fans celebrated, Canadians mourned. One member of Parliament proposed that the government pass legislation to block the trade. Ahead of Gretzky’s tearful goodbye press conference, the Oilers owners even offered to call off the trade, but he refused.
- While he didn’t lift another Stanley Cup, Gretzky did go on to win his unprecedented ninth Hart Trophy in his first year with the Kings. He’s also largely credited with popularizing hockey in California.
- As for the Oilers, they did win the 1990 Cup without Gretzky, but fans will never forgive GM Peter Pocklington for letting “the Great One” become the one that got away.
🏈 The Return
Of course we have to end things with the man of the hour, GOAT Tom Brady. After being drafted 199th overall (during the second to last round, still shocking) in the 2000 NFL Draft, Brady made his Patriots debut in November 2000.
- He went on to lead the Pats to nine Super Bowl appearances, winning six times. It was a dynasty.
But after losing in the 2020 AFC Wild Card game, Brady
had a marvelous time ruinin’ everything decided it was time for a change. In March 2020, the GOAT signed with the Buccaneers, ending an epic 20-year career with the Pats and breaking the hearts of New Englanders everywhere.
- Their hearts were further shattered when another former Pat — tight end Rob Gronkowski — came out of retirement to join forces with TB12 in Tampa Bay. The duo poured extra salt in the wound when they won the Super Bowl in February.
So how will New England fans welcome their beloved QB when he makes his first return to Foxboro tonight? Tune in at 8:20 p.m. ET on NBC in the U.S. or CTV2, TSN and RDS in Canada to find out. Getcha popcorn (and your tissues) ready.
🏈New records and crazy plays in week 3 of the NFL
Crazy plays: The Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Arizona Cardinals game featured two of the nuttiest plays of the weekend. To end the first half, Cards kicker (K) Matt Prater attempted the longest field goal (FG) in NFL history at 68 yards, but it fell short, was caught by Jags returner Jamal Agnew who (TD). Like, how?
- In the second half, Jags quarterback Trevor Lawrence attempted the always-entertaining trick play, but instead by Cards cornerback Byron Murphy, who ran it back for his own crazy TD, giving Arizona the lead and the eventual 31–19 win.
New record: Baltimore Ravens K Justin Tucker saw the Cardinals’ FG attempt and said, “Hold my
beer protein shake.” The nine-season vet kicked an NFL at the buzzer to win the game 19–17 over the Detroit Lions.
Dolt of the week: The Dallas Cowboys are hosting their division rivals, the Philadelphia Eagles, in Monday Night Football tonight, but Cowboy La’el Collins is sitting this one out. Collins was suspended for five games on September 10th for unknown reasons...which this weekend: he allegedly tried to bribe the NFL’s drug-test collector. Oh boy.
🏈Recap of all the action from Week 2 of the NFL
👍Highlights: Okay, Buffalo Bills, we see you. The reigning champs put on a show in front of the Miami Dolphins’ home crowd yesterday, their division rivals 35–0. In Miami’s defense, they lost QB Tua Tagovailoa (pronounced TUNG-o-vai-LOA) early in the game to a . Ouch.
- Later in the day, the aforementioned
Father TimeTom Brady and Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski added another two TDs to their career combo, bringing them up to 102, just 12 shy of the in NFL history: .
👎Lowlights: Interception (INT) was the name of two games yesterday. NY Jets rookie QB Zach Wilson in the Jets’ loss to the New England Patriots, and the Cincinnati Bengals lost to the Chicago Bears as second-year QB Joe Burrow threw three INTs in three consecutive passing attempts. Yikes.
🤕 Injuries: Some of the game’s biggest names suffered seriously yesterday. Aside from Tagovailoa, Cleveland Browns wide receiver , Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker , Bears QB and Houston Texans QB all exited their games with injuries. Get well soon!
Sports Quick Hits: September 20th, 2021
⚾️MLB: After Toronto’s 5–3 win yesterday, former Toronto Blue Jay and current Minnesota Twin Josh Donaldson and Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — who in batting average, home runs and hits — took pics and exchanged jerseys. .
- The Jays are currently in a very precarious with just under two weeks left in the regular season, and their series against the American League’s best team — the Tampa Bay Rays — will be make or break. It starts tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET.
🏈Football: Kristie Elliott became the in an NCAA football game on Saturday. The kicker — who had never watched a football game before taking up the sport in 2019 — scored two extra points in Simon Fraser University’s loss.
- FYI, SFU is the only Canadian school to play in the U.S. collegiate league, where they compete in Division II.
🏉Rugby 7s: The first half of a very short World Rugby Sevens Series took place in Vancouver this weekend, and Team Canada looked pretty solid. The women’s team placed third behind the U.S. and U.K., and the men lost in the quarter-final. They’ll for better results in the second leg, .
🏈NFL Traditions We Love
QUOTE OF THE DAY
We could call it the Terrible Towel...Yes. And I can go on radio and television proclaiming, “The Terrible Towel is poised to strike!”
— The late Myron Cope, discussing his idea for the now iconic “Terrible Towel,” a staple among Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Boy, did the radio host’s idea strike.
💦 Gatorade showers
As a coach in the NFL, you haven’t truly won a big game until you’ve been soaked in a bath of flavored electrolytes. Gatorade showers aren’t unique to one particular team, and they aren’t unique to football anymore either, but they remain a popular NFL tradition. The bigger the game, the bigger the bath.
While there are differing opinions about when the tradition began, the New York Giants popularized the trend in the '80s. It began in 1984, when defensive tackle Jim Burt received criticism from head coach Bill Parcells before one of their biggest games against the Washington Football Team.
- After the squad pulled off a 37–13 victory, Burt surprised Parcells with a Gatorade shower in response to his harsh coaching leading up to the game, a gesture of cold revenge.
- His teammate, Harry Carson, was his accomplice and continued the baths in celebration after each Giants win from that point on, including their Super Bowl XXI championship in 1987.
The tradition has been so cemented into football culture that gamers can even dunk their coach in some Madden video games. And we can’t forget one of the most popular Super Bowl prop bets: the color of the Gatorade poured over the winning coach. Hint: orange is a good guess.
💛🖤 The Terrible Towel
Possibly the best-known tradition in the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Terrible Towel, or the “luckiest towel in sports,” first appeared in 1975 thanks to the aforementioned Cope.
- In an effort to excite fans at Three Rivers Stadium and “soak up the competition,” Cope waved a yellow dish towel from his radio booth during a playoff game against the Baltimore (now Indianapolis) Colts.
- Cope encouraged fans to bring towels of their own to the game too, and when they all began waving their yellow rally rags, the Steelers produced big plays, resulting in a 28–10 victory. And thus, the magic of the towel began.
The Black and Gold had a great season that year, making it all the way to Super Bowl X, where the team provided fans with specially printed towels that read: “Myron Cope’s Official Terrible Towel.” Sure enough, the fans waved and the Steelers performed, securing a 21–17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys, all “thanks to the Towel.”
- Superstition soon followed as opposing teams or players that dared disrespect the towel become subject to its “curse.” In 2008, the Tennessee Titans felt the wrath of the Terrible Towel after a group of players stomped on one after beating Pittsburgh.
- Tennessee went on to lose their next two games, just barely missing a chance at playing in Super Bowl XLIII. Who did make it to the Super Bowl that year? You guessed it, the Steelers. Oh, and they won, no less. Spooky.
The towel’s magic continues today. In 2010, Pittsburgh began inviting a celebrity to do a “Terrible Towel Twirl” before kickoff at each home game, and many recognizable names have had the honor, including Channing Tatum and Wiz Khalifa. Black and yellow, black and yellow.
🧀 Lambeau Leap
At Lambeau Field — home of the Green Bay Packers — there’s only one appropriate touchdown celebration: the Lambeau Leap. It all began in 1993 when LeRoy Butler launched himself into the stands after he scored his first career NFL touchdown.
Today, seats in the “Jump Zone” are the most coveted in the stadium. But players who jump often have less than ideal experienceswith fans. Some have been covered in beer, ketchup, popcorn and in true Wisconsin fashion, even cheese curds.
- Worst of all, there have been reports of inappropriate touching by unruly fans. Um, not okay.
- Also, the leap is actually pretty high, with most of the wall around 6 feet tall. Imagine scoring a touchdown and then making a jump like that...
The NFL cracked down on excessive touchdown celebrations in the early 2000s and has consistently made changes to the rules since. But, lucky for Packers fans, the Lambeau Leap was grandfathered into the rules, allowing for the tradition to continue.
- In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the first six to eight rows of seating in every stadium were off limits to fans last year, making the leap at Lambeau Field impossible in order to protect players and fans alike.
- NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he expects stadiums to be at full capacity, but with the Delta variant and a handful of unvaccinated players on the roster, maybe this tradition can wait another year.
💙💚 The 12s
The Seattle Seahawks’ first stadium in the late '70s was the Kingdome, a concrete-covered facility that echoed with the cheers of fans for the home team. In preparation, visiting teams trained with special noise systems in an attempt to mimic the loud rumble experienced during games.
- Seattle fans quickly earned themselves a reputation as some of the loudest in the league.
In a tribute to the fans and their vocal support, in 1984 Seahawks president Mike McCormack retired the No. 12 jersey. The number symbolized the “extra player” (the fans in the stands) that contributed to every Seahawks win.
- In a 2005 battle with the NY Giants at the Seahawks’ new home, Qwest Field, the 12s created so much noise that the Giants’ offense couldn't hear their play calls, forcing 11 false start penalties.
- The Giants’ kicker also seemed to be affected by the crowd, missing three game-winning field goal attempts, and the Giants lost in overtime. Oof.
In 2011, the 12s turned the volume even higher during a battle with the then-reigning Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. During a game-winning 67-yard touchdown run by Marshawn Lynch, eruptions from the stands registered as a 1-to-2 range magnitude earthquake. Can’t make this sh!t up.
Before every home game, the Seahawks invite one person — a celebrity, beloved community member or former player — to hoist a number 12 flag. So special.
🦃 🍽 Thanksgiving Day
Dating all the way back to the league’s inception in 1920, the oldest tradition in the NFL is the annual Thanksgiving Day game. Since 1934, the Detroit Lions have always played on the holiday in November, only missing the tradition due to World War II between 1939 and 1944.
- The Turkey Day contest tradition for Detroit began as an effort to attract more fans and, with network ties at NBC, owner George A. Richards solidified the slot for the Lions.
Not long after, in 1966, the Dallas Cowboys joined the Thanksgiving Day club when general manager Tex Schramm took a page out of Richards’ book and sought out a way to get more national attention and more fans in the stands for “America’s Team.”
- Most NFL teams have now played on Thanksgiving against either the Lions or the Cowboys, but the two squads have become synonymous with Turkey Day. Gobble gobble.
🔵🔴 Bills Mafia
One of the newer traditions in the NFL, Bills Mafia has already made its mark. As some of the most committed fans in football, Bills supporters have endured a lot. After four consecutive Super Bowl appearances in the 1990’s, the squad hasn’t seen similar success for a while, but their support system has only gotten stronger.
- The name may be misleading, but the “Mafia” has no relation to illegal activity. The term instead points to the lifelong commitment it is to be a fan of the Bills and their legacy of defending “the family.”
In November 2010, Bills fans came to the defense of wide receiver Stevie Johnson after he dropped an important pass during a game against the Steelers. Stevie tweeted about the drop and received criticism from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
- Crowds of online Bills fans, defending their family, responded to Schefter with criticism of their own. Thus the Mafia was born.
- With this year looking bright for Buffalo, will the Mafia get the chance to cheer their beloved Bills on to a Super Bowl win?