Trade sagas can often be of the biggest sources of tension and drama in sports. Some of these deals rumble on for a long time. It could be because a franchise doesn’t want to lose one of their best players or maybe they haven’t received an appropriate offer.
However, they can become toxic when an athlete refuses to play. Players, agents, managers, and coaches all battle to make their voices heard. Multiple teams can become involved, especially in major NBA trades. Let’s look at 25 trade sagas that seemed to last forever via Bleacher Report.
25. Chris Paul
Paul is one of the best players in the NBA without a championship ring. These days, fans instantly connect him with the Phoenix Suns. He began his career with the New Orleans Hornets. Paul was part of one of the league’s biggest trade sagas during his time with the franchise. He was one of their best players but wanted to move to a bigger market. This way he’d make more money as well as have a better chance of winning.
However, the Hornets resisted his desire to move. Paul attempted to force a trade to the L.A. Lakers but the NBA intervened. In the end, he moved to Los Angeles. But he went to the Clippers instead of the Lakers in a bizarre twist. It was a strange series of events and rumbled on for far too long. The Hornets were the real losers because Paul’s abilities were irreplaceable (via ESPN).
There’s no denying that Bell possesses tremendous physical gifts, but the once-elite running back sabotaged his career. He was lighting up the league for the Pittsburgh Steelers. But his indiscipline cost him badly as he failed drug tests and had trouble with the law. Despite this, the Steelers recognized his talent. They wanted to keep him and placed the franchise tag on their star in 2017. They repeated this in 2018.
Then, Bell refused to sign and sat out for the entire season. The prime years of a running back are relatively short so this was a big risk. In the end, he departed Pittsburgh for the Jets as a free agent. This didn’t go well either because the Jets franchise was completely dysfunctional (via Sporting News). Trade sagas rumbled on but finally, the Jets released him. He went to Kansas City where he spent time as a backup before being cut by Baltimore the following year.
The Pelicans wanted Davis to carry them to the next level. New Orleans is a major football town but Davis was a bonafide NBA superstar. After six All-Star appearances and a handful of postseason appearances, Davis joined the Klutch Sports Agency (via CBS Sports). This management group is also responsible for LeBron James’s career. Soon one of the biggest NBA trade sagas of the decade emerged.
New Orleans offered him a new mega-contract to stay. They were willing to break the bank to keep their star. However, Davis and his agent rejected the deal. Next, they demanded a trade and tensions arose. The Pelicans didn’t want to do business but in the end, they didn’t have a choice. Davis joined LeBron at the Lakers and won an NBA Championship. Meanwhile, the Pelicans went back into rebuilding mode.
Rodgers finished 2020 as the regular season MVP. All was rosy in his world after he appeared on the popular TV show ‘Jeopardy’ as well. Then it went downhill very quickly as one of the biggest (supposed) trade sagas in recent years arose. He made it clear that he wanted to leave Green Bay. It appeared as though his preference was a move back to California but he was finished in Wisconsin.
The veteran quarterback skipped the teams offseason training activities and didn’t appear in any preseason games. His antics divided the fanbase because some believed that he betrayed their trust. Others thought that he gave Green Bay everything and his reasoning was fair. Finally, he agreed to stay for another season. Ironically, the Packers still became genuine Super Bowl contenders in 2021.
Ronaldo is one of the two biggest soccer stars on the planet. The Portuguese joined Manchester United as a teenager in 2003. At the time, nobody expected him to blossom into one of the greatest of all time. However, that’s exactly what happened. In 2007, he scored a sensational 43 goals in all competitions. Immediately, media sources linked him to Real Madrid. United resisted but was unable to stand in his way.
Some trade sagas cause a schism between an athlete and their fanbase. However, Ronaldo left with the total devotion of the United support. Madrid spent a then-world record $100 million on the superstar. He enjoyed a sensational career with the team as they won everything on offer. After a brief spell with Juventus, Ronaldo returned to Manchester in 2021 (via New York Times). He completed the full circle.
Most protracted trade sagas end in the player’s favor. However, this isn’t always the case. Yashin discovered this the hard way after he tried to con the system. The Ottawa Senators captain attempted to force a trade in 1999 but the Canadian franchise shut him down. He still had a year left on his contract and they were determined to keep him. Yashin had an ace up his sleeve, or so he thought.
He sat out for the entire season and expected that was the end. However, the Senators took him to court for arbitration. They argued that because he hadn’t played, he didn’t fulfill his contractual obligations. The court ruled in favor of the franchise and forced Yashin to stay (via TSN). The Russian gritted his teeth and played for another season. But he earned his payday with the Islanders the following year.
French giants Marseille found themselves in financial difficulties in 2015. This forced them to sell some of their best players including Payet. West Ham signed the French star and he blossomed in London. He scored iconic goals and became a cult hero. Meanwhile, an American investor took over Marseille and reignited their fortunes. The team wanted to bring Payet home.
But West Ham didn’t want to lose their star attacker and resisted the deal. In the end, this became one of the messiest trade sagas of 2017. Payet refused to play for West Ham again and forced their hand. Marseille paid about $30 million for him but this was less than his true value. The fans who once loved him in London now despised him. Payet didn’t care because he was where he wanted to be (via France24).
Many thought the San Antonio Spurs were a perfect fit for Leonard. But his relationship with the franchise fell apart. He was an MVP candidate in 2017 but less than two years later, he was in Toronto. That’s where he won the Finals before a big-money move to the Clippers. The big question is why did he leave Texas in the first place? It worked out well but it was one of the big trade sagas of the time.
Leonard suffered a quadriceps injury in 2017. Allegedly, his team and the Spurs medical staff had a major dispute about his recovery. Tensions increased behind the scenes and soon the differences became irreconcilable (via SBNation). Finally, they agreed on a trade to the Raptors. Leonard had no desire to go up north but recognized it as a means to an end. He went North to Canada and won a ring before his big L.A. move.
Liverpool signed Sterling as a precocious teenager after they recognized his unique talent. They pushed him quickly into first-team contention and then he blossomed. The dynamic forward won Europe’s Golden Boy award. He became part of an exciting front three with Luis Suarez and Daniel Sterling. Soon Liverpool came forward with a new contract offer. They were confident that he would sign but he rejected it.
Sterling’s agent recognized Manchester City’s interest. Liverpool didn’t want to break their wage structure for the 18-year-old because it would set a precedent. They preferred a bonus-heavy deal based on meeting specific targets. However, City was willing to pay him immediately (via Bleacher Report). After one of the messiest trade sagas of 2015, he moved to Manchester for almost $55 million.
Ngakoue has a well-earned reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NFL (via NBC Sports), but the 2017 Pro Bowler is also highly effective. He was one of the Jaguars’ few effective players for three seasons before he forced an exit. This became one of the longest-running trade sagas of 2020 because he effectively went on strike. Ngakoue refused to practice or play with the team.
He even engaged in a Twitter exchange with the owner’s son. In the end, player power prevailed and he left Florida. He had a strange season because they traded him to Minnesota. But he didn’t stay for long because in October he moved to Baltimore. It was a topsy-turvy year for the defensive end. Finally, he moved to the Raiders where he regained some stability. It was a wild road.
Some NFL fans still consider Montana to be the greatest quarterback ever. He led the Niners for many seasons until 1991. He suffered an injury that year and Steve Young emerged as the new starter. After sitting behind Montana for four years, Young took his opportunity. He also continued as San Francisco’s starter the following season. An irate Montana demanded a trade but team owner Eddie Bartolo wanted to reinstate him.
Some people believed that the 49ers should trade Young instead of Montana. They also had another solid alternate in Steve Bono. However, Montana wanted to cut ties with the franchise so they accepted a deal with the Chiefs. There was a better trade offer from Arizona, but San Francisco accepted his wishes (via Baltimore Sun). It was one of the biggest trade sagas of the early ’90s.
Olajuwon was one of the best players of his era. “The Dream” was an incredible physical presence and enjoyed many years with the Houston Rockets. But their relationship came to an unfortunate end. This story is similar to how Kahwi Leonard left the San Antonio Spurs. Olajuwon suffered a hamstring injury in 1992. His team and the Rockets’ medical staff disagreed about his rehab progress.
As a result, Olajuwon demanded an exit. He even went as far as insulting the Houston owner in public. It appeared as though he was burning every bridge on the way out. However, they still kept him for another year and he finished second in MVP voting. It wasn’t until 2001 that he finally moved to the Raptors (via CBC Sports). This was one of the longest-running trade sagas ever.
Coutinho developed into one of the most exciting attacking midfielders in the Premier League. He was also Liverpool’s star player and scored multiple crucial goals for the team. However, when Barcelona became interested, there was only going to be one outcome. The Brazilian dreamed of playing for the Spanish giants. He made it clear that he wasn’t going to play for the Reds again.
He missed a few games with alleged minor injuries. But the reality was that he didn’t want to risk his health ahead of the transfer. Liverpool agreed to sell him but on their terms (via Liverpool Echo). They accepted a ludicrous $140 million and reinvested it brilliantly. Meanwhile, Coutinho won several medals with Barcelona but failed to assert himself in the team. Many regard this deal as a failure for the player.
Irving was one of the most talented athletes in the NBA. He departed the Thunder in acrimonious circumstances. Their loss was Boston’s gain. Everybody thought he would stay with the Celtics for the long term but that’s not what happened. The Brooklyn Nets swooped in for his services because they wanted to build a super team. Celtics fans were furious but there was nothing they could do.
However, his move to New York was an absolute disaster. He missed most of his first season with an injury. Then the Nets collapsed in the postseason the following year (via Clutchpoints). Finally, Irving refused a vaccination that ttate law required New York-based athletes to undergo as a mandatory requirement. This left the Nets without one of their most talented players. Irving constantly creates drama and trade sagas.
It took months, but Harden finally achieved the trade he wanted. The former Rockets star made it clear that he was done with the franchise in 2020. He demanded a move but Houston resisted. This was because he was their best and most important player. They built the team in his image and he was their most marketable athlete. However, after one of the biggest trade sagas of the summer, he moved North.
Houston didn’t make it easy for the Nets or Harden. There were even doubts over Harden’s final destination with other franchises mooted (via Bleacher Report). Then the player made his discontent clear to the media. Harden’s lack of a super agent made it more difficult to leave Texas than it could have been. But it showed a new, growing player power in the league. Finally, the deal was done.
Gallas was one of the best defenders in the world during a long playing career. The former France international is the only player in history to appear for the three London giants: Arsenal, Chelsea, and Spurs. However, his move from the Blues to the Gunners was one of the messiest trade sagas ever. He wanted more money but Chelsea wasn’t prepared to pay him. Gallas effectively went on strike.
He refused to play and even threatened to score own goals. This put him in an untenable position at the club. Finally, Chelsea sold him to Arsenal as part of a deal that brought Ashley Cole in the other direction. At the time, this was an extremely controversial move (via TalkSport). Gallas represented Arsenal with distinction for several years. But he showed no inhibition in moving to their arch-rivals, Spurs.
Favre is one of football’s greatest-ever quarterbacks. However, the end of his time in Wisconsin involved multiple retirement teases. Unfortunately for Favre, it reached a point where the Packers were ready to move on. They had Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings and finally decided to run with the youngster. This infuriated Favre, who didn’t overestimate his importance to the franchise.
Green Bay shrugged and pointed out that they didn’t make him retire. It was his decision but they were going with Rodgers. In the end, they traded him to the New York Jets. But he only lasted for a season in the Big Apple. The most dramatic moment of his time there was his lewd sexting scandal (via ABC News). After this, he moved to the Vikings for a couple of years before his final retirement.
French star Griezmann rose to prominence with Atletico Madrid. The dynamic forward offered superb flexibility across the front line. He helped them to win multiple trophies and attracted the gaze of Barcelona. The Catalan giants sold Neymar to PSG for almost $200 million. This ludicrous figure left them with money burning a hole in their pockets. So they went after Griezmann.
Some trade sagas end quickly but this ran on for ages. Griezmann even signed a new contract with Atletico but he only stayed for another couple of years. Finally, Barcelona swooped and paid $160 million for his services. However, they struggled to fit him into their system and sent him back on loan to Madrid in 2021 (via Eurosport). It was a strange series of events because of the lack of foresight.
Durant is no stranger to trade sagas. First, he departed the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Warriors. Most neutrals didn’t have a major issue with this because San Francisco is a bigger market. Meanwhile, Golden State usually has a better chance of winning than Oklahoma. However, his time with the franchise ended badly. They realized that he wanted to leave and agreed on a trade to Brooklyn.
But Durant backed them into a corner. Finally, after complex negotiations, the deal was done (via SFGate). Brooklyn was the real winner because Durant was such a great athlete. Unfortunately, he exacerbated his reputation as one of the most hated players in the NBA. Durant is a player who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to pursue it. This can rub fans up the wrong way because they expect undisputed loyalty.
Sancho was one of the most exciting players in Manchester City’s academy. However, the teenager was concerned about his first-team prospects. He wanted guarantees over playing time before he signed a new contract. City refused so Sancho walked away and joined Germany’s Borussia Dortmund. This was a brave move for the young attacker because not many English players go overseas.
It turned out to be a brilliant decision because he developed his game in the Bundesliga. Soon he was one of Dortmund’s most important forwards. After a while, Manchester United showed interest in the forward. It became one of the longest-running trade sagas of recent years. Three years later, he finally joined the Red Devils in 2021. They paid a cool $100 million for his services (via Sky Sports).
Manning joined the New York Giants in 2004. However, if the San Diego Chargers played their cards differently, we may have had another story. They selected the rookie with the No.1 overall pick but he refused to join. He even made it clear that he’d play another year of college football instead. Their record with young quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Ryan Leaf was appalling.
Meanwhile, the Giants were a much bigger market. This was one of those trade sagas that ran on and on. In the end, the Chargers selected him. But they traded him to New York in the next hour. It’s believed that Archie Manning played a key role in taking his son out of playing for the Chargers. Soon, they ended up with Philip Rivers, who was their starter for almost two decades (via CBS Sports).
Some trade sagas roll on and on. Gerrard was Liverpool’s captain as well as their best player through tough times. He helped his hometown club overachieve in competitions like the Champion’s League. His performances were legendary and he attracted admiring gazes from across Europe. Even Sir. Alex Ferguson, manager of arch-rivals Manchester United, gave his respects.
But Jose Mourinho took it to the next level. The Chelsea manager made his interest tangible. They bid for the Liverpool star on multiple occasions. In 2005 it looked like they would finally seal the deal. Gerrard wanted to win the league but only had a slim chance of achieving this with Liverpool. Finally, he decided not to leave and remained a hometown hero before a brief foray with L.A. Galaxy (The Guardian).
Abdul-Jabbar is an NBA icon. He made his name with the Milwaukee Bucks before he starred for the Lakers. However, his manner of departure from Milwaukee was unfortunate. After winning the MVP award in the franchise, he wanted bigger things. But he wasn’t subtle in his desire to leave Wisconsin after six seasons. This included a famous championship win in 1970.
Then he told the media that Milwaukee wasn’t his ‘vibe.’ Ironically, his move to the Lakers came after they beat the Bucks in the final game of the season. Finally, after a long offseason, one of the most dramatic trade sagas of 1975 ended. Abdul-Jabbar spent 13 seasons with the Lakers and solidified his status as an NBA legend (via History.com). He also won five rings with the franchise.
Darnold was the Jets’ starting quarterback for three long seasons. They drafted him in 2018 after an impressive college career with USC. He was the youngest opening day QB starter of the modern era. Unfortunately, his time in New York saw more lows than highs. Adam Case deserves a lot of criticism because he was inept at building a team. Darnold had no protection and no opportunity to develop.
Meanwhile, he was mentally frazzled after a couple of seasons. Darnold infamously “saw ghosts” during one game against the Patriots. Finally, the whole sorry episode came to an end. One of the most miserable trade sagas of the modern era saw him move to the Panthers. There were questions over whether new coach Robert Saleh would keep him, but he pushed him out the door (via New York Post).
It’s easy to forget where the breakdown between Simmons and the 76ers began. That’s because this is one of the messiest trade sagas ever. The relationship between the player and his franchise fell apart during the 2020 offseason. He opted not to shoot when there was a clear opportunity to dunk. Then, coach Doc Rivers tore him apart in front of the media. Simmons immediately demanded to leave.
The offseason descended into anarchy. Philadelphia fans are notoriously passionate so they didn’t have much sympathy for the star. He refused to train or play in practice games. It was clear that the pair were at an impasse. The only thing to do was agree on trade but this became extremely difficult. Simmons wanted to play for a team that valued him. Meanwhile, Philly wanted to receive his value (via Sporting News).