Professional athletes have two major motivations. Money and glory are the two factors they traditionally care about more than anything else. And several sports stars have demanded to leave because they wanted more of one or the other of these. Today, we’re going to take a look at 30 of the most dramatic situations.
Some of these players experienced breakdowns in their relationships with their teammates. Others simply outgrew their team or lost their place. Whatever the reason, they were all the cause of major news headlines at the time. Not all of these trades happened, but many did. Check out the list below via The Sports Drop.
30. Le’Veon Bell
Bell is the only player to appear on this list twice because of incidents at two franchises. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed the franchise tag on Bell in 2017 and he said he would consider retiring from the NFL if they did it again a year later. Yet they still placed the tag on him again and he refused to sign it. Furthermore, he rejected a $30 million extension and sat out for the entire 2018 NFL season.
In doing, so he effectively demanded a trade to another team. Ultimately, he left for the New York Jets for less than the Steelers offered him but more guaranteed money. But there were no real winners in this situation because the Steelers missed out on a great player for a season, while he lost a year of his prime. This was one of the messiest stalemates in the history of pro football contract negotiations.
Former Oklahoma City star George stunned the NBA when he demanded to leave the Thunder. Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors and then reached out to the six-time All-Star. George prepared to join the Raptors or the Clippers with Leonard and followed him to the latter. Oklahoma obviously didn’t want to lose their star player because as one of the NBA’s smallest markets, it would be so difficult to replace him.
However, they recognized the danger of keeping an unsettled player. In the end, they took the hit and traded him to Los Angeles. The Clippers immediately became contenders after adding George to their ranks. But it hasn’t entirely been smooth sailing in Los Angeles with George and Leonard. Reports emerged of dissent in the locker room following accusations of favoritism towards the two superstars.
Tevez lit up the Premier League with Manchester United before infuriating their fanbase by joining local rivals Manchester City as a free agent. He became one of the team’s most important players, but life wasn’t all sunshine and roses in Northern England. The Argentinian became demotivated by life in the U.K and started to flirt with A.C. Milan. He demanded a move to Serie A, but Manchester City rejected this move outright.
What happened next was one of the most scandalous attempts of a power move the sports world has ever seen. Not only did Tevez refuse to play or train with his team, but he jetted back to Argentina to kick back with his family. The club didn’t know where he was as the Mexican standoff continued. In the end, Tevez returned and even played before the end of the season as this transfer saga ended.
One of the most fascinating trades in history, Anthony left the Denver Nuggets for the New York Knicks in 2013 after months of negotiations. He wanted to move to a big market and the largest city in the United States certainly appealed to him. Eventually, a game-changing deal involving three franchises and over 10 players finally went down. Nobody had seen a deal of this scale before in basketball.
Anthony enjoyed his time in New York without massive success. But all good things come to an end. Then Phil Jackson came along and tried to get Anthony to waive his no-trade clause. Initially, Melo rejected this but changed his mind and pushed for a move to Houston. That deal didn’t pan out so eventually, he agreed to go to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
All Ngakoue cared about in the 2020 offseason was never playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars ever again. Ngakoue was adamant that he’d never suit up for them in another game and demanded a trade. This left the Jaguars struggling because he was one of their most important players, but also potentially a toxic lockerroom presence. They had to make a decisive move before it was too late.
Firstly, they tried to keep him by placing the franchise tag on him. However, he refused to accept this and effectively went on strike. Then Ngakoue even feuded on Twitter with Tony Khan, the franchise’s co-owner. Finally, they relented and traded him to the Minnesota Vikings. After about half of the regular season, they traded him to the Baltimore Ravens. It was quite the year for the athletic defensive end.
Paul is one of those players who knows exactly what he wants and isn’t afraid to voice it. During his time with the New Orleans Hornets, Paul demanded a trade to the Knicks. That didn’t happen, but he did eventually end up in L.A. with the Clippers after the NBA voided a trade to the Lakers. He spent six seasons in California before a trade to the Houston Rockets, but that didn’t end well.
The short version of the story is that Paul and current disgruntled Rockets’ star James Harden hated each other. Their relationship deteriorated to the point that they couldn’t play together. Paul demanded that the team trade him and Harden warned the franchise that they could only keep one of them. Finally, they sent him to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he once again achieved All-Star form. After one season, he moved to the Phoenix Suns.
Being the best player for a weak franchise is a tough situation for any great player. They have to accept that no matter what they do, their team probably isn’t going to win anything meaningful because the overall talent isn’t there. But the problem is that players like Palmer for the Cincinnati Bengals still have to play well and prove themselves to other franchises if they want to move to another franchise.
In 2005, Palmer led his team to the division title and 11 wins. But frustration overcame him over the course of the next five years because the Bengals failed to progress as a franchise. After just four wins in the 2010 season, Palmer vowed never to play for the team again. He demanded to leave and Cincinnati eventually traded him to the Oakland Raiders. He had no remorse leaving the perenially losing Bengals behind.
Irving landed on the East Coast in 2017 and appeared set for a long tenure in Boston. The Celtics hoped that Irving would help them to win the franchise’s first NBA Championship since 2008. He was excellent for two seasons, making the All-Star team both years. Most people expected him to sign a lucrative extension with the franchise, but then he made the decision to leave for the Brooklyn Nets in free agency.
This deal was more surprising because it took the NBA by surprise. Nobody expected him to depart for Brooklyn, but he closed the door behind him and didn’t look back. Irving suffered an injury-riddled first season and Celtics fans may see that as karma for leaving them in the lurch. But professional athletes only have one career and a short one at that. Irving left because he saw that as the best opportunity for him.
Famous for his goggles, Dickerson was a fantastic running back through the 1980s and early 1990s. He spent the best chunk of his career with the Rams where he broke multiple franchise records and was generally a devastating force. But their relationship broke down and Dickerson demanded a trade. The reigning Offensive Player of the Year was in a strong position to get what he wanted.
The Rams traded him to the Indianapolis Colts where he suffered severe highs and lows. His first two seasons were excellent but things went into severe decline after that. Dickerson succumbed to injuries at various points and the Colts endured a miserable 1-15 season in 1991. From that point on he went on a tour of various NFL teams without being the same powerhouse as before.
‘The Dream’ almost spent his entire 15-year career in Houston except for his final year with the Toronto Raptors. However, things could have been very different for Olajuwon and the Rockets because of a nasty contract dispute in 1991. He wanted more money but they said no. When they refused him, he demanded a trade. It was toxic and they very nearly relented. This could have changed the course of history.
After intense negotiations, both parties came to an agreement. Meanwhile, two seasons later, Olajuwon became the first NBA player ever to win the MVP, Finals MVP, Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. He also helped the franchise to win back-to-back NBA titles. Without him in their ranks, it’s safe to say that the Rockets wouldn’t have gotten near those rings.
The Denver Broncos and Elway are synonymous with each other. However, like Eli Manning, another team selected him in the draft. After the Baltimore Colts picked him, Elway refused to play for them. Furthermore, his father had informed the Colts months before that his son would never put on a Colts jersey. This didn’t please Baltimore, but Elway had an ace up his sleeve in negotiations.
A two-sport athlete, he informed them that he would quit football and play baseball if they didn’t back then. Elway demanded a trade to the Broncos, leaving the Colts with no choice. If they refused to accept this, they would have wasted their pick so they had to do something. The New York Yankees selected him in the first round of the MLB draft and were incredibly excited by the prospect of him playing for them.
One of the NBA’s great mercenaries, it looked like Leonard found his home in San Antonio. However, he stunned the basketball world when he demanded a trade and ended up in Toronto. That move turned out very well because he ended up helping the franchise win their first-ever NBA championship. However, he rocked Toronto with his lack of sentiment and left them as a free agent immediately after the shocking win.
He moved to the L.A. Clippers where he became one of their two main men alongside Paul George. Leonard is a very talented player and may prove to be the difference between the Clippers being contenders and perennial outsiders. However, his presence can complicate matters in the locker-room. Several teammates complained because the Clippers gave him and George special treatment.
Moss was one of the best wide receivers in the NFL during his exciting but controversial career. He was excellent for the Minnesota Vikings but also prone to erratic personal decisions like pretending to moon the Green Bay Packers. This resulted in him moving to the Oakland Raiders. However, that stay didn’t end well either after he slated the franchise’s losing culture. Not a good move at all.
The Raiders and Moss were at odds with each other and in the end, he demanded a trade. Oakland was more than happy to oblige because he was a lot of trouble for them. However, Moss enjoyed an unbeaten regular season when he moved to the New England Patriots the following season. Furthermore, he set a new NFL record for most touchdown catches with a sensational 23 that year.
Messi is one of the two greatest soccer players of his generation and a Barca icon. Imagine the shock then, when he handed in a transfer request and demanded that the club sell him. The entire soccer world reeled at this turn of events because Barca and Messi are synonymous with each other. However, the club suffered a serious financial and business decline over the past number of years and Messi’s frustration overflowed.
But there was one major problem. As the most valuable player on the planet, only one club could potentially afford him. Messi also believed that he had a release clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for nothing. However, a Spanish court of arbitration ruled that the clause had already expired. Finally, the club and player stayed together in a loveless marriage waiting for the best opportunity to divorce.
The trade never happened, but that’s not to say Bryant never demanded one. In 2007, Bryant admitted to Stephen A. Smith that he wanted to leave L.A because of what went on behind the scenes. An unidentified source revealed that Bryant was the reason behind Shaquille O’Neal’s departure. As stunning as this news was, it generated talk of one of the most insane potential trades in NBA history.
It almost led to the Lakers swapping Bryant for LeBron James. Obviously, it never happened, but the very concept of this potential trade was breathtaking. Bryant ended his career as a one-franchise player with the Lakers while ‘King James’ finally found his way to L.A. in 2018. But the thought of Bryant wearing a Cavs’ jersey is one of the strangest thoughts imaginable.
Manning became a New York Giants legend after winning two Super Bowls with the franchise. The Giants’ starting quarterback for the overwhelming majority of his 16 seasons in the NFL, he is one of their most iconic players. But if the San Diego Chargers had their way, he would have played for them instead of spending his career in the Big Apple. Indeed, the Chargers drafted Manning with the first overall pick in 2004.
However, this didn’t excite Manning and his father at all. They flat-out rejected the Chargers and told them that he wouldn’t ever play for them. In the end, the Chargers made a deal with the Giants where they traded Manning for various players and picks. But he didn’t have the same kind of bargaining power as the likes of John Elway, who found himself in a similar situation.
Favre retired multiple times in his career, but there came a time when the Green Bay Packers didn’t want him anymore. After drafting a certain Aaron Rodgers in 2005, they were happy with the future of their quarterback situationt. However, Favre still thought of himself as the big cheese in Wisconsin and their decision didn’t impress him. While it was entirely his fault for retiring in the first place, the Packers’ choice drove a wedge through their relationship.
The gunslinger demanded that the franchise open up trade discussions with other teams. Green Bay had no reason to stop him from continuing his career and agreed to trade him to the New York Jets. Favre’s reaction to this decision was a bitter one, but the Packers had no ill intentions. It was simply a case of preparing for the future and maybe, just maybe, Favre shouldn’t have kept retiring each offseason.
Currently playing for the Miami Heat, Butler is a five-time All-Star. He spent two seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves before his relationship with the team devolved beyond all repair. Butler resented the nonchalant attitude of younger players on the team. He made his feelings clear and demanded the franchise trade him at the end of the year.
The team refused, but Butler didn’t give up in his efforts. After one practice game, Butler shouted abuse at GM Scott Layden and stormed off. Finally, the team relented and he departed for the Philadelphia 76ers. Few of the endings on this list were as toxic as this one. Both parties were happy to see the back of each other because this was incredibly bad for overall team morale.
After four successful years with the Indianapolis Colts, Faulk justifiably wanted a new, more lucrative contract. However, the Colts flat-out rejected the terms he wanted. As a result, he demanded a trade, and they duly obliged. Faulk moved to the St. Louis Rams with the Colts laughing behind his back because they thought they received the better side of the trade.
However, Faulk proved them wrong in the most emphatic manner possible. The only word to describe his play was sublime. St. Louis won the Super Bowl as ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ with Faulk inspiring their roster to brilliance. Furthermore, he won three successive NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards while a member of their team. Not bad at all from the Hall of Famer.
It’s easy to forget but Abdul-Jabbar came to the attention of NBA fans on the Milwaukee Bucks. That’s where he won his first NBA Championship and made six straight All-Star appearances. However, he felt that the Bucks had a small target market and that he took them as far as he could. To be fair, no one could blame him for this because he had outgrown Milwaukee and wanted bigger things.
He demanded a trade to the L.A. Lakers and in 1975 the Bucks allowed him to leave. As a bigger, more glamorous city and a more famous team, he was able to build his brand and also win more titles. Abdul-Jabbar helped the Lakers to five NBA Championships and became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. The Bucks were sad to see him leave but couldn’t expect to keep him much longer.
Van Dijk established himself as one of the Premier League’s best central defenders. In fact, Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp even identified him as the ideal man to transform his team. However, Southampton reacted furiously when Liverpool approached him without their permission and they swiftly withdrew. But this incited Van Dijk to join Klopp’s exciting project on Merseyside.
The Reds came back for him the following January and Van Djik downed tools. He was desperate to leave and demanded that Southampton accept his transfer. Finally, they relented and he became the world’s most expensive defender. Liverpool didn’t care though because Van Dijk revolutionized their team. With him in their ranks, they won the Premier League and Champion’s League titles.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Bettis was one of the best power running backs in NFL history. When a player is so good at one thing, it seems bizarre that anybody would want to change them. Rich Brooks took charge of the St. Louis Rams and decided to tear up everything they ever knew. Brooks fancied a more pass-orientated approach to his offense and told Brooks that he wanted him to play as a fullback.
Needless to say, this offer didn’t impress Bettis much. He demanded a trade and became a juggernaut for the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rams’ loss was definitely the Steelers’ gain because they won Super Bowl XL with him in 2005. Furthermore, Brooks only survived for two seasons in St. Louis and was never a head coach in the NFL again.
A perennial All-Star with the Orlando Magic, Howard developed a reputation as one of the best players in the NBA. He also won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award three times while in Florida. However, he felt restricted with the Magic because he didn’t see them as capable of mounting a realistic title challenge. Therefore, he demanded a trade to a bigger franchise before the 2011/12 season.
After keeping him for one final season, Orlando finally relented and started to deal. The Magic didn’t want to lose him but they didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter. In the end, they traded him to the Lakers in a mega-deal involving two other franchises. This move turned out to be an unmitigated disaster for Howard and he only lasted a season in his first spell in Los Angeles.
Montana was the best quarterback in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers but suffered a devastating elbow injury in 1991. As a result, the Hall-of-Famer missed the entire season and most of 1992. Meanwhile Steve Young emerged as one of the best young talents in the league and the 49ers made an important decision. After Montana returned from the injury list, they continued with Young as the starting quarterback.
But this decision didn’t impress Montana. The four-time Super Bowl winner refused to be a backup and demanded a trade. Then, he moved to the Kansas City Chiefs where he started for the next three seasons. The Niners accepted that Montana deserved to leave and continue to play at a high level because he gave so much to the franchise. It worked out well for both parties.
Few players have transcended one sport like Ronaldo as one of the greatest soccer players ever. Furthermore, he’s one of the most marketable athletes on the planet with seemingly infinite endorsements. The Portuguese superstar built his reputation with Manchester United before setting his sights on a move to Real Madrid. Ronaldo demanded the move after a stunning B’Allon D’Or winning season.
Madrid had too much financial muscle for United who accepted the fact they couldn’t keep their best player. Los Blancos signed Ronaldo for a then- worldrecord fee of $106 million. At the time, Madrid and their Spanish rivals Barcelona were able to bully any team in world soccer into giving them their best players. Meanwhile, Ronaldo developed into an even more devastating force in La Liga.
Davis spent seven seasons in New Orleans. In the meantime, he made a name for himself as one of the most exciting young talents in the NBA. But certain players outgrow the franchises who drafted them. Like Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Davis was too big for the Pelicans to keep him for his entire career. He finally made his move.
‘The Brow’ demanded a trade at the end of the 2018/19 season and forced his trade to the Lakers. New Orleans obtained Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram amongst other players and a draft pick for Davis but were happy enough with the deal because it may be good for them in the long-term. Meanwhile, Davis won an NBA Championship in his very first season alongside LeBron James.
Cutler was the Denver Broncos’ starting quarterback before Josh McDaniels arrived to the franchise and wrecked everything. The former Patriots’ offensive coordinator brought his own ideas to Colorado, but Cutler didn’t respond well at all. McDaniels wanted Cutler to adapt to his playbook but this didn’t please the Broncos’ starting signal-caller. Their differences were insurmountable and Cutler demanded a trade.
Eventually, the Broncos accepted the reality and traded him to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Kyle Orton and several draft picks. McDaniels infuriated Cutler because he went behind his back. The current New England offensive coach promised Cutler the franchise didn’t want to trade him. Meanwhile, the front office actively attempted to move him on. That’s why Cutler turned it down and forced an exit on his terms.
Things didn’t work out well for Bell for the New York Jets because the franchise is an utter mess. But he didn’t cover himself in glory during his short spell with the team. Bell demanded a trade and the Jets were happy to try and get rid of him because neither side was happy. He didn’t connect with Adam Gase because of the coach’s bizarre offensive tactics. However, Bell’s expensive contract was an issue until the Jets cut him outright.
Then the Kansas City Chiefs swooped in and Bell couldn’t believe his luck. After spending time in purgatory with arguably the worst team in the NFL, he moved to the reigning Super Bowl champions. Instead of playing alongside Sam Darnold, he now had the amazing Patrick Mahomes as his signal-caller. Unlike other cases on this list, Bell’s situation is one that fans can sympathize with because the 2020 Jets are a diabolical mess.
Brazilian superstar Neymar is one of the most marketable athletes on the planet but still shocked the world in 2017. After starring for Barcelona where the club saw him as Lionel Messi’s heir apparent, he demanded a transfer to Paris Saint-German. Neymar saw the value in leaving Messi’s shadow behind and becoming the main man in one of the richest teams in the world. Then, PSG bought him for a world-record $263 million transfer fee.
However, it’s been a mixed situation for Neymar in Paris. This is because PSG are like a shark in a tank of goldfish. He will never win the B’Allon d’Or in Ligue 1 because the overall quality isn’t high enough. Also, PSG struggles to beat the best teams in European competitions. Indeed, Neymar even demanded a return to Barcelona, but the club couldn’t afford to take him back.
Harden is the Houston Rockets’ biggest star by far. The franchise built their team around him and even changed the style of play based on his attributes. He’s demanded a trade to the Brooklyn Nets in the 2020 offseason, sending the basketball world into shock. Harden claimed that he wanted to leave because of the culture at the franchise, comparing them to the toxicity of the New York Knicks.
Meanwhile, Harden refused to attend Houston’s practice sessions and instead worked out at the University of Houston. He also went to various parties without adhering to NBA health regulations. This was one of the biggest examples of an athlete pushing player power in the modern era. Harden wants to play for a contender before the end of his career, a damning statement to the Rockets’ front office.