It's impossible to get everything right as an NBA general manager, of course, and yet it's incredibly possible to have your own career defined by one mistake.
These seven moments from throughout NBA history will eternally haunt one guilty party.
7. James Harden Leaves OKC
The Big 3! Together forever! Nothing can stop the Thunder!
Except choosing to keep Kendrick Perkins and deciding they could only extend so many young stars, jettisoning Harden to Houston for...Jeremy Lamb and Kevin Martin? And some picks no one remembers?
The entire NBA landscape was dictated by this core implosion, and the Thunder were left with nothing for their labor to supplement KD, Russ, and Ibaka.
6. Clippers Dump Kyrie Irving Pick to Cleveland
How...HOW...was this not protected?
In 2011, the Clippers needed to unload the contract of point guard Baron Davis in an attempt to shed salary and make the team younger. To do this, they traded an unprotected first-round pick to Cleveland with Baron Davis in exchange for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Williams and Moon were both decent NBA players, but that first round pick ended up being first overall, where the Cavs took Kyrie Irving. I hope shedding Baron Davis' salary was worth it, LA.
5. Chicago Trades LaMarcus Aldridge for Complete Khryapa
In 2006, the Chicago Bulls had the No. 2 selection in the NBA draft, and with Toronto taking Italian forward Andrea Bargnani first overall, the second selection was an obvious one: Texas forward LaMarcus Aldridge. However, Chicago was in love with a different player in Tyrus Thomas, so the Portland Trail Blazers gave them the fourth pick in the draft plus Russian forward Viktor Khyrapa for a shot at moving down.
Khyrapa ended up playing 42 games for the Bulls, and Thomas played four below-average seasons in Chicago, averaging 7.7 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in his stay in the Windy city. Aldridge became a six-time All-Star and one of the best forwards in the NBA, certainly turning this into a trade to forget for Chicago.
4. Bill Russell to the Celtics
Yes, somebody really did have Bill Russell on their roster before the C's nabbed him.
The St. Louis Hawks shipped Russell to Boston--when else, on Draft Day--for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan, two men who went on to make 12 All-Star teams combined. Good!
Russell made 12 on his own and won 11 NBA championships. Bad!
3. Charles Barkley Traded to the Phoenix Suns
In 1992, the 76ers were finally past the point of no return with Barkley and decided it was time to move on from the All-Star forward. The team they thought put together the best package was the Phoenix Suns, who offered recent All-Star Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Kang all for Barkley. The 76ers accepted the deal and that...was a mistake. The following season, Barkley went on to win NBA MVP while leading the Suns to the NBA Finals. Hornacek was solid in Philly, but only played two seasons there, while Kang and Perry were just bench players. Easy to say, this was one to forget in Philadelphia.
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to the Lakers
Kareem was already an excellent player in Milwaukee in 1975 when he requested a trade. Milwaukee obliged and sent Kareem on his way to LA for Junior Bridgeman, Dave Meyers, and Elmore Smith, three players you have likely never heard of. Kareem went on to become one of the best basketball players of all-time, winning five NBA championships and six MVP awards. There aren't very many cases in sports history of this level of ineptitude. But the number one trade on this list is there because it actually was the sole reason behind the fall of a franchise (and the rise of a rival).
1. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn
Sorry, we're suckers for the deals that are still playing out.
This trade has gone down in history as one of the worst trades in all of sports. In 2013, the Nets were on the cusp of being a title contender (or so they thought; LeBron's Heat still very much existed), so they made a bold move, trading Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Gerald Wallace, a 2014 first-round pick, a 2016 first-round pick, a swap for the 2017 first-round pick, and a 2018 first-round pick for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, D.J. White, and Jason Terry. This trade destroyed the Brooklyn franchise, as they have been unable to rebuild without any of their draft picks, instead gifting gems to the Boston Celtics year after year.
Those picks they traded turned into James Young, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum (after the team traded down from first overall), and the 2018 selection went to the Cavs because Boston used it to add all-star point guard Kyrie Irving via trade. Meanwhile, Brooklyn has been unable to use their lottery draft picks and have been an NBA laughingstock for the last four years, their ex-GM now sitting on the podium analyzing draft picks for network television. Nice mess you've made.