Durant trade request: What other NBA superstars forced a trade?
Requesting trades in the NBA is not new, but it is becoming a problem. Kevin Durant is one of nine stars who have requested a trade in the last five years.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver let his feelings be known about Kevin Durant’s trade request. At Saturday’s NBA Summer League press conference, Silver said, “this needs to be a two-way street. Teams provide enormous security and guarantees to players and the expectation is, in return, they will meet their end of the bargain.” He went on to say that he’s aware that players will be unhappy and that these kinds of conversations will happen. “But we don’t like to see players requesting trades, and we don’t like to see it playing out the way it is.”
When Durant requested the trade, it had been exactly three years since he signed with the Nets in 2019. In 2021, he agreed to a four-year contract extension that would keep him in Brooklyn until the 2025-26 season. So far, no deals have been made, though it’s been reported that Durant was interested in the Phoenix Suns and Miami Heat.
What other NBA players have forced a trade?
NBA stars requesting a trade is not a new concept. In 1975, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar forced his way out of Milwaukee and into Los Angeles. In the last five years, however, it’s gotten out of control. Since 2017, nine NBA stars have requested a trade, including James Harden and Paul George, who did it twice. As we list the players who have requested trades to their benefit, you’ll notice that as we get to more recent years, the demands that come along with the requests are happening earlier in the players’ contracts, leaving the team, for lack of a better word here, screwed.
The legendary Wilt Chamberlain was one of the best players of his time, known for dropping a record 100 points in one game. Though he did win a title with the Philadelphia 76ers, he still demanded a trade in 1968. He made it known that he wanted to play for the LA Lakers, and that is where he went, creating the first NBA superteam with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. They still only won one championship, with the Boston Celtics dominating the league.
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, like Chamberlain, had already won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks when he requested a trade in 1975, mainly just because he didn’t like the city. He threatened to sit out for a season if his demands weren’t met, and he got his way. Also like Chamberlain, he joined the LA Lakers team. Unlike Chamberlain, he went on to win five more titles in LA, playing alongside Magic Johnson.
Vince Carter played for the Toronto Raptors from 1998-2004, putting them on the map and making them real contenders. At the end of the 2003-04 season, however, the franchise was in turmoil. The Raptors missed out on the playoffs by three games and the whole coaching staff and general manager Glen Grunwald were fired. Carter was becoming tired of the Raptors and where they were headed, and unsurprisingly, he requested a trade. He was dealt to the New Jersey Nets. In return, the Raptors got a load of garbage - no Alonzo Mourning, but two Williams, Eric and Aaron, who made no significant impact on the team.
Carmelo Anthony spent eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets before requesting a trade in 2011, when he was dealt to the New York Knicks. It was a huge blockbuster trade that saw his teammates Chauncey Billups, Shelden Williams, Anthony Carter, and Renaldo Balkman go with him to the Knicks. In exchange, the Knicks got Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and a 2014 first-round pick, two future second-round picks, and extra cash. In 2021, however, Anthony said he never actually wanted that trade to happen, but that he felt he had no choice. In 2009, the Knicks traded Dahntay Jones, which may have been what prompted Anthony to make the request.
“I never told people that. But I never wanted to leave Denver. But it’s like they put my back against the wall. We go to the Western Conference Finals in 09. What are you supposed to do? You’re supposed to build on that. You’re supposed to add pieces, plug and play, don’t mess the core up.”
Chris Paul, who currently plays for the Phoenix Suns, was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets in 2005. He signed a four-year contract extension in 2008, but then the team lost its owner. That led Paul to request a trade, which originally happened between New Orleans and the LA Lakers. The NBA Commissioner (David Stern, at the time) intervened, saying the deal was way too lob-sided. Eventually, Paul was dealt to the LA Clippers. It would later come out that Paul and Kobe Bryant knew about the trade long beforehand.
Paul George asked to leave the Indiana Pacers in 2017 with one year left on his contract. That gave the Pacers a chance to at least figure out a solution, while also giving himself leverage. He was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, playing alongside reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. At the end of the 2018-19 season, George was still under contract with the Thunder for two years. Just after it was announced that Kawhi Leonard would play with the Clippers, however, George was also traded to the Clippers to play with him. At least, again, this gave the Thunder some leverage, as they were essentially trading for both stars. The Thunder ended up with a record-setting amount of draft picks in return, as well as Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Irving had two entire seasons left in his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers when he asked to be traded. In 2017, that was not a common move to make. Oh, how times have changed so quickly. At the time, Irving was playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, and had a good chance of winning a championship with them, playing alongside LeBron James. But he wanted to be the superstar. He requested a trade so that he could be the centrepiece somewhere else rather than playing second fiddle to LeBron. He was traded to the Boston Celtics. He spent just two seasons there before the Brooklyn Nets picked him up in free agency.
Kawhi Leonard spent several years with the San Antonio Spurs, taking them to the championship in 2014 and becoming the Finals MVP. But in 2018, he was unhappy with how management was dealing with injuries and demanded a trade. He wanted to go to Los Angeles, whether that meant the Lakers or Clippers. But instead, he was sent to the Toronto Raptors in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a protected draft pick. In the end, it worked out for Leonard, as he led them to a championship as well, in 2019. He ended up where he wanted finally, being picked up in free agency by the LA Clippers the next season.
Anthony Davis had become the face of the New Orleans franchise for a while, but competing with the Golden State Warriors for the championship just wasn’t working out. And Davis wanted a championship. He requested to be traded in 2019 and got his wish, playing with the LA Lakers and winning the championship in 2020 alongside LeBron James. It worked out for him and the Lakers then, but now...the Lakers, after a losing season which saw them not even making it to the play-in tournament, lost their 2022 draft pick and will still be feeling the consequences of that trade, having given up first round picks in 2023 and 2024 as well (option to defer the 2024 pick to 2025).
At the start of the 2020-21 season, James Harden requested a trade from the Rockets with two seasons left on his deal. He had the Brooklyn Nets in mind, where he would play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and he got his way. As we now know, that didn’t work out too well for the Nets, but Houston turned out all right. In February 2022, the Nets agreed to trade disillusioned James Harden and Paul Millsap to the Philadelphia 76ers in return for disillusioned Ben Simmons, Seth Curry, Andre Drummond, and two first-round draft picks.
Ben Simmons requested a trade from the Philadelphia 76ers with FOUR seasons still left on his contract. He had signed a rookie supermax contract, which was meant specifically to keep young superstars on their teams. That backfired, as Simmons and other superstars continue to have the upper hand in defining their own paths in the NBA, contracts be damned. As we know, he went on to the Nets while Harden went on to the Sixers.
That brings us to our current situation. That superteam of KD, Harden, and Irving didn’t last too long. Durant was entering the first season of a four-year, $194.2 million contract extension with the Brooklyn Nets when he requested a trade just as the free agency period was starting. He sent a shock through the whole of the NBA. Though technically, the Nets don’t have to trade him. Despite the leverage, he is under contract and they are not obligated to grant his wishes, though if they don’t, they could pay for it. The Nets took on Kyrie Irving and Steve Nash because of KD. But that doesn’t mean he is not going to play the power move, clearly. There’s technically nothing stopping Durant (or any other player for that matter) from pulling this same kind of stunt later, to his own benefit.
They can, and they will.