After weeks of speculation, no transfer of Kevin Durant has appeared on the NBA planet and the main interested party has finally decided to leave with the Nets. A situation that is reminiscent of other big issues of the past, like Kobe Bryant in 2007 and a few others.
Magic Johnson in 1981
The reason for the request: NBA champion and MVP of the Finals from his rookie season, Magic Johnson made a thunderous entry into the NBA in the jersey of the legendary Lakers. But the sequel will be less rosy. His sophomore campaign was badly hampered by injuries, and Magic also saw its reputation take a hit at the start of the 1981-82 season. Frustrated by the style of play imposed by his coach Paul Westhead, which does not correspond to the showtime image that Johnson has of basketball, the Lakers point guard requests a transfer just a few months after signing an enormous contract of… 25 million dollars over 25 years (with a position in the management of the Lakers after his career as a bonus).
The following : November 20, 1981, one day after the request of the young star of Los Angeles, the coach of the Lakers is fired by the owner Jerry Buss, who has just as favorite Magic Johnson. No need to be a genius to understand that the tensions between Westhead and Magic caused the loss of the coach, even if Buss assures that Johnson’s trade request did not impact his decision to release Paulo, and that the latter is primarily linked to his team’s disappointing start to the season. In any case, it opened the door for Pat Riley, who gave back the keys to Magic in his new suit as coach of the California team. The Showtime version of the Lakers would win four more titles during the 1980s.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1981
The reason for the request: still in 1981, another Lakers superstar has desires elsewhere. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who arrived in Los Angeles from Milwaukee six years earlier, actually wants to be transferred to the other side of the States, to the New York Knicks or the New Jersey Nets. Obviously, the huge contract offered by Jerry Buss to Magic goes quite badly in the eyes of KAJ, frustrated in addition by the desire of the owner of the Lakers to recruit the pivot Moses Malone. Add to that the disappointing results of the 1980-81 campaign (elimination in the first round of the Playoffs) and a not so good atmosphere in the locker room, and you get an Abdul-Jabbar who is tired of California.
The following : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry Buss had a good discussion after the former’s trade request, and the marriage between the star and the California franchise was thus saved. Not only did Kareem continue his career at the Lakers, but he would never leave Los Angeles again until his retirement in 1989. Alongside Magic Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar filled out his CV with four NBA titles. extras and a Finals MVP trophy.
Hakeem Olajuwon in 1992
The reason for the request: during the 1991-92 season, Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets’ leaders were virtually at war. The causes of this conflict? They are multiple but at the heart of the tensions between the player and his franchise, a dark story of hamstring injury. During the season, the pivot refuses to play despite the authorization of a team doctor, probably because he does not yet feel up to returning. Except that in the eyes of the Rockets, Hakeem plays comedy and uses his injury to send a message concerning his contractual situation, Olajuwon being then well underpaid compared to his big production. The player was suspended for several games by the Rockets before responding by filing a grievance with the players’ union. This episode added to Hakeem’s frustration with the overall level of the team around him, and therefore his contract at the time.
« I’m coming back this season for the players and the fans, not for the managers. Next season I don’t want to play for the Rockets anymore after everything that’s happened. »
– Hakeem Olajuwon
The following : Hakeem Olajuwon ended the 1991-92 campaign well, at the end of which the Rockets missed the Playoffs. Following a discussion with owner Charlie Thomas (whom Olajuwon had publicly called a « coward ») and the arrival of new coach Rudy Tomjanovich in place of Don Chaney, the franchise was nevertheless able to start again on better foundations which will then allow Rockets to really take off. Extended by the Rockets in 1993, Olajuwon will take advantage of Michael Jordan’s first retirement to bring two consecutive NBA titles to Houston, along with a regular season MVP title, two Finals MVPs and a Defensive Player of the Year trophy. .
Scottie Pippen in 1997
The reason for the request: signing an 18 million dollar contract in 1991 which then tied him to the Bulls until 1998, Scottie Pippen secured the greenbacks but as the years progressed he found himself vastly underpaid compared to other players NBA having benefited from the overall salary increase within the League. Frustrated by this situation and by the fact that the leaders of the Bulls are closed to any renegotiation, Pip decides to use drastic measures: he voluntarily postpones an ankle operation which could have been done during the summer of 1997 in order to miss the start of the following season. Then, in the midst of transfer rumors sending him elsewhere (as a reminder, he was then in his last year of contract), he publicly declared during an interview: « I’m not going to play here anymore ». Having spent his entire career in Chicago with five NBA titles at the end, Scottie Pippen seems closer than ever to the exit.
The following : during the last dance of the Bulls dynasty, despite great tensions between Pippen and general manager Jerry Krause, no transfer came to light, and Scottie finally joined the group in early 1998 to play the second part season alongside Michael Jordan and Co. Just enough time to win a sixth NBA championship title, before finally turning the page in Chicago in January 1999 via a sign & trade sending him to the Houston Rockets.
Paul Pierce in 2007
The reason for the request: in 2007, Paul Pierce’s Boston Celtics hit rock bottom. Second consecutive year without Playoffs, only 24 games won in total, 18 defeats in a row at one point, in short the Greens are going nowhere and « The Truth » sees no other alternative than a transfer to replay in a team competitive. Without going to the stage of public demand, Pierce nevertheless let Danny Ainge and the high-ranking franchise executives know that he wanted to wear another jersey. “I was clear, I said we were weak. I was in my prime, we were losing, we weren’t even going to the Playoffs. I was like, ‘trade me, draft Kevin Durant, and rebuild.’ »
The following : Paul Pierce remained at the Celtics, and especially Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived in the summer of 2007. Danny Ainge actually made two big moves during the offseason to allow Boston to regain the heights. Result: 66 victories during the 2007-08 regular season with a championship title won against the Lakers behind (Paul Pierce will finish MVP of the series), then a new participation in the NBA Finals against Los Angeles two years later (this time – lost 4-3).
Kobe Bryant in 2007
The reason for the request: three years after the departure of Shaquille O’Neal to Miami, Kobe Bryant’s Lakers have still not won any playoff series, enough to infuriate the Black Mamba who is tired of playing with Smush Parker and Kwame Brown. Frustration runs high, and the vase overflows when a Lakers insider accuses Bryant of being the main culprit behind Shaq’s transfer in 2004.
The following : despite several touches with other franchises, Jerry Buss and the Lakers did not give in to the request of Kobe Bryant, still at the Lakers at the start of the 2007-08 season. And a few months later, the transfer bringing Pau Gasol to Los Angeles will make all the difference since Phil Jackson’s team will immediately return to the top. Three NBA Finals between 2008 and 2010, two rings won, with two Finals MVP titles for Kobe and a regular season MVP trophy. Kobe would play a total of 20 seasons at the Lakers, never wearing another jersey.
The complete file is here
Long before Kevin Durant, several superstars asked for their transfer without obtaining it. And in each of the cases cited above, there has always been at least one NBA title behind it. Will KD and the Nets have an equally happy trajectory after the chaos of the 2022 offseason? Not sure…