(special thanks to bluexfalcon for the picture)
While doing research on my previous FanPost, The Greatest Transactions In Laker History, I came across an article written back in 2001 by Sports Illustrated. It discussed the worst trades made by the Lakers front office, based on the view of the fans. The trade may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, but most of these trades were very unpopular among the Lakers' fan base. Some that were included on the list were the Lakers trading Adrian Dantley, Eddie Jones, Norm Nixon & Vlade Divac (That last one turned out pretty well for us, wouldn't you say). Check out the original article here: Say It Aint So: Transactions That Broke Our Heart.
One trade in particular caught my interest as it went into detail about how it could have prevented the Boston Celtics from acquiring Larry Bird. That's right, the Lakers could have prevented Larry Bird from joining Kevin McHale and Robert Parish to become the arch-nemesis of the Lakers.
On December 27, 1977 the Lakers traded Kermit Washington, Don Chaney & a 1978 first-round pick to Boston for Charlie Scott. The players involved in the trade are unimportant. Washington and Scott didn't play for more than half a season with the team they were traded to, and Chaney was just heading back to Boston to finish his career where it began. What ended up being huge in that trade was the first-round pick.
The pick that the Lakers had sent to Boston was acquired from Kansas City the previous summer in a trade for Lucius Allen. Lets just say that Kansas City absolutely sucked in the 1978 season, and the pick ended up being the No. 8 overall pick. The Celtics, who already had the No.6 overall pick, were now equipped with 2 top 10 picks in the draft.
Coming into the the 1978 draft, Larry Bird was a talent that everyone wanted, but teams were almost positive he would return to Indiana State for his senior year. At this time in the NBA a "junior eligible" rule existed that allowed a collegiate player to be drafted when he was a junior. The team would then have up to one year to sign him, even if they decided to go back to college. If they did not sign him before the year deadline, he would be eligible to be drafted again. Shortly after this, the rules were changed to prevent players from being drafted that weren't going to be playing in the NBA, its called the Bird Collegiate Rule.
The Celtics werent a good team at the time (just like the late 80's, 90's and early 00's), but with 2 top ten picks, they were willing to gamble on Larry Bird with the 6th pick. Even though Larry was returning to Indiana State, as long as the Celtics signed him before the 1979 draft, they would obtain him. There was no guarantee, but Larry ended up signing with the C's on a $650,000 a year contract, which made him the highest paid rookie in the history of the NBA. Knowing that they had two picks, the C's gambled on Bird and brought in Freeman Williams with the 8th overall pick to help right away.
"If we hadn't had that draft choice from the Lakers, I Don't know whether we would have taken Bird," Boston GM Jan Volk would say years later. 'We wouldn't have been getting a player we could use immediately in the first round. We weren't in a position at the time to forfeit a No.1." Williams never played a game for Boston, but considering what else they got in that draft, I don't think they cared. They might have that first season, but Bird would fix everything as his impact was immediate. Bird took the Celtics from a 29- 53 team, to a 61- 21 team in 1 year.
At the time, the Celtics were in need of immediate help, which they thought Freeman was. And if they hadn't had that extra pick in the first round, they could have picked Freeman at No. 6, leaving Bird available for Portland at No. 7 or the Lakers at No. 8. So, lets assume that the Lakers draft Larry Bird with the No. 8 pick in 1978. And because the New Orleans Jazz signed Gail Goodrich three years earlier, the Lakers had the No. 1 pick in the 1979 draft, which ended up being Magic Johnson.
So, the Lakers would be going into the 1979 season with Bird and Magic, along side Kareem. They soon would add James Worthy and Byron Scott in 1983, and go onto win 10+ championships in a row. Including a bench that would consist of Bob McAdoo, Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper & AC Green (just to name a few). Could you imagine that!!! (That would be similar to the Lakers having Kobe, Shaq, Steve Nash & Karl Malone in the early 2000's - with no drama & a stacked bench) ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS.
The only question would have been what number would Bird have worn with 33 already taken by Kareem.
(another thanks to bluexfalcon for the picture)
BUT, instead of dominating the league for a whole decade with a starting lineup of Magic, Scott, Bird, Worthy and Kareem, we had to settle with winning 5 championships and being apart of the biggest rivalry in the NBA and reinvigorating the NBA with the dynamic Magic-Bird rivalry. (it sure is good to be a Laker fan)
The Cetlics also had to go through another trade that some consider one of the top 10 all-time worst trades in the NBA history. Heading into the 1980 draft, the Celtics had the No. 1 overall pick. In a pre-draft trade, the Celtics traded Joe Barry Carroll and the No. 1 overall pick to the Golden State Warriors for Robert Parish and the No. 3 overall pick. The Celtics would then draft Kevin McHale to form the 3rd piece of the big 3. Carroll was not a bad player, and would go on to play four seasons of 20+ points per game, but to deal Parish in a league desperate for centers is why many consider this a very-lopsided trade. Lets just say the Celtics got very lucky.
So, the Celtics could have been a much smaller part of NBA history if the Lakers would have held onto that No.8 pick and the Warriors would have held onto Parish and that No. 3 pick. But all is well, as we have been entertained by one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports, even though the Celtics disappeared for 20 years, and the Lakers will become the NBA team with the most titles after they win the championship in 2011 & 2012.
And for those of you who don't think the Lakers will win the championship the next two years, go ask LEWIS MONROE. ANY ONE WNAT SOME OF THIS MONEY, IN IF YOU WANT SOME COME ON IN GET SOME.