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10 Near-Trades That Would've Changed NBA History

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These NBA trades never happened, but they came close. In an alternate dimension, there's a Bulls team with Kobe, T-Mac plays with Iverson in both their primes, and Hakeem takes his talents to South Beach.

1. Michael Jordan to the Clippers for Five of Whatever the Clippers Had

According to Sam Smith's The Jordan Rules, Clippers owner Donald Sterling called Jerry Reinsdorf, his counterpart in Chicago, during the 1987-'88 season to offer any five Clippers players or draft picks for Michael Jordan. The Bulls were about to be knocked out of the playoffs yet again but, according to Smith, Reinsdorf didn't consider the deal too seriously. Still, the Clippers could offer two first round draft picks, and Bulls General Manager Jerry Krause apparently had his eye on some prospects and the team took time to consider the options anyway.

Obviously, Reinsdorf ended up telling Sterling, "Thanks, but no thanks." The Bulls went on to become The Bulls, while the Clippers remained the Clippers.

2. Charles Barkley to the Lakers for James Worthy and Elden Campbell

During the '91-'92 season, Charles Barkley was (unsurprisingly) outspoken about his displeasure with Philadelphia 76ers management and their failure to put pieces around him. "Wherever I play, I'll play well," he said, "I'd rather stay in Philadelphia, but that is not my decision." Rumors swirled of a swap that would send Barkley to the Lakers for James Worthy and Elden Campbell.

That trade never happened, and instead, Barkley was sent to the Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry, and Andrew Lang after the 76ers failed to make the playoffs.

Barkley immediately found success on the Suns. They made the finals and he was named the league's MVP in his first year with the team. (The move improved his commercial game, as well.) Meanwhile, the Lakers were sent into rebuilding mode and had to wait for Kobe Bryant. Speaking of which...

3. Kobe Bryant to the Bulls for Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, and Joakim Noah

In 2007, Kobe Bryant had come off his most frustrating season ever (it would eventually be topped). Sick of playing with Kwame Brown and Smush Parker, Kobe made his feelings known. Enter the Chicago Bulls, who put together an enticing package for the middling club.

People forget how close this move was to becoming reality. It eventually came down to Kobe's refusal to go to Chicago if they traded Deng—he saw the young forward as an ideal teammate and didn't want to risk playing for a squad that had given away all their talent. It would have been a Gift of the Magi situation—only with 100% more Smush Parker.

Instead, the Lakers managed to trade for Pau Gasol, and Kobe and Pau went on to play in three consecutive finals, winning two.

4. Larry Bird to the Pacers for Chuck Person and a Draft Pick

According to reports, in 1988, the Pacers tried to bring Larry Bird home by offering the Celtics Chuck Person and the 2nd pick in the upcoming draft. Even though Bird had missed most of the season with multiple injuries and surgeries, Boston rejected the offer. The Pacers kept the pick and used it to draft Rik Smits. Bird eventually did return to Indiana, as both a coach and GM.

5. Tracy McGrady to the 76ers for Larry Hughes

Here's an actual sentence that was written in a newspaper in 2000:

An NBA source confirmed last night that the Sixers placed another call yesterday to the Toronto Raptors to see if they were willing to part with swingman Tracy McGrady and a No. 1 pick for Hughes.

The Hughes in question would be Larry Hughes, pride of the St. Louis Billikens. At the time, Tracy McGrady wasn't yet the offensive savant he'd become, but the 76ers still showed a little too much chutzpah in trying to find a backcourt partner for Allen Iverson.

In the offseason, McGrady left the Raptors as a free agent and joined the Orlando Magic. The following year would see the 76ers make it to the finals on the back of Allen Iverson's Herculean MVP season. They managed to do it without Larry Hughes, who went to Golden State.

6. Hakeem Olajuwon to the Heat, Multiple Times

Flashback to 1992: Hakeem Olajuwon wasn't happy with Rockets management. His agent went to the press, saying, "If you have a disgruntled and unhappy superstar and there are irreconcilable differences, then a trade nearly always happens at some point." The Heat had already turned down a deal offered by the Rockets asking for Rony Seikaly, Glen Rice, and Steve Smith in return—the Heat refused to part ways with Rice and Smith. Houston came back, offering Hakeem and Sleepy Floyd for Seikaly, Grant Long and the rights to draft pick Harold Miner. That trade also fell apart.

Flash-forward to 1995: The Rockets win two NBA Championships in a row and Olajuwon seizes the crown of best center of his generation and best foreign-born player ever. What a difference a couple of years (and Michael Jordan's retirement) makes.

7. Dennis Rodman to the Suns for Richard Dumas

In 1993, the sun was setting on the Bad Boy Pistons, and Detroit was looking to make some moves. They had apparently locked up a deal that would send Dennis Rodman to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Richard Dumas and other players to be named later. The Pistons abruptly pulled the plug on the deal when they learned that Dumas was attending a program for substance abuse—an issue that forced Dumas to miss the '91 season.

Rodman was dealt to the Spurs and eventually headed to Chicago to be an integral (and colorful) part of the Bulls second three-peat. Dumas, meanwhile, returned to the NBA for two more seasons before playing overseas.

8. Scottie Pippen to Seattle for Shawn Kemp

According to Seattle Coach George Karl, the Bulls came to the Sonics in 1994 and offered to trade Scottie Pippen for Shawn Kemp. Seattle turned the deal down, Karl said, citing Kemp's bright future (he is four years younger than Scottie).

According to Bulls GM Jerry Krause, "We did not seek a trade for Scottie Pippen." Hmm. Perhaps he was just saying that so as not to upset his team's best player who had just led them to a 55-win season without the Birmingham Barons' Michael Jordan? Or maybe he was—no, wait, that's definitely what it was.

Pippen didn't go anywhere, Jordan came back, and the Bulls did their three-in-a-row thing one more time. Shawn Kemp stayed in Seattle and had some pretty sweet dunks.

9. Wilt Chamberlain to the Bulls for...Bobby Hull?

Wikimedia Commons

This cross-sport trade seems like the kind of thing two barflies would come up with after seven too many boilermakers, but apparently it was a real-life possibility. In the 1970s, both the NBA and NHL were faced with competition from two upstarts: the ABA and WHA. As the '71-'72 season was wrapping up, Bobby Hull made it clear he was displeased with his low Blackhawks salary and began speaking with the Winnipeg Jets of the WHA. According to Bob Verdi, the Blackhawks' notoriously cheap owner Arthur Wirtz wasn't perturbed by Hull's behavior. However, L.A. Kings and Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke was.

Cooke (a Canadian) feared the WHA would unseat the NHL if they were able to lure a superstar like Hull, so he allegedly offered to give the Lakers' Wilt Chamberlain (who had just come off a monster season) to the Chicago Bulls. Wirtz was securing a majority stake in the Bulls and he also owned Chicago Stadium, which the struggling basketball team was failing to fill. According to Verdi, "Cooke never denied the proposal and Wirtz never acknowledged it," but alas, it never materialized. Hull went to Winnipeg after the season and Wilt signed with the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors as a player-coach. Due to a contract dispute, Chamberlain wasn't allowed to play for the Conquistadors, and he retired before he ever suited up.

10. Chris Paul to the Lakers

Want to piss off a Lakers fan? Just mention this 2011 trade that was a done deal until, well, it wasn't. Three teams agreed to a trade that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, and Goran Dragic to New Orleans. The deal was in place and people were already wondering what the Chris Paul era was going to be like in L.A. when NBA commissioner David Stern interjected.

After listening to the protestations of uninvolved team owners, Stern cancelled the trade for "basketball reasons." We still got to see L.A.'s Paul era, just not for the team in purple and gold. The Clippers soon landed Paul for a group of players while the Lakers revamped their squad to include Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.

How'd that end up? If that pissed-off Lakers fan is still talking to you, ask them.

Thanks to Brett Savage for research help. All photos courtesy Getty Images, unless noted otherwise.

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9 Things You Might Not Know About 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
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Even by the standards of pro wrestling and its exaggerated personalities, there’s never been anyone quite like Randy “Macho Man” Savage (1952-2011). A staple of WWE and WCW programming in the 1980s and 1990s, Savage’s bulging neck veins, hoarse voice, and inventive gesticulations made him a star. Check out some facts in honor of what would’ve been Savage’s 65th birthday.

1. HE WAS ORIGINALLY A PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYER.

Born Randall Poffo in Columbus, Ohio, Savage’s father, Angelo Poffo, was a notable pro wrestler in the 1950s, sometimes wrestling under a mask with a dollar sign on it as “The Masked Miser.” If that was considered the family business, Savage initially strayed from it, pursuing his love of baseball into a spot on the St. Louis Cardinals farm team as a catcher directly out of high school. Savage played nearly 300 minor league games over four seasons. After failing to make the majors, he decided to follow his father into wrestling.

2. A HAWAIIAN WRESTLER INSPIRED HIS FAMOUS TAGLINE.

In 1967, a then-15-year-old Savage accompanied his father to a wrestling event in Hawaii. There, he saw island grappler King Curtis Iaukea deliver a “promo,” or appeal for viewers to watch him in a forthcoming match. Iaukea spoke in a whisper before bellowing, punctuating his sentences with, “Ohhh, yeah!” That peculiar speech pattern stuck with Savage, who adopted it when he began his career in the ring.

3. HIS MOM GAVE HIM THE “MACHO MAN” NICKNAME.


By John McKeon from Lawrence, KS, United States - Randy "Macho Man" Savage, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

According to Savage, his wrestling nickname didn’t come from the Village People song but from an article his mother, Judy, had read in Reader’s Digest announcing that “macho man” was going to be a hot term in the coming years. She mailed it to Savage along with a list of other possible names. Even though neither one seemed to know what a “macho man” was, Savage liked the sound of it. His stage name, Savage, came from Georgia promoter Ole Anderson, who thought Savage’s grappling style was ferocious.

4. HE SCARED OTHER WRESTLERS.

In the early 1980s, Savage’s father had started promoting his own regional shows in the Lexington, Kentucky area. To draw publicity, Savage and the other wrestlers would sometimes show up to rival shows threatening grapplers and offering up wagers that they could beat them up in a real fight. Once, a Memphis wrestler named Bill Dundee pulled a gun on Savage, who allegedly took it away from him and beat him with it. After his father’s promotion closed up, Savage landed in the WWF (now WWE), giving him a national platform.

5. JAKE THE SNAKE’S PYTHON PUT HIM IN THE HOSPITAL.

One of Savage’s recurring feuds in the WWE was with Jake “The Snake” Roberts, a lanky wrestler who carried a python into the ring with him and allowed the reptile to “attack” his opponents. To intensify their rivalry, Savage agreed to allow Roberts’s snake to bite him on the arm during a television taping after being assured it was devenomized. Five days later, Savage was in the hospital with a 104-degree fever. Savage lived, but the snake didn’t; it died just a few days later. “He was devenomized, but maybe I wasn’t,” Savage told IGN in 2004. 

6. HE PLANNED HIS MATCHES DOWN TO THE SECOND.

While outcomes may be planned backstage, the choreography of pro wrestling is left largely up to the participants, who either talk it over prior to going out or call their moves while in the ring. For a 1987 match with Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III, Savage wanted everything to be absolutely perfect.

“We both had those yellow legal tablets, and we started making notes,” Steamboat told Sports Illustrated in 2015. “Randy would have his set of notes and I would have mine. Then we got everything addressed—number 1, number 2, number 3—and we went up to number 157. Randy would say, ‘OK, here is up to spot 90, now you tell me the rest.’ I would have to go through the rest, then I would quiz him. I’d never planned out a match that way, so it was very stressful to remember everything.” The effort was worth it: Their match is considered by many fans to be among the greatest of all time.

7. HIS MARRIAGE TO MISS ELIZABETH CAUSED PROBLEMS IN THE LOCKER ROOM.

Savage’s “valet” in the WWE was Miss Elizabeth, a fixture of his corner during most of his career in the 1980s. Although they had an onscreen wedding in 1991, they had been married in real life back in 1984. According to several wrestlers, Savage was jealously guarded with his wife, whom he kept in their own locker room. Savage would also confront wrestlers he believed to have been hitting on her. The strain of working and traveling together was said to have contributed to their (real) divorce in 1991.

8. HE CUT A RAP ALBUM DISSING HULK HOGAN.

In 2003, with his best years in the ring behind him, Savage decided to pursue a new career in rap music. Be a Man featured 13 rap songs, including one that eulogized his late friend, “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig. But the performance that got the most mainstream attention was the title track, which dissed wrestling star Hulk Hogan. The two had apparently gotten into a rivalry after Hogan made some disparaging comments about Savage on a Tampa, Florida radio show. Whether the sentiment was real or staged, it didn’t do much to help sales: Be a Man moved just 3000 copies.

9. HE MIGHT GET A STATUE IN HIS HOMETOWN.

In 2016, fans circulated a petition to get Savage his own statue in Columbus, Ohio. The initiative was inspired by the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a monument in Columbus, and wrestling fans argue that Savage should get equal time. The mayor has yet to issue a response. In the meantime, a 20-inch-tall resin statue of Savage was released by McFarlane Toys in 2014.

See Also: 10 Larger-Than-Life Facts About Andre the Giant

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10 Secrets of Ski Instructors
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If you’ve spent this fall wearing shorts and sandals, you’re not alone: Temperatures have been warmer than average across the United States. But no matter how warm it is where you are, there’s still snow (and skiing) in the forecast somewhere. Before you hit the slopes this winter, check out these on-the-job secrets of ski instructors, from why they love bad weather to what they do during the summer.

1. THEY LOVE BAD WEATHER.

No one can control the weather, but ski instructors cross their fingers for frosty temperatures and heavy snowfall. “Ski instructors love cold, appalling winter weather because it so often results in big snowfalls and the skier's dream—velvety powder snow,” says Chalky White, a ski instructor and the author of The 7 Secrets of Skiing.

But big snowfalls don’t always happen, so ski instructors try to make the best of whatever weather they encounter on a given day. Tony Macri of Snow Trainers, a ski and snowboard training company based in Colorado and New Zealand, tells Mental Floss that the weather’s unpredictability makes ski instructing an adventure. “I never think that weather is disappointing,” he says. “It is what creates more challenge and mystery in every day, versus going back to your cubicle that always has the same florescent light shining down on you.”

2. SOME OF THEM HAVE A BEEF WITH SNOWBOARDERS.

Although some ski instructors also teach (and love) snowboarding, the majority of them try to stay away from snowboarders on the slopes, at least when they’re teaching. “[Snowboarders] tend to push all the fresh snow down the hill with their natural movements. Gets pretty frustrating!” justind99, a ski instructor in Quebec, writes in a Reddit AMA.

But other ski instructors have a more zen attitude when it comes to snowboarders and preach coexistence. “We are all here to have fun,” rbot1, a ski instructor in Salt Lake City, says in a Reddit AMA. “The snowboarder vs skier stigma does nothing but cause problems. Share the mountain!”

3. THEIR CERTIFICATION PROCESS IS INTENSE.

Ski instructor teaching adults

Depending on the country in which they become certified, ski instructors must take classes and pass a series of tests to prove their proficiency. In the U.S., the Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASI) establishes certification requirements for instructors. Once instructors become certified, they can take additional tests of their technical skills to earn higher levels of certification.

“Level 1 is pretty easy to get. Anyone that can ski a blue square comfortably can pass a level 1 exam,” rbot1 says. But achieving certification for higher levels is more challenging, requiring ski instructors to demonstrate their mastery of various turns, bump runs, and drills. “A single mistake in any of those runs nets you a fail,” says rbot1, who spent two years preparing for his Level 2 test. “These drills might be easy to complete, but you have to do it perfectly.”

4. THEY’VE SEEN SOME GNARLY ACCIDENTS.

Although some people think of skiing as a risky activity, ski instructors insist that, statistically, skiing is no more hazardous than many other sports. That said, most ski instructors have seen at least one nasty injury on the slopes, including broken legs and noses, concussions, and shoulder dislocations. “The worst injury I ever witnessed was a spinal fracture from a kid landing on his back after attempting to do a jump in the snow park area,” justind99 says.

“I have seen some injuries to knees, but the worst was when a friend concussed himself so bad that he was knocked out and was actually sleeping with his eyes open,” Macri says. White tells Mental Floss that a helicopter once picked him up from the slopes because medics suspected that he’d broken his neck. “Good news—I didn’t."

5. THEIR PAY ISN’T GREAT.

The income ski instructors make can vary widely, based on where they teach and their level of expertise. Some instructors earn $10 or $11 an hour for group lessons but charge more for private lessons or longer coaching sessions. While most beginning ski instructors may make just $20,000 per year, the perks of getting paid to ski outweigh the lack of cash for many instructors. “I do understand that at some point I’ll need to either start working really hard to boost my earning potential as an instructor or find another field,” rbot1 says. “For now, it’s a blast.”

6. THEY GET CREATIVE TO TEACH KIDS.

Ski instructor teaching children

A group of young kids bundled up in ski jackets while they try to balance on narrow skis might look adorable, but teaching children to ski comes with plenty of challenges. “Some kids don't have the muscles to do it at [a young] age and some do,” explains inkybus21, a ski and snowboard instructor who has taught in Canada, Australia, and Japan. To make sure his young students don’t lose interest or give up, he makes up games that require various skiing motions and uses visuals to help kids figure out how to properly use their bodies.

7. THEIR EQUIPMENT IS EXPENSIVE.

Ski equipment can be pricey, and ski instructors know the pain of an empty wallet firsthand. From skis and boots to bindings, poles, helmets, goggles, and other accessories, ski instructors can easily spend over $1000 on their equipment. And because their gear gets more use than a casual skier’s, instructors typically go through a pair of skis, boots, and liners each season. But many instructors are eligible for steep discounts on their gear, thanks to their employer or their PSIA-AASI membership. “I haven't bought anything at retail price in years,” rbot1 says. “I can’t even imagine paying full price for a pair of boots or ski/binder set up.”

8. THEY MISS SKIING DURING THE SUMMER.

In a career dependent on the winter season, what do ski instructors do during the summer? Some of them travel to the opposite hemisphere to work at a ski resort—essentially working two winters in a row. But because it can be costly to travel and live on another continent, most ski instructors work odd jobs or use their savings to rock climb and explore the outdoors in the off season. Rbot1, for example, has spent his summers working at a ski resort’s restaurant, boxing fish at an Alaskan processing plant, and living off of his savings. “Most people have a seasonal job. The most popular is raft guiding, the second most popular is working at a state park,” he says.

9. THEY GREATLY APPRECIATE TIPS.

Ski instructors don’t always receive tips from their students, and they wish more people knew that they welcome—and in some cases, expect—gratuity. Rbot1 recounts the story of how he once earned $1500, his biggest tip to date, after instructing a family of four for five days, taking them to different parts of the mountain and even eating lunch with them. “At the end of the week it was all hugs and smiles, but my hand was left dry,” he says. “Anyways, next day I got an email that said ‘you have a tip in the office’ and BOOM $1500 in an envelope.” Rbot1 made good use of the generous tip, paying two months of rent and car payments, as well as buying new ski goggles and gloves.

10. THEY LOVE HELPING PEOPLE OVERCOME THEIR FEARS.

Although skiing is good exercise and an enjoyable winter activity, learning to ski can also help people feel more confident. “It’s not always about skiing and teaching people to be the best skiers,” Macri says. “A lot of [the job] is just about showing people a good time and helping them achieve their goals or overcoming their fears.”

Macri particularly appreciates the amazing views from the top of a mountain, as well as the feeling he gets when he takes students down a great run and everyone high-fives one another in joy. “I sit back and think this is my office and I am having just as amazing [a] time as everyone else. The only difference is that I am getting paid for it,” he says.

All photos courtesy of iStock.

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