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10 Near-Trades That Would've Changed NBA History

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Getty Images

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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On Top of the World: Remembering the Lost Trend of Flagpole Sitting
Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly sitting on a flagpole atop the Hotel St. Francis in Newark, New Jersey
Alvin "Shipwreck" Kelly sitting on a flagpole atop the Hotel St. Francis in Newark, New Jersey
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Flappers and bootleggers might be the most memorable aspects of the 1920s, but there's a lesser-known, yet no less colorful, trend from that decade: flagpole sitting. From the glamorous hills of Hollywood to the blue-collar dwellings of Union City, New Jersey, this unusual pastime turned eccentric showmen and ordinary people into overnight celebrities, before the crushing reality of the Great Depression grounded their climb to stardom.

Flagpole sitting is exactly what it sounds like: a person climbing on top of a towering pole, usually in the middle of a city, and testing their endurance by sitting atop it for as long as their body holds up. It began in Hollywood in January 1924, when a former sailor, boxer, steelworker, and stuntman named Alvin “Shipwreck” Kelly was hired by a local theater to sit on a pole outside of the building for as long as possible to drum up publicity for a new movie. Kelly, a New York City native—whose nickname was supposedly inspired by his dubious claims as a Titanic survivor—wowed crowds by perching himself on the pole for an astonishing 13 hours and 13 minutes. The stunt worked, and once it got picked up by the papers, offers started pouring in from more businesses to perform pole-sittings. Kelly was eager to oblige.

News of Kelly's exploits spread, and before long, men, women, and children were climbing poles of their own. There was the three-week feat of Bobbie Mack, a young woman from Los Angeles; Joe “Hold ‘em” Powers, who sat for 16 days in Chicago in 1927 and climbed back down with six fewer teeth than he started with after a storm smacked him face-first into his pole; and Bill Penfield, who braved a pole for 51 days in Strawberry Point, Iowa before a storm forced him down. In 1928, a 15-year-old named Avon Foreman of Baltimore even established a juvenile sitting record of 10 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes, and 10 seconds (he practiced on an 18-foot hickory tree in his backyard). Foreman’s accomplishment was so inspiring to Baltimore mayor William F. Broening that he publicly declared that the youngster exhibited “the pioneer spirit of early America.”

Still, Kelly was the one making a big business out of pole sitting. Even when he wasn’t holding the record, he was the ambassador of the bizarre sport. He toured 28 cities, attracting massive crowds that jammed streets and lined rooftops just to get a glimpse of the daredevil poking out among the apartment buildings and businesses of Downtown, USA.

Kelly's notable feats included an 80-hour sit in New Orleans and the 146 hours he spent high above Kansas City's Old Westgate Hotel. But even those were overshadowed by his largest-scale stunts: 312 hours on top of Newark’s St. Francis Hotel in 1927, 22 days on a pole above a dance marathon (another endurance fad of the time) in Madison Square Garden, and 23 days in 1929 in Baltimore’s Carlin’s Park on a pole that was 60 feet high. By Kelly’s own calculation, he’d spend around 20,613 hours pole-sitting during a career that lasted over a decade.

His peak came in 1930 when he lasted 49 days and one hour on a 225-foot pole on Atlantic City’s steel pier. The feat was witnessed by as many as 20,000 onlookers during the weeks he spent up top, becoming one of the first of many spectacles that would grace the pier in the 1930s. (He’d eventually be followed by acts like Rex, the water-skiing “wonder dog”; JoJo, the boxing kangaroo; and the city’s infamous diving horse routine.)

Estimates of Kelly’s fees range from $100-$500 a day throughout his career, paid by whatever outlet needed the publicity and sometimes by crowds who spent a quarter to get a view of his act from nearby hotel rooftops. And what did those onlookers see, exactly? A man on a circular padded seat high above the rabble, sometimes reading the paper, other times enjoying a shave. For food, he’d stick mainly to a liquid diet of broth and water, along with cigarettes, all of which were lifted up to him in a bucket. When he needed to sleep, he’d stay seated by wrapping his ankles around the pole and securing his thumbs into holes in his seat before nodding off. That's if he rested at all—he was also known to deprive himself of sleep on the pole for as long as four days.

The big money would dry up soon after his Atlantic City stunt, and the realities of the Great Depression put an end to flagpole sitting as a career. With up to a quarter of the population unemployed, people were apparently less interested in opening their papers to stories of men and women testing endurance at the top of a pole for more money than the readers would likely see all year.

"As Shipwreck Kelly analyzed it, it was the Stock Market crash that killed pole-sitting as the golden egg that paid the goose," a writer for The Evening Sun in Baltimore put it in 1944. "People couldn't stand to see anything higher than their busted securities."

Kelly’s personal story ends on a similarly somber note. Penniless and stripped of his daredevil veneer, he died of a heart attack in 1952 at the age of 59, his body found not far from the room he rented on West 51st Street in New York City. Underneath his arm at the time of his death was a scrapbook of newspaper clippings detailing his accomplishments as a once-champion flagpole sitter.

Though flagpole sitting has fallen out of the public eye since the Depression, it has occasionally shown faint signs of life. In 1963, 17-year-old Alabama native Peggy Townsend cruised past all of Kelly's highest marks by spending 217 days on a pole for a radio contest. That time was later beaten by Kenneth Gidge, who topped her at 248 days in 1971 before becoming an artist, inventor, and New Hampshire state representative later in life.

Today, the occasional pole-sitter still pops up in the news, though they're now most likely perched for protests or as living art installations. Regardless of the purpose behind it, it's unlikely that a person atop a flagpole will ever attract a sea of thousands of onlookers again—and the days when a man like Kelly could become a household name and dub himself the "Luckiest Fool on Earth" seem long gone.

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This Water Bottle Doubles as a Foam Roller
Mobot
Mobot

It hydrates and it massages. The MOBOT bottle, as spotted by Outside magazine, is being billed as “the world’s first and only foam roller water bottle,” and many outdoor and adventure enthusiasts swear by it.

The stainless steel bottle is wrapped in non-toxic EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam, which can be rolled along your calves, hamstrings, glutes, or arms to soothe sore muscles and relieve joint paint. It was designed with athletes in mind, but we could see it being used by stressed-out office workers with stiff muscles who could benefit from a little self-care. Plus, the lightweight bottle is great for keeping your beverage cold all day, whether you’re at work, at an amusement park, or at the beach. A top loop allows it to be hooked onto a backpack or beach bag.

The bottle is available in three sizes: the 40-ounce “Big Bertha,” the 18-ounce “Firecracker,” and the 27-ounce “Grace.” There’s a range of colors and patterns to choose from, including neon-colored camouflage for those moments when you can’t decide whether you want to stand out or blend in.

You can order it on Amazon, but some styles have already sold out. Check out MOBOT's video below to see different ways of using the bottle.

[h/t Outside]

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