Marquee trades brought Kobe Bryant, left, from Charlotte to the Lakers… (Photos by Los Angeles Times…)
The young right-hander was prone to wildness and couldn't crack the rotation of the pitching-rich New York Mets, who were seeking a steady third baseman after trying 45 players at the hot corner in 10 seasons. The Angels, though wary of the pitcher's control problems, liked his arm and were willing to trade their six-time All-Star shortstop to get him.
And so on Dec. 10, 1971, the Angels made perhaps the best trade in their history by acquiring Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi.
"As for Ryan, I really can't say I quit on him," Bob Scheffing, then the Mets' general manager, told the New York Times. "But we've had him three full years and, although he's a hell of a prospect, he hasn't done it for us. How long can you wait? I can't rate him in the same category with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman or Gary Gentry."
Fregosi broke his thumb at spring training in 1972 and batted .232 before he was traded to Texas. Ryan pitched four no-hitters in an Angels uniform, racking up 2,416 strikeouts in 2,1811/3 innings and recording 156 complete games over eight seasons.
The Angels let him leave as a free agent in 1979 after a dispute over incentive clauses and an insurance policy. General Manager Buzzie Bavasi, asked how he'd replace Ryan after a 16-14 season, uttered the immortal line, "You mean, where can I find two 8-7 pitchers?"
Ryan pitched for 14 more seasons and finished with a major league-record 5,714 strikeouts and seven no-hitters, earning a first-ballot ticket into the Hall of Fame.
Some of the greatest players in baseball, basketball and hockey have passed through Los Angeles via the trade route. Wayne Gretzky arrived in 1988 in a multiplayer deal with the Edmonton Oilers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came from Milwaukee in a six-player deal in 1975. Kobe Bryant became a Laker after the Charlotte Hornets chose him 13th in the 1996 draft and traded him to Los Angeles for Vlade Divac. The Times' Mark Heisler, previewing that draft, envisioned Bryant would be chosen 19th by the New York Knicks. Heisler's assessment: "Smaller than Kevin Garnett but has ability."
Here is a look at the best and worst deals pulled off by the local baseball, NBA and NHL teams. For the Dodgers and Lakers, only deals made since they arrived in Los Angeles were considered.
There have been several pivotal trades for the franchise, but some were prompted by player trade demands, as with Wilt Chamberlain and Abdul-Jabbar. However, the acquisition of Bryant was not only brilliant, but also opened many championship doors.
BEST, July 11, 1996: After technicalities were cleared up and Divac accepted a trade the Lakers had engineered with Charlotte before the draft, 17-year-old Bryant officially became a Laker. "We think this young man is really one of the most exciting young prospects we've seen in a long time," said Jerry West, the Lakers' executive vice president.
Five championships, 13 all-NBA team selections, four All-Star game most-valuable-player honors, two scoring titles, one regular-season MVP honor and 25 games in which Bryant has scored at least 50 points bear that out. Plus, the trade helped clear cap space for the Lakers to sign Shaquille O'Neal away from Orlando.
Other franchise changers:
July 9, 1968: Acquired MVP Chamberlain from Philadelphia for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff. Chamberlain led the league in rebounding four times and was the MVP in the 1972 title run.
June 16, 1975: Acquired Abdul-Jabbar and reserve center Walt Wesley from Milwaukee for Elmore Smith, Brian Winters and rookies Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman. Abdul-Jabbar won five NBA titles and three MVP awards with the Lakers and held nine league records when he retired in 1989. He's still the NBA's all-time scoring leader.
Feb. 1, 2008: Acquired Pau Gasol and a second-round pick in 2010 for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the draft rights to Marc Gasol, two first-round picks and cash. Gasol helped the Lakers to two championships.
WORST: There aren't that many, which is why the Lakers have won 11 titles in Los Angeles. But on the theory that no acquisition of Benoit Benjamin can be considered a good one, we nominate sending Sam Perkins to Seattle on Feb. 22, 1993, for Benjamin and the rights to Doug Christie. Dikembe Mutombo, then with Denver, agreed.
"Sending Sam Perkins away hurt their cause," he told The Times. "How do you send away someone who can play 40 minutes for someone who plays four minutes? I'm not trying to criticize, but for me I think it was one of the ugliest trades ever in this league."
Benjamin averaged 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds in 28 games and was traded to New Jersey in June 1993 for Sam Bowie and a second-round pick. Christie, coveted by the Lakers for his athleticism, never fit in during two seasons.
It's not trading that trips them up as much as poor drafting and the inability to keep players from leaving as free agents.