It’s been an absolutely insane free agency period for the NBA thus far. Not only because we’re seeing historic eye-popping contracts, but because studs, elite talents, all-time players are swapping uniforms.
The power is truly in the hands of the players these days. Although it may be at the point of too much power, that’s the idea of free agency. It allows players to make their own decisions, some of which surprise the hell out of us as fans.
Here are some of the most shocking NBA free agency signings in recent memory.
10. The Entire Class of 2016
Dolla dolla bills y’all. The increase in salary cap has led to more free agents than every deciding to change uniforms this summer, and that’s not even the shocking part. How about the money going around right now?!? I’m talking about waking up and finding out Allen Crabbe signed a 4-year/$75 million offer sheet. Start working on your jumper, kids. Forget being like Mike, growing up to be a role player should work just fine.
9. Steve Nash — 2004 Phoenix Suns
The Mavericks had a really good thing going behind their duo of Dirk and Nash. But at 30-years old, Dallas wasn’t willing to pay up to keep the eventual two-time MVP. Phoenix risked the big bucks and got rewarded — although never winning a championship hurts, especially factoring in so much bad luck. Dirk and Nash felt like they were going to be a thing for years to come out West.
8. Carlos Boozer — 2004 Utah Jazz
Let’s not forget, Boozer was DeAndre before DeAndre, just in reverse. He had a verbal deal to return to Cleveland before changing and signing for bigger money with the Jazz. Utah made the better offer to a former second-round pick, so it’s tough to blame him, but this really messed up the Cavs’ plans. Boozer had his best years with Utah. Had his prime come alongside LeBron would things be any different in Cleveland. Does LeBron ever leave? Do they have multiple championships?
7. Dwyane Wade — 2016 Chicago Bulls
Wade said just last summer he saw himself as a Heat-lifer. Things change quickly. From all accounts, it sounds like Wade just grew tired of taking a discount throughout his career. Finally, Miami should’ve been able to pay Wade. They offered money to Durant, to Whiteside, but not the greatest player in franchise history. The Bulls are the only other team we’ve ever been able to envision Wade playing for, and now he’s back in his hometown. Still shocking to see him go.
6. DeAndre Jordan — 2015 Los Angeles Clippers
DJ is the only player on this list that didn’t change teams … even though he kinda did. We all remember the events of last summer. Jordan committed to the Mavericks, then after several regrets, secret meetings, emojis and a team slumber party he returned to the Clippers. If we switched from most surprising signings to most entertaining signing, this one takes the cake.
5. Shaquille O’Neal — 1996 Los Angeles Lakers
The Magic blew this one so bad. Shaq actually wanted to stay in Orlando and become a dynasty in the East as Jordan’s Bulls were on the fall (Orlando actually was the only team to beat a Jordan led Bulls’ team in a 1990’s playoff series). It was a weird time for NBA contracts, as big-time contracts we’re now used to were not yet a thing until this signing. There was no max deal, so Orlando opened up with a small market offer before eventually giving in and offering the same as the Lakers. It was too late, though. O’Neal had already taken the money and left.
4. Michael Jordan — 2002 Washington Wizards
Yup, this counts. Jordan’s second comeback could easily be number one, so I’m not opposed to the order of the final four shockers. When MJ returned he could’ve signed with any team, but obviously we heard the rumblings that he wanted to move from the front office to the hardwood with the Wizards. I can remember seeing the news Jordan was considering yet another comeback and my jaw dropped. Two more things I wish I could be writing about: Jordan coming back to play with the Bobcats, and (nobody remembers this) Charles Barkley was supposed to make a comeback with Jordan on the Wizards. Of course, Chuck’s quest to get back in shape didn’t turn out quite as well.
3. Kevin Durant — 2016 Golden State Warriors
We all woke up on July 4th and did the same thing. No not enjoy the beautiful weather and celebrate America at a BBQ — keep refreshing Twitter until KD made his decision! I was 99% expecting a return to the Thunder. Durant was that different superstar. The one that didn’t approve of “super-teams.” So maybe, just maybe, it’d be the Celtics. Then KD shocked the world. The rich get richer doesn’t even describe it.
2. LeBron James — 2010 Miami Heat
“The Decision” is why the NBA is where it is today. Sure, the trickle down effect can be blamed on the Celtics (who inspired LeBron’s decision), but Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were added through trades, and you may recall KG had to be dragged to Boston. This was different. We heard the rumblings about the Miami “super-team” but I never bought into it until the words “I’m taking my talents to South Beach.”
1. LeBron James — 2014 Cleveland Cavaliers
Then LeBron goes and does this. I’m not going to lie to you, I love the decision to go back to Cleveland and am happy it worked out. But having the pills to return to Cleveland so soon after leaving (if ever) showed a lot. LeBron’s return was just as shocking as the 3-1 hole he dug the Cavs out of in the finals against a 73-win team. It never even occurred to me.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is jedlow) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.