Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction when it comes to NBA trades, and this seemingly implausible one happens to be a confirmed fact. Back in 1983, the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers embarked on trade discussions that would result in what many feel is the strangest deal in the history of the NBA. Let’s take a look at how far creative thinking can take you if you are highly motivated to acquire a player for your NBA franchise, but don’t have the “normal” assets available to get the job done.
The Portland Trail Blazers of the early 1980s were a collection of mediocre teams who seemed to be stuck in that position with no apparent way out. During the 1982-83 season, the team was in need of a playmaking point guard, but they couldn’t afford to part with the players it would take to obtain a quality lead guard. Enter Jon Spoelstra, Portland’s senior vice president and general manager at the time.
Spoelstra was already known as a marketing genius, having pioneered a number of concepts that are now commonplace in the NBA, such as in-house radio and television coverage for individual teams, selling sponsorships for advertisements that would be placed inside NBA arenas, and giving out rewards to fans in attendance if the home team met certain goals (such as scoring 100 points or more in the game). Spoelstra’s groundbreaking work with the Trail Blazers resulted in sellouts for every Portland home game for 11 consecutive years.
This is clearly a man who could think outside the box, but until now, his innovative approach had been used primarily on the marketing side of the business. When the Trail Blazers needed a point guard in 1983 but couldn’t afford to part with any of their rotation players, Spoelstra sprung into action and began working on what would become the oddest transaction the league has ever seen.
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First, Spoelstra needed to identify his target, and there was an ideal fit available in the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers had been a struggling franchise for years, both in terms of their failures on the court, as well as their inability to turn a profit at the box office. Indiana also had a player named Don Buse, who had led the NBA in assists and steals just a few years before, and seemed to be just what Portland needed. The Pacers were owned at the time by businessman Sam Nassi, who by all accounts was over his head as an NBA team owner, as detailed by UPI. Indiana’s franchise was hemorrhaging money, and they needed to find some way to stem the tide.
Jon Spoelstra came up with an idea: he had something the Indiana Pacers desperately needed, and it wasn’t a player. Spoelstra knew how to make money with an NBA team; Sam Nassi and the Pacers did not. ESPN reports that Spoelstra decided to make Indiana a very unusual offer: he would give Indiana one week of his time as a management consultant, and in return, the Trail Blazers would receive point guard Don Buse. The Pacers were losing games and losing money at an even higher rate, so they agreed to this unique proposal.
The aftermath of this peculiar (but factual) sample from the world of NBA trades saw Sam Nassi sell the Indiana Pacers to Mel and Herb Simon just a few months later (per SB Nation), and according to Basketball-Reference, Don Buse played in all of 41 games for the Portland Trail Blazers in 1983 before being waived the following summer. The results of this bizarre trade were not earth-shaking, but the deal itself is one for the ages and is not likely to ever be seen again.
[Featured Image by AP Images]