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May 15, 2005

The Best of the Big-Name Pickups

The last piece of the puzzle is often the hardest to find: an immediate impact player who can propel a contender to a championship. The Heat hope that 40 years from now history will show that their trade for Shaquille O'Neal gave them just that. Here are the top quick-payoff deals of the past four decades:

Frank Robinson to Baltimore Orioles, 1966 Robby spent 10 seasons with the Reds before being traded to the Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson. In his first American League season the then 31-year-old star (right) won the Triple Crown (49 homers, 122 RBIs and a .316 average) and provided leadership to a young Baltimore team. In the World Series he hit two homers, including the Series clincher in Baltimore's 1--0 Game 4 win over the Dodgers.

Reggie Jackson to New York Yankees, 1977 His first regular season in the Bronx was productive (32 homers and 110 RBIs), but the 31-year-old Jackson earned his Mr. October moniker in the World Series, when he hit three homers against the Dodgers in the Game 6 finale.

Moses Malone to Philadelphia 76ers, 1982 Julius Erving had taken his 76ers to the NBA Finals three times in his first six years with the team, but the good doctor couldn't deliver a title. So management provided help in the form of perennial All-Star Malone, obtained from the Rockets for Caldwell Jones and a first-round draft pick. Malone, then 28, gave Philly a much-needed bully in the paint, averaging 24.5 points and 15.3 rebounds his first season there. In the playoffs he also gave his team an attitude, predicting the Sixers would sweep each playoff opponent--or as Moses put it: "Fo', fo', fo'." The sweep didn't happen--Milwaukee managed one win--but the NBA title did. As coach Billy Cunningham said, "Let's not make believe. The difference from last year was Moses."

Patrick Roy to Colorado Avalanche, 1995 A temper tantrum changed the fortunes of two teams in the mid-1990s. Goalie Roy helped the Montreal Canadiens win a pair of Stanley Cups, but in December '95 he became upset when he was left on the ice during a shellacking from Detroit. Roy, 30, vowed never to play for the Habs again, and four days later the club traded him to Colorado. He promptly led the Avs to the first of their two Cups, making 63 saves in a 1--0 triple-OT win over the Panthers that clinched the title. Montreal hasn't been to the finals since.

Curt Schilling to Boston Red Sox, 2004 After 86 years the Curse of the Bambino was replaced in Red Sox lore with the Bloody Sock. Thanks to some fancy stitching from the team doctor, Schilling, who had been acquired from Arizona in the off-season and had gone 21--6 with a 3.26 ERA in the regular season for the Sox, was able to make his start in Game 2 of the World Series despite a displaced tendon in his right ankle. Schilling, 37, allowed one unearned run in a 6--2 win. Boston ultimately swept the Cardinals, and his crimson-stained sock is now in Cooperstown.

For more of the best big-name acquisitions--as well as the worst superstar pickups--go to SI.com.

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