A unique trait to all professional sports, especially in the USA, are the so called “What if” scenarios. From barbershops and social media to major TV networks speculations about the outcome of events are constantly being brought up. Unfortunately, one of the most common “what if”-s revolves around players whose careers suffered because of injuries. In the following text we will examine 10 NBA Stars whose names often pop up in these conversations.
There is no debate about Bryant’s legendary status and overall achievements on the court. However, his last years in the league could have been a lot more different if it was for injuries. We have to go back to 12th of April 2013. Back when Kobe was pushing himself way too hard to compensate for the team’s average performance. Late in a game against the Golden State Warriors the Black Mamba suffered a tear in his left Achilles tendon. This incident took him out for the rest of the season a. And when he finally returned in December 2013 it took just 6 games before he hit the ground with a knee injury. From that point onwards he couldn’t regain his speed and was much easier to guard.
To be fair, his career was already established by 2013 and he didn’t have much to lose in terms of legacy, but it would’ve been amazing to see Bryant go out competing for playoff appearances and better career stats.
From being the league’s most dominant big man to being a shadow of his former self. From being called Superman to being in no man’s land in terms of popularity and gameplay. Many would say that it is Howard’s ego and inability to adapt that led to this situation. But behind his fall from stardom was an injury.
In his final year in Orlando, Howard was experiencing back spasm and pain. It was getting so bad that his season was cut short because of it. The doctors evaluated the situation and the diagnosis was a herniated disk. While he was going through postsurgical recovery Howard demanded to be traded as he had a feud with Magic’s coach Stan Van Gundy. The big man ended up on the Lakers roster alongside Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and Pau Gasol all of whom were still top players at the time. Unfortunately for Dwight, his health had deteriorated and his approach did not help. He had a subpar season that led to him leaving for Houston. After that came Atlanta. Then Charlotte. At that that point it was clear that Superman has hung the cape for good.
Prior to his injuries, Derick Rose was a superstar like no other at his position. While today’s major point guards weren’t yet drafted or were still developing, Rose hit the ground running. Just three years into the league and he was already MVP. Sadly, in 2012 when facing the 76ers in the playoffs he tore the ACL in his left knee. When he returned the following season he injured his right meniscus in November. He did not come back until the next season but knee issues still plagued his game. And this is how from a superstar with a bright future he became a second tier player ridiculed with the nickname Mr. Glass.
An important being part of the Lakers’ back-to-back title team, Bynum had a solid presence on the court. Although his physique and age were a compliment to his game, his knees were the weak spot. And Phil Jackson knew it. He let him play on limited minutes throughout the regular and postseason. In 2012 the Lakers traded him to the Sixers so that Dwight Howard can join in. In Philly Bynum’s knee situation worsened. He couldn’t make training camp and was declared out indefinitely. After an entire missed season he signed with the Cavs, then he was traded to the Bulls and waived. Indiana signed him but he got injured again so in 2014 his career was done.
The Asian sensation entered the NBA with game experience and it didn’t take him long to establish himself as a star. Sadly, as he reached his best statistical seasons between 2005 and 2007, injuries caught up with him as well. The legs of the Chinese big man were giving up on him as he suffered from pain in the toes, fractured ankle and knee. On December 16th 2010 he suffered a season ending injury of his left ankle. The following year Yao announced his retirement which only had people wondering what could have happened if he stayed healthy and managed to play at a top level alongside his teammate Tracy McGrady.
Basketball pages on Facebook love to post “White Chocolate” highlights because they always attract the fans’ attention and admiration. Surprisingly enough they don’t bother explaining why Williams’ career lasted only 12 years. Well, you can already guess why! Knee and lower-back problems were the reason he decided to end it all. Not once, but twice! Many people still claim that he played for highlights rather than wins. Yet, the fans were excited when he was about to take part in Ice Cube’s BIG3.Ironicaly, on his first game he went down with an injury proving his spot on this list.
Standing at 6ft 7” Hardaway was incredibly good both as a shooting and a point guard. In his early Orlando days he formed a promising duo with Shaquille O’Neal that got the Magic to the 1995 finals. One season after that Shaq left for Los Angeles Lakers which led to more pressure on Hardaway. He became the team’s main scoring player and this took a toll on him. Early into the 1997-98 season he suffered a bad left knee injury that haunted him for the rest of his career. As a Phoenix Sun he had problems with the same knee that resulted in a missed season. All of this contributed to his loss of speed and vertical jump. From that point onwards his career numbers dropped as Hardaway embraced a veteran role before retiring in 2007.
TMac is one of those great players whose careers are jam-packed with “What if”-s. From his free agency decisions to his infamous injury-prone body. It was all starting to add up for McGrady in Houston. The seasons starting from 2005-2006 were plagued with injuries in his lower back and shoulders. To top it off, the Rockets were having a horrible time in the playoffs as the team peaked by reaching the second round. His last season in Houston was marked by a postsurgical recovery and no playtime. Then he became a journeyman – New York, Detroit, Atlanta, San Antonio and a short stint in China. So instead of being a competitor or at least experienced vet McGrady was forced to retire early leaving fans with a big dose of disappointment.
His career was a rapid downfall like no other. From a three time all-star and a team’s leader Roy had to call it quits just 5 years into the NBA. Reason – his knees were so weakened that if he suffered an injury there was a danger of wheelchair time. He retired while averaging almost 19 points 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Questions surrounding Roy remain as fans ask themselves what could have happened to Rip City if he stayed healthy. However, Brandon Roy has a different look on life putting his injuries and problems behind his back.
Often times called Lebron James before Lebron James, Grant Hill took the NBA by storm after 4 amazing years in Duke. As a Detroit Piston he averaged 22pts 8 boards and 6 assists. Even though he couldn’t lead the team to substantial postseason success, the small forward was a player with great hype around him. After joining Tracy McGrady in Orlando for season 2000-01 the buzz increased even more. All in vain. Hill was hampered by ankle injuries ever since his arrival in Florida, playing in only four games in his first season with the Magic, 14 games in his second and 29 in his third. He was forced to sit out his entire fourth year with Orlando (2003–04). He bounced back next year and gained all-star status for the last time in his career. Unfortunately, injuries started bothering him again – he just couldn’t move up and down the court as quick and his jump vanished. After transferring to Phoenix things worsened even more as Hill averaged single digits. In 2013 he announced his retirement after 19 years in the NBA, most of which wasted due to injuries.