Injuries are apart of sports at all levels, but they are thrust into the national spotlight at the professional level. Countless players who were once deemed as promising prospects and perennial All-Stars have had their careers severely altered after a major injury. It is always disappointing to see such talent be caged by something as frustrating as an injury, but it unfortunately is a part of the game that both players and coaches must plan and prepare for an injury that keeps them out of action for months.
Perhaps no one in the NBA in the past few years embodies a “what could have been” talent than current New York Knicks and former Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose. Drafted first overall out of Memphis to his hometown Bulls, Rose was named Rookie of the Year and was also named to three All-Star teams in his first four NBA seasons. Rose was undoubtedly the face of the NBA after his 2010-2011 MVP award and was considered apart of the youth movement that was slowly making its way around the NBA, specifically at the point guard position. He was subsequently awarded a lifetime shoe deal with Adidas and a max contract extension. However, after Rose tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, his career took a turn for the worst.
To date since his injury, Rose has never played a full season in the NBA. His breathtaking agility and athleticism that he relied upon to elevate him to elite status were never the same after his countless knee injuries and after that ACL tear, missing a combined 152 games throughout the rest of his tenure in Chicago. Rose undoubtedly would have and most likely still would be a perennial MVP candidate and a top-five point guard in the league would he have avoided his major injuries.
Rose is not the only NBA player to have had their promising careers cut short and altered by major injuries. Grant Hill was tabbed to be one of the best players of all time, but his nagging ankle injury forced him to only suit up for 47 games for the Orlando Magic in his first four seasons with the team upon signing with them in free agency from a successful and promising tenure with the Detroit Pistons. He went from a constant triple-double threat to a role player with no lag-time in the middle of his NBA career. While he still carved out a respectable career, one can only imagine what his career would have been had those ankle injuries not arisen.
Tracy McGrady was regarded as one of the best “one-on-one” players in the league during his prime, with his signature moment coming against the San Antonio Spurs while he was with the Houston Rockets when he scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds of the game to complete an epic comeback victory. He had nagging back, shoulder and knee issues that left him with rarely any significant playing time towards the latter part of his career. These injuries kept a great player from being an all-time great, impeding McGrady from ever being able to win an NBA championship.
Brandon Roy, one of my favorite players to watch during his time with the Portland Trailblazers, was forced to retire in his mid 20s due to knee injuries. Kobe Bryant has said on multiple occasions that he was the toughest assignment to guard on defense throughout his whole career. He, along with Trailblazers teammate Greg Oden make up a couple of the biggest question marks in the history of the NBA. Roy looked to be a consistent All-Star and Oden was chosen first overall in the 2007 NBA draft, so it must have been heartbreaking for Trailblazers fans to see their players of the future to go down for their entire careers with injury trouble.
There are too many examples of injuries ruining or altering careers. One can only feel for the players who are affected by them, but as mentioned before, they are an unavoidable aspect of competing at the highest level.