Klay's injury, photo courtesy of cbssports.com

Having an injury in sports is no joke. Most players do not recover, and some even lost their careers. Basketball is a contact sport, and an injury is inevitable. It’s part of the risk of being an athlete. The pounding, the banging, the physicality, are all normal in the sport. Here is a list of 4 NBA players who recovered from a terrible injury, and 4 who didn’t.


1. Shaun Livingston

During a game in 2007 against the Charlotte Bobcats (now the Charlotte Hornets), Shaun landed his feet awkwardly thus leading to a knee injury. It was a terrible moment for the young Livingston, who was just 21 at that time. He dislocated both of his knee caps, resulting in a season-ending injury.

Livingston’s injury (2007), Photo Courtesy of nydailynews.com

Judging by the incident, it was almost clear that Shaun’s career is over. He proved everyone wrong when recovered after 20 long months. Though he lost his edge and athleticism, he adjusted to a new play style. Shaun then proceeded to play 10 more seasons. He had just retired from the NBA last 2019 and was a 3x NBA Champion with the Warriors.

2. Paul George

PG suffered a gruesome injury during an exhibition game with the players of the USA Men’s National Team in 2014. It was absolutely terrible as he broke his right leg after contesting a James Harden layup. He missed the international contest as well as most of the 2014-2015 season. Before the injury, George was already a beast.

George’s injury, Photo Courtesy of sportingnews.com

But, after recovering, Paul George was still his usual self. A solid scorer and perimeter defender, it was like nothing happened to him. He was still picked an all-star after his injury and continued to play like a superstar.

3. Dominique Wilkins

The Human Highlight film was always a sight for sore eyes. He was very entertaining to watch during the ’80s and early ’90s. A guy who averages 28 a night, and plays the best basketball you’ve seen in your life. But, in 1992, the 32-year-old superstar went down and tore his ACL. It looked like he was already out of the league. During that time, a torn ACL is like a death sentence. The medical technology before isn’t as advanced as today.

Dominique, Photo Courtesy of hoopshype.com

Though people thought Nique’s playing days are over, he made a huge return just after 9 months of recovery. A pretty risky move. Even so, he still played long minutes, and still produced the same numbers as he used to. He was even selected as an all-star and became part of an All-NBA team the following season!

4. Kevin Durant

Durant tore his Achilles during the 2019 finals against the Toronto Raptors, back when he was still with the Warriors. He and Klay went down with injuries in that series. Sadly, their injuries sealed the fate of the team as they lost to the Raptors 4 to 2.

KD’s injury (2019), Photo Courtesy of theguardian.com

He then missed the following season after his terrible injury. Rumors were spreading that KD might not be the same player anymore, but during his return in the 2020-2021 season, he made sure that the world knows he is still one of the best players in the league. He averaged 27, 6, and 7 and led the Brooklyn Nets to the 2nd round of the playoffs, before losing to the eventual champions – the Milwaukee Bucks.

This season (2021-2022), before he went down with another injury, he was one of the league’s MVP favorites. That just shows you that KD is really back in his true form.


1. Brandon Roy

Roy was an up-and-coming star in Portland. He was a very fantastic player. Flashy, entertaining, yet efficient. Just by his 3rd year, he has already been named an all-star in a packed western conference. The guy was the future of the Blazers.

Brandon Roy, Photo Courtesy of basketball.fandom.com

Unfortunately, his knees weren’t there to support him. He had to have surgery that removes his knees’ cartilage. Because of this, his knees became weaker due to bone-to-bone collisions. Eventually, Roy’s career came to an end just after being only 27 years old. We never got to see his full potential and what Portland could have achieved with him on the court. Roy is really one of those “what if” players.

2. Greg Oden

The Portland Trailblazers had a history of players whose careers were cut short due to injuries. Bill Walton, Sam Bowie, and Brandon Roy – just a few names to mention. Another Blazer, Greg Oden, was famous because he was drafted ahead of the great Kevin Durant in 2008. Though seen as a behemoth to be feared in the paint, he never really lived up to expectation.

Image Courtesy of NBA

Oden injured his left knee in 2009, just in his sophomore year. Throughout his career, he only played a total of 105 games. Some even consider him a bust, but the truth is, he was just always injured. He signed with the Miami Heat in 2013, but that was it. He never recovered and was forced to retire at the early age of 28 years.

3. Yao Ming

This Chinese sensation played for a good 10 years in the NBA. During his time in the league, he was selected as an all-star each year. Drafted first overall by the Rockets in 2002, the towering center was extremely skilled for his height (7’6”). But, even before he was drafted, his foot was already problematic.

Yao Ming, Photo Courtesy of insidethegames.biz

He injured his foot twice before coming into the league. This wasn’t seen as a problem by the organization, but soon, the foot injury would plague the big man that will force him to retire in 2010. “Yao Ming would have been among the greatest, without injures” – Robert Horry on Yao’s career

4. Tracy McGrady

T-Mac in his prime years was a complete package. A guy can score at will, shoot anywhere on the floor, defend other team’s stars, make plays, make clutch shots, and more. The guy was even seen as an equal to Kobe, sometimes even better than the Mamba.

Sadly, in his 13 years of NBA career, he suffered multiple injuries – back problems, knee injuries, and shoulder dislocations. It was like he was cursed as a player.

T-Mac, Photo Courtesy of fadeawayworld.net

McGrady was very unfortunate to never get out of the first round in the playoffs (The 2013 San Antoni Spurs doesn’t count). He was one of the faces of the NBA during the 2000s, but we will never get to see his best. We’ll just have to reminisce about how good T-Mac was.

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What if these players were never injured. Could they have done more? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. For more content, stay with us, here at Spiel Times.    

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