It’s really really sad when one of our idols (or even one of the guys we hate) has to miss a lot of time due to injury, and nobody wants to see a guy fall down in pain when it comes to playing sports, especially if we talk about one of the league’s greatest players.
Recently, Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury during the first game of the Western Conference Finals, and although it doesn’t seem that serious, Kawhi’s loss could wind up sealing the fate of a series that was one destined to be for the ages.
Gladly, it seems like the two-way player and MVP candidate is set to make a return to the court when the series goes to Texas, but some other guys haven’t been as lucky as Kawhi, having to spend a lot of time sidelined due to severe injuries. Having said that, we’ll take a look at the top 10 player comebacks from injury in NBA history.
10. Grant Hill
Hill went down with an injury during the 2000 NBA playoffs, but he decided to play anyways because fans called him soft, which obviously led to an even more serious injury, forcing him to miss the 2000 Olympics. Afterward, Hill had a couple of tough seasons, before becoming one of the ultimate sixth men in the league for both the Magic and the Suns, although he was never able to completely shake off his nagging pains.
9. Paul George
We all witnessed George’s injury during a USA scrimmage game prior to the Olympics, breaking his leg and having the game immediately shut off. Gladly, the leader of the Pacers came back the very next year, although he was quite rough and didn’t do much. Still, he made 81 appearances during the next season, averaging 23.1 points, 7 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals on over 40% from the floor.
8. Michael Jordan
The greatest player in basketball history was quite unlucky during his first couple of seasons in the NBA when the Bulls were a disaster, breaking his foot in his sophomore season and only being able to appear in 18 games (although he still made the All-Star team). Needless to say, nothing was going to stop the biggest competitor in the history of the game, who came back averaging an absurd 37.1 points (a career high) while playing over 40 minutes per night in all 82 games.
7. Willis Reed
Nothing was going to make Willis Reed miss Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals, not even a freaking torn thigh muscle. The Knicks big man completely ignored this nagging pain and suited up, playing over 40 minutes per night and leading the Knicks to the NBA Championship in one of the greatest moments the league has ever seen.
6. Adrian Dantley
Nowadays, guys tend to miss weeks with minor injuries just to prevent them from aggravating, but back in the day you had to be shot dead just to miss a play, or at least that’s what Adrian Dantley thought, as the small forward actually tore the ligaments of his wrist, but decided to play anyways and averaged over 23 points for the Utah Jazz. That’s just insane.
5. Channing Frye
Frye had to miss the entire 2012-2013 season due to an enlarged heart, a cardiovascular anomaly that put his life in jeopardy, just after starting 59 of 64 games for the Phoenix Suns. It seemed like it was it for the three-point shooter, but he managed to come back the next season, averaging just over 11 points and 5.8 rebounds with a very respectable 37% average from beyond the arc, and now he’s a key piece in the defending champions second unit.
4. Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose was on his way to stardom as the ultimate leader of the Chicago Bulls and the Most Valuable Player before going down injured against the 76ers in the playoffs, sealing Chicago’s fate in the postseason. Still, the point guard came back the next year, averaging more than 15 points and 4 assists in every single season since that injury, although he has suffered a lot of nagging pains over the years and truth to be told, he’s never going to get back to his prior level.
3. Amar’e Stoudemire
STAT was one of the most explosive and aggressive players during his prime, but there were a lot of concerns when the power forward suffered some cartilage damage in his knee, only being able to play 3 games during the 05-06 campaign. Gladly, Stoudemire came back way stronger, averaging solid 20.4 points and 9.6 boards, playing all 82 games and making it to the All-Star Game.
2. Bernard King
Before the surge of Patrick Ewing, Bernard King was considered to be the best player in New York Knicks history. Sadly, the star tore his ACL during the 1985 season and had to miss the entire season to fully recovery (almost 2 years). Nevertheless, the small forward came back to average 22.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists on almost 50% from the floor.
1. Shaun Livingston
It seemed like Shaun Livingston was never able to set a foot on an NBA court again after suffering one of the most horrible injuries this sport has ever seen, and there was even a possibility that he had to lose his leg, as he torn his ACL, his PCL, and his Meniscus, as well as dislocating his Patella and spraining his MCL in the very same injury.
Still, after a couple of years, he made his comeback to the league, eventually becoming one of the leaders of Golden State’s second unit, helping their winning cause on their way to an NBA ring.