Injuries are a part of sports, and they affect every professional athlete in one way or another. Basketball is no exception, and fans across the league have seen players go down year after year with devastating injuries.
From Bill Walton’s fragile feet to Greg Oden and Brandon Roy’s styrofoam knees (seems to be a recurring theme in Portland), injuries have derailed the careers of so many great talents throughout history, leaving us wondering, ‘what if?’. That being said, let’s focus on the ten most frequent patients of Mt. Sinai-Whatever in the league today.
10. Chris Paul
Unlike most players on this list, Paul hasn’t had that one major injury that has kept him out time and time again. He’s just one of those guys who seems to always be sore. I wonder how many ice packs he uses after every game. Over the past nine seasons, Paul has only played over 70 games three times, and only twice in the last seven. Nevertheless, Paul has still managed to make six All-NBA teams and seven All-Defensive teams during this stretch.
Through a variety of injuries including hand, knee, shoulder, and most notably hamstring problems, Paul seems to be on the NBA Gods’ bad side when it comes to injuries, as his almost always coincide with big games. Paul missed part of the 2015 second round Clippers-Rockets series with a hamstring issue and would go on to lose the series in seven. The next season, he broke his hand during the first round of the playoffs and would go on to miss the rest of the series, resulting in a loss. And we all know what happened this past spring, where Paul hurt his hammy during game six of the West Finals and watched his Rockets lose to the eventual champion Warriors in Game 7.
That last one is especially devastating, as Houston would’ve most likely won the title had Paul been healthy and beaten Golden State. Like I said earlier, the amount of games Paul has missed isn’t horrible; it’s simply a matter of when he misses them. Good thing he’s covered by StateFarm!
9. Kyrie Irving
Injury concerns started with Irving his freshman year at Duke, where he only played in 11 games for the Blue Devils thanks to a big toe injury. He missed 15 games as a rookie, and 23 as a sophomore in the league. He also joined the list of ‘players who hurt themselves by punching stuff’ when he broke his hand after hitting a padded wall during the summer. It was padded though, what could go wrong? Most notably, Kyrie fractured his left patella during Game 1 of the 2015 Finals and required surgery to repair the knee. Kyrie missed the first three months of the following season recovering.
That same knee cut his 2018 season early when the hardware inserted in his knee in 2015 caused discomfort. Irving had two separate procedures to remove said hardware and was diagnosed with an infection caused by the screws. Perhaps a knee replacement is imminent in Uncle Drew’s near future.
8. Eric Gordon
Since his rookie year, Gordon has only played over 70 games once in nine seasons. Yikes. This includes seasons of 56, 45, 42, and 9 games. He has missed time with a fractured wrist, a torn labrum caused from a shoulder subluxation, a fractured finger, patellar tendinitis, and cartilage damage in his knee. He has had surgery on both knees, his left shoulder, and two finger surgeries. That is a lot of operating for someone who doesn’t turn 30 until December.
Hopefully, his injury woes are behind him, as he has been relatively healthy since joining the Rockets, playing in 75, and 69 games in his two years. Gordon was supposed to be the centerpiece in the Chris Paul trade but ended up missing even more games than Paul did. And now they both play together! Basketball is funny sometimes.
7. Jabari Parker
So far, Jabari’s NBA career looks like this: four seasons, three of which he played 51 games or less, two ACL tears in one wonky knee, and zero defense. Not injury related, but one of my favorite quotes in NBA history came after Jabari signed with the Bulls; “they don’t pay players to play defense.” That’s real, I promise.
Anyways, an unfortunate start to Parker’s career, as one ACL tear is devastating enough, let alone two in the same knee. The only other player in NBA history to tear the same ACL twice is Michael Redd. Poor Milwaukee. The Bulls now have three ACL tears across their three highest-paid players. And the other is Cristiano Felicio.
6. Blake Griffin
People seem to forget that before the whole ‘Is Ben Simmons a Rookie?’ debate, Blake Griffin stole the 2011 Rookie of the Year from John Wall, by missing his entire first season due to a broken left kneecap suffered in the final preseason game of the ‘09/’10 season (yet another reason why we need to get rid of the preseason). Blake’s first four seasons (‘10/’11 - ‘13/’14) were incredibly healthy; he played in 308/312 games (includes the 66 game season in ‘12), missing a mere four games in four years. Over his next four seasons, he hasn’t cracked the 70 game plateau, and has only cracked 60 twice.
The injuries started with a partially torn quadriceps, and continued when he joined Kyrie and countless others in the ‘players who hurt themselves by punching stuff’ club when he broke his hand punching a… wait for it… person! Yes, the rock solid face of the Clippers equipment manager caused Blake to break his hand. Classic. He re-injured his quad in the first round of the 2016 playoffs and was ruled out for the rest of the postseason. The following year, Griffin underwent right knee surgery, and had his postseason cut short yet again with a big toe injury.
This past season, he suffered an MCL sprain in his knee, and missed the final eight games of the season with a bone bruise in his right ankle. Winters in Michigan are a lot worse than L.A. Someone should be methodically salting his front steps.
5. Dante Exum
I know what you’re thinking, “Dante Exum, wow I forgot about him!”. That’s probably because he’s played in a mere 80 out of his last 246 games. After playing in all 82 as a rookie, Exum missed the entirety of the ‘15/’16 season due to an torn ACL in his left knee he suffered playing for the Australian national team in the summer of 2015. Not only did he miss the whole NBA season, but was also out for the 2016 Summer League and the Rio Olympics. Talk about a long recovery process. Finally, after 12 months of rehab, Exum returned to the Jazz for the start of the ‘16/’17 season. Exum would go on to play 66 games, missing time on occasion from soreness in that same knee.
During the following preseason, Exum separated his left shoulder (please for the love of god get rid of the preseason), requiring surgery that would keep him out until mid March. He appeared in just 14 games for the Jazz last season, and to make matters worse, strained his left hamstring in the Jazz’s second-round series against the Rockets. Unfortunate for a guy who was picked fifth overall in the 2014 Draft. But on the bright side, he just signed a 3yr/$33 million contract with Utah. Go buy a car or something.
4. Joel Embiid
Here’s a stat which only rivals that of Greg Oden, out of the 328 games the Sixers have played since drafting Embiid back in 2014, (yes you read that correctly) he has only played in 94 of them! That’s insane! He missed his first two seasons recovering from a broken right foot, the navicular bone to be exact. Ironically enough, Embiid most likely would’ve been the number one pick in 2014 had he been healthy, but was recovering from a stress fracture in his back he suffered at Kansas. Three of the top five picks from 2014 are on this list. Huh.
After finally making his long awaited debut 28 months after being drafted, Embiid would go on to play 31 whole games that season thanks to a bone bruise and a torn meniscus in his left knee, the latter requiring surgery. This past season, Embiid missed the end of the season and the start of the playoffs after undergoing surgery for a fractured orbital bone thanks to an inadvertent Markelle Fultz headbutt.
Embiid’s young career has been filled with injuries, but at least the Sixers’ other high lottery picks have been healthy, right? Right?
3. Danilo Gallinari
In his decade long NBA career, Gallo has played over 70 games a grand total of two times! He even managed to crack 80 once! It was probably a red flag when he missed 54 games due to back issues as a 21 year old rookie. Then again, it was the Knicks. He played in 81 games the next year, only to follow that up with seasons of 62 and 43 before tearing his ACL in 2013. He missed the rest of the ‘13 season, and all of the ‘13/’14 season.
Since returning from his ACL tear, he has torn his meniscus, sprained his ankle three times, and strained his groin. He’s put up seasons of 59, 53, 62, and most recently 21 games played in the last four seasons. A broken hand and torn glute were the reasons this time. What a pain in the ass.
2. Derrick Rose
Out of the dozens of all-stars who were derailed by injuries, Derrick rose (pun intended) and fell from NBA stardom faster than you can say crutches. Rose tore his ACL in his left knee with 1:22 remaining in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs, with the Bulls up twelve. Smart coaching Thibs. Rose only played in 39 games that season, and thus began the nightmare that has become Rose’s career. Rose missed the entire next season rehabbing from his injury, even though doctors cleared him in March (hm, that sounds familiar). When he finally returned in the ‘13/’14 season, he played 10 whole games before tearing his meniscus in his right knee, and was out for the season after another surgery.
The next season (‘14/’15), Rose once again tore his meniscus in his right knee, and had a third major knee surgery in four years. He played 51 games that year. In his final year with the Bulls, Rose broke his orbital bone in the preseason (stop the preseason!), and played 66 games that year, the most since his MVP year in 2011. After being shipped to New York that summer, Rose played 64 games for the Knicks, missing time with a torn meniscus and homesickness. This time, the torn meniscus was in the left knee, prompting a fourth knee surgery in six years.
This past year, Rose split time with the Cavs and Timberwolves, reuniting with Thibodeau in Minnesota. He missed over two months with an ankle sprain and bone spurs, resulting in 25 games played during the season. Let’s quickly look at players who have had serious knee injuries playing under Thibs. Rose (ACL, two meniscus’), LaVine (ACL), Butler (meniscus, strain), Noah (swelling/soreness). You know that row of chairs on the sideline, where all the non-starters sit? That thing? Someone tell Thibs about it.
1. Chandler Parsons
Full disclosure, there are players on this list who are more injury prone than Parsons. But none of them are on as brutal of a contract as Parsons. That’s why he claims the number one spot. During his two seasons with Dallas, he played 66 and 61 games. That’s not great, but also not horrible. The problem, is that both those seasons ended in knee surgery. Now, most players coming off a serious injury, let alone two, would opt into their final year of their deal if the opportunity presented itself. Jeremy Lin did just that this year. Parsons decided to risk it, and opted out of his final year with the Mavericks.
Enter, the Grizzlies. Coming off a 42-40 season in ‘15/’16, Memphis decided to risk the injuries and pay Parsons $94 million for four years. Safe to say it has not worked out for the Grizzlies. In two seasons in Memphis, Parsons has played 36 and 34 games. For over $45 million dollars. Parsons is getting $646,125 per game, and $473 dollars per minute played. It got so bad that Grizzlies fans started booing him during home games.
Meanwhile he gets to eat Memphis barbecue anytime he wants, and rehabs in sunny L.A. Somehow, this contract might not even crack the top five worst Grizzlies moves ever, (hello O.J. Mayo and Hasheem Thabeet) but that is a list for another day.