There are 10 NBA superstars that form the league these days. Some have put in years of work, while others are teetering in the middle of their prime years. For some of these players, missing games has been frequent, which has impacted their chances, as well as their team’s chances, of winning a championship. After all, the fate of winning championships rests in the health of their superstars.
As these superstars look to play another year, who is the most healthy? Who should be cared for the most? Let’s rank the top-10 NBA names in the league based on their chances of sustaining an injury in 2021-2022.
10. Damian Lillard
Full Seasons: 3/9
Lillard is coming off one of his better seasons after making an All-NBA First-Team. While many teams will be interested in his services this offseason, they will also enjoy the fact that Lillard is one of the most durable players in the league.
Out of all our superstars, Lillard is the only one to play a full season more than once. He is a true iron man. His first three seasons in the league saw Lillard play 82 games. Then, he played 75, 75, 73, and 80 the following four seasons. However, the last two years have been the lowest number of games played in his career with 66 games played last year and 67 this season.
Lillard has only dealt with a hamstring injury in the early parts of his career and a groin injury last year. This year, Lillard rested to miss games rather than a missing time for injuries. Hopefully, we don’t see Dame Time hurt anytime soon.
9. James Harden
Full Seasons: 3/14
Many jump to conclusions that Harden is an injury-prone player. That is not the case. Harden battled injuries for one season, this last year. Other than that, Harden has been a consistent, healthy player in the league.
Harden played a full season his rookie year in OKC, his trade year with OKC and Houston, and then 2015-2016 with the Rockets. From 2013-2018, Harden owns seasons of games played of 73, 81, 82, 81. 72, and 78.
This year, we saw Harden play the lowest amount of games in his career due to weight problems and hamstring injuries. It caused Harden to miss significant time down the stretch. If healthy, he is one of the best players in the league, but we will see if the hamstring is fully healed heading into next season.
8. Giannis Antetokounmpo
Full Seasons: 0/8
You don’t win back-to-back MVPs without playing a lot of games. While Giannis has never played an entire season, he is a power forward that can run the floor at times. His usage rate is one of the highest in the league, so there are times that he receives rest.
Giannis is teetering on the verge of becoming an injury-prone superstar. After playing 77 games his rookie season, Giannis played 81, 80, 80, and 75 the following four seasons. In 2018, Giannis won the MVP playing 72 games. Then, in a shortened season, Giannis won the MVP again in 2019 in 63 games.
However, this past season, Giannis played just 61 games and suffered a hyperextended knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Milwaukee Bucks fans were excited to see him play in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, but he could be going down a bad trend of missing time.
7. LeBron James
Full Seasons: 1/18
First of all, LeBron is only on this list due to Father Time. At the age of 36 years old, he has more wear and tear than any of the athletes listed on this list. With 18 years under his belt and 12 seasons that featured LeBron playing in at least 74 games or more, that is durability at its finest.
With that said, his last three years with the Lakers have featured injuries and it should be noted that with age, more care to your body is needed in professional sports. In his first season with the Lakers, LeBron suffered a groin injury that limited him to 55 games.
This year, LeBron missed 16 games that saw the Lakers go 6-10 without him. LeBron turns 37 years old this year, so all eyes will be on how healthy he can be.
6. Steph Curry
Full Seasons: 0/12
After averaging 32.0 points per game this season, nobody seems concerned about Curry’s health. Curry had one of the best seasons of his career last year, just one season removed from 2019-2020 that saw him play only five games due to a broken second metacarpal in his left hand.
However, Curry does have an injury history. In the 2011-2012 season, Curry missed 40 games due to right ankle and foot injuries. Those injuries nearly halted the Warriors from sign Curry to a contract extension. In the 2016 playoffs, Curry missed playoff time with an MCL injury but played through the pain in the NBA Finals. The 2016 season was the last time that Curry played 70 games or more in a season.
With that said, Curry maintained healthy seasons for four years from 2015 to 2019. That also included playing through injuries through the playoffs. With three rings and five NBA Finals appearances, the Warriors are hoping to repeat that success for their own version of a “last dance.”
5. Kevin Durant
Full Seasons: 1/13
With the Thunder, you might as well call KD “Durable Durant.” Durant played 80 games his rookie season and added three more campaigns of at least 80 games played or more. Outside of 2014, where he played 27 games due to a Jones Fracture in his right foot, Durant played as many games as he could.
With the Warriors, he suffered an MCL sprain and a bone bruise in his first season that limited him to just above 60 games. Durant missed with fractured ribs his second season, but he did win two Finals MVPs.
His final season saw Durant miss nine games with a strained right calf. Durant came back for the Finals but suffered an Achilles injury that cost him the 2019-2020 season as well. Durant also missed time with thigh contusions and hamstring injuries, playing just 35 regular-season games.
4. Kyrie Irving
Full Seasons: 0/10
Even when Irving was playing in college, he was hurt. Irving played just 11 games in college due to a severe ligament injury in his right big toe. Irving was able to stay predominately healthy for his first four seasons in the league until a knee injury forced him to miss the rest of the 2015 NBA Finals.
Irving battled minor injuries with the Boston Celtics that forced him to miss time in the playoffs. Then, in his first season with the Nets, Irving missed 26 games with a right shoulder injury. Altogether, Irving has played over 70 games in a season just two times in his career.
If Irving could have stayed healthy, the Nets would likely be in the NBA Finals. Instead, the Bucks defeated the Nets in Game 7 in Brooklyn with no Irving, and a 50% James Harden. With contract years for the team’s big three, all eyes will be on the health of Irving.
3. Anthony Davis
Full Seasons: 0/9
In 2013-2014, Davis made his first All-Star appearance as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans but suffered a fracture in his hand that caused him to miss seven games. The following season, Davis had to pull out of the All-Star game due to a shoulder sprain.
His bad luck continued in the following season, a year that he signed a five-year max contract, where he suffered a left knee injury and torn labrum in his left shoulder that forced him to miss the rest of the season. In his final season with the Pelicans, Davis suffered a sprain to his left index finger that caused him to miss two weeks. After that year, Davis played one healthy season with the Lakers.
In his last season, Davis missed 30 games with calf and heel issues. Then, he strained his groin in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs. The Lakers clearly are not the same dominant team with Davis out of it. With LeBron turning another year older, the Lakers will need Davis to stay healthy if the team wants to make a run for another title.
2. Kawhi Leonard
Full Seasons: 0/10
Leonard has never played more than 74 games in a season. The 2017 playoffs are when Leonard’s injury woes began. In Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs, Leonard suffered an ankle injury against the Rockets. Then, in the Conference Finals, Leonard stepped up the foot of Zaza Pachulia and re-aggravated his injury. The Spurs were dusted away and the Warriors would go onto win the NBA Finals.
The following season led to Leonard just playing nine games in what was his final season with San Antonio. The right quad injury eventually led to conflict with the team and his eventual trade to the Raptors. Leonard stayed healthy with Toronto, but that was with the team monitoring his games. In his first season with the Clippers, Leonard played just 52 of 72 games and missed the Conference Finals in 2021 with a serious knee sprain.
Trusting Leonard has been a roll of the dice the last couple of years. The Clippers await the decision of what Leonard will do with his player’s option. If the team runs it back one more year, it will be critical that Leonard stays healthy if the Clippers want to make their first ever NBA Finals.
1. Joel Embiid
Full Seasons: 0/6
There is no other player more injury-prone than Joel Embiid. After going No. 3 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid missed the first two seasons of his career due to multiple surgeries on his foot. In his rookie season, Embiid had to miss All-Star weekend due to a torn meniscus in his left knee. He then missed playoff time due to an eye injury.
The 2018-2019 season saw Embiid miss 14 games after the All-Star break due to injuries and rest. Because of his past, the 76ers can’t use Embiid for a full season. He has only played over 60 games two times in his career. His maximum games for a season are 64. The last two seasons have seen Embiid play a combined 102 games.
Embiid missed one game in the first round and averaged just 23.8 minutes, which was a career-low. He rebounded with a career-high 37.4 minutes per game in the second round. If Embiid could find some consistency and stay healthy, maybe the 76ers could make the Conference Finals for the first time since 2001.