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Who Missed More Games In Their NBA Career: Anthony Davis Or Kawhi Leonard?

Who Missed More Games In NBA Career: Anthony Davis Or Kawhi Leonard?

Anthony Davis went down during the Lakers final game before the All-Star break against the Utah Jazz for what seems like the umpteenth injury since he arrived in Hollywood. This time, AD’s out for at least a month recuperating an ankle sprain, leaving Lakers fans a head-shaking, disenchanted mess, with two collective questions on their minds:

Does AD continue to get injured because of his lack of conditioning?

Is the Lakers 2021-22 season officially finished?

We can’t answer the latter question, although it seems clear the Lakers season has taken two left hooks to the jaw and is down on the mat, a bloody mess. We’ve seen men stagger up, butterflies circling overhead, only to regain their composure and win a tough fight. The Purple and Gold could venture into cheesy Hollywood sports movie territory and make some beautiful music in the playoffs. Anything is possible with a healthy and motivated LeBron James and Anthony Davis playing together in a seven-game series. Still, the Suns or Warriors are heavy favorites to come out of the West.

The first question about Anthony Davis’s constant injury woes is also tough to answer. AD is a 6-10, 253-pound forward/center who often blasts across the floor like a guard. Maybe his style of play has made him into an athlete more susceptible to body issues. Possibly it’s bad luck. Perhaps it is his conditioning.

The best way to judge AD is to break down his lengthy injury report and compare him to another superstar, Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard is no ironman either, and he also suits up in Los Angeles. Despite Kawhi’s checkered injury record, he seems to escape the same media scrutiny as Anthony Davis.

Below we’ll compare Anthony Davis’s injury history versus Kawhi Leonard’s and decide if AD’s injuries are his own fault.

Anthony Davis

Richard Jefferson Calls Out Anthony Davis: "The Reason Why I Call You A Top Five Talent And Not A Top Five Player Is Because Top Five Players Do It Every Single Night."

Regular Season: 176 games missed (777 total possible contests)

Postseason: 1 game missed (40 total possible contests)

Anthony Davis has missed roughly 23% of his regular season games throughout his ten-year career due to over 50 injuries, illnesses, or minor issues with his body.

Here’s a breakdown of his most serious injuries:

Stress Reaction: In 2012, during Anthony Davis’s rookie season, he suffered a stress reaction in his ankle and missed 11 games. He ended his first year in the league, suffering four injuries and playing in 64 out of 82 games.

Fractured Hand: In 2013, AD fractured his hand in a game against the Knicks, which cost him seven games.

Back Spasms: AD suffered back spasms at the end of the 2013-14 season, causing him to miss the final five games of the year, but with New Orleans nowhere close to making the playoffs, this might have been a precautionary move more than anything else.

Sprained Toe: Davis sprained his left toe at the beginning of 2015. He missed three games before returning to action.

Knee/Shoulder Injury: Anthony Davis sat out the final 14 games of the 2015-16 season with a shoulder injury he’d played with the entire season and a knee injury he suffered against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Pelicans had no shot at the playoffs, so New Orleans management shut him down, although he could have kept playing if something were at stake.

Strained Groin: During the 2017 season, AD strained his left groin and ended up missing three contests.

Finger Sprain: AD missed nine games during the 2018-19 season (his last in New Orleans) with a sprained finger.

Sacral Contusion: Davis’s first injury with the Lakers occurred in January 2020 when he fell hard on his tailbone. He missed five games before returning to action.

Calf/Achilles Injury: Anthony Davis missed half the season last year in Los Angeles, playing in 36 out of a possible 72 contests making this calf and Achilles injury the lengthiest sideline stint of his career. Lakers management was very cautious with their superstar big man after he helped the Purple and Gold win a title the year before, which is understandable considering an Achilles tear is probably the most devastating injury an athlete can suffer.

Groin Strain: Anthony Davis strained his groin during the 2021 playoffs, essentially ending the Lakers season even though he missed only one full game.

Sprained MCL: Anthony Davis missed four weeks earlier this season with a sprained MCL.

Mid-Foot Sprain: Anthony Davis sprained his foot after coming down on Rudy Gobert in the lane. He’s expected to be out until the end of March.

Kawhi Leonard

Kawhi Leonard

Regular Season: 265 games missed (841 total possible contests)

Postseason: 12 games missed (147 total possible contests)

Kawhi Leonard has missed 31.5% of his regular season games during his 11-year career.

Here’s a timeline of Kawhi’s significant injuries:

Knee Tendinitis: Kawhi Leonard suffered his first major injury during his second year in the league. He missed 18 games during the 2012-13 season with quadriceps tendinitis in his knee.

Metacarpal Fracture: Leonard missed 14 games during his third campaign due to a break in his fourth metacarpal.

Torn Ligament: In 2014, during Leonard’s fourth season, he tore a ligament in his right hand. He missed only 17 games but would need to get injections in his shooting hand throughout the season with lingering muscle issues that made his three-point percentage crater down to 34.9% for the year.

Sprained Ankle: During the 2017 playoffs, Kawhi Leonard sprained his ankle on a three-point shot when Warriors center, Zaza Pachulia, closed out hard on him. He missed the rest of the series as the Spurs bowed out in four games to Golden State.

Quadriceps Tendinopathy: Tendinopathy is a big way of saying Kawhi Leonard had an injury to his quad tendon. Leonard ended up missing all but nine games of the 2017-18 season with his quad issue as murmurs flew from the Spurs coaching staff and management team about Leonard being more cautious with his leg than necessary. In the end, Leonard demanded a trade and went to Canada, where he won a title the following season.

Load Management: Kawhi Leonard didn’t play in back-to-back games throughout the 2018-19 season due to load management, a strategy he took up because of lingering issues with his quad.

Knee Contusion: Leonard missed three games with a knee contusion at the start of 2019.

Load Management Round 2: Leonard came to the Clippers in 2019, and again he implemented a system in which he didn’t play in back-to-back games to protect his quadriceps tendon.

Bruised Leg: Kawhi sat out three games with a bruised leg.

Right Foot Soreness: Leonard missed nine games in 2021 with soreness in his right foot.

Partially Torn ACL: Leonard partially tore his ACL in last year’s playoffs. He missed the Clippers’ last eight postseason games, and he’s been sidelined the entire 2021-22 season as he recuperates.

Is The Anthony Davis Injury Criticism Fair?

AD has been blasted in the media recently for his injuries over the last two seasons. ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith fired the biggest shot a few days ago as he somberly looked down, mouth pouting, proclaiming to the world that he’s heard whispers (Smith doesn’t know if they’re true) that Davis might continually suffer through injuries because he’s not in good enough shape.


It’s hard to say a player who’s averaging 35.2 minutes per game while running 1.13 miles on defense (5th among all centers) nightly, contesting 11.1 shots per game (10th in the league), and dropping 23.1 PPG, is out of shape. No other big in the NBA outside of Giannis puts in the type of two-way effort AD does.

Let’s take a closer look at Davis’s last few injuries:

His most recent injury was a severe ankle turn. He jumped up for a defensive rebound, and his right foot nicked Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s shoe. Ummmm. What does landing on another player’s foot have to do with conditioning?

AD suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee earlier in the season when Minnesota Timberwolves wing Jalen McDaniels flopped into his leg after LeBron James lightly pushed him. Again, how can anyone say this type of accidental injury is due to a lack of conditioning?

In last year’s playoffs, AD strained his groin after landing hard on the floor after a missed layup. AD didn’t pull up short with a non-contact injury; Jae Crowder hit him above the rim, and he landed awkwardly on his leg.

During the 2020-21 regular season, Lakers management forced AD to sit out for 36 games with a combined Achilles and calf injury. Can you blame them? Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson had recently been sidelined for over a year after each player tore their Achilles because they had played extended playoff minutes without enough rest. Davis had just come off a championship, and he hadn’t had enough time off either because the NBA offered up the shortest offseason ever before AD’s leg issues.

Kawhi Leonard has missed nearly 110 more regular season and playoff games than Anthony Davis, but he mostly stays clean from blame. It seems like Leonard gets a pass simply because he led the Toronto Raptors to the title in 2018-19, averaging 30.5 PPG, 9.3 RPG, and 3.9 APG. Anthony Davis also helped his squad, the Lakers, win a championship, with a similar 27.7 PPG, 9.7 RPG, and 3.5 APG line.

Anthony Davis is a championship-level player, and he’s more durable than Kawhi Leonard: it isn’t even close.

It’s unfair to blame AD’s injury problems on his conditioning. He’s suffered broken bones, contusions, and sprains because of bad luck. Nothing more.


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