What Could’ve Been: NBA Careers Dimmed By Injuries

Her name’s Amy and she’s just one year old. But yet the NBA’s Empire State Building says if he ever comes back, ever overcomes the foot/ankle problems that have crumbled his foundation, it’ll be his tiny daughter that’ll be the reason. Yao Ming wants his baby girl to see him play. He wants her to see more than YouTube videos and more of him in the flesh, playing like he did from 2003-09. She’s his motivation, his Shooter.

But Yao is stuck in rehab purgatory. You can’t will yourself through ligament tears and cartilage destruction. It comes down to something greater. Only thing you can do is work at it. It’s doubtful the big man ever becomes what he once was. He’s not alone. There were plenty of Yao Mings in this era, guys who failed to reach their potential or just straight never had careers because of injuries.

Bill Walton. Sam Bowie. Danny Manning. Doctor visits have failed a great many. Here are some from this era who were the most heart-breaking.

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Shaun Livingston
Livingston was too talented for his own good, and in one twisted, ugly landing, his body failed him. He’s back playing now, but looks more like Mickey Rourke in the ’90s. It’s just not the same.

Dajuan Wagner
One More Road To Cross. One More Risk To Take. Wagner was the bastard child of Allen Iverson, a little less exciting, a little less athletic, but a little bigger with a slightly larger prodigy rep. As a teen, he was Miley Cyrus. As a B.M.O.C., the sun of his celebrity settled, but it was still high enough to justify having fans. As a rookie, he averaged 13.4 points and while he struggled to draw fouls at a rate that would offset his putrid shooting percentages (37% from the field), Wagner was a scorer. He would’ve got buckets no matter what.

Wagner eventually fell victim to ulcerative colitis, something that wasn’t treatable with medication. It digested enough of his promise and youth that he eventually never really made it back.

Grant Hill/Penny/Larry Johnson/Tracy McGrady
I’ve always looked at these as the Junior Griffeys of the NBA. Maybe that’s because they came up around the same time that Junior was changing the game of baseball. But more than likely, it’s because much like Griffey, all three had bouts with injury problems that eventually wore them down.