Anyone that is watching the NBA Playoffs knows a team can have their championship dreams squashed by one injury. The darling of the NBA, Stephen Curry, almost was one of those casualties when he injured his right ankle in Game 1 of the NBA playoffs against the Houston Rockets. After missing the series, he came back for the Western Conference Semi-Finals, and helped the Golden State Warriors defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.
Hypothetically, if Curry missed the playoffs because of the injury, the Warriors chances of winning the championship would have drastically decreased. Two examples that actually did derail a team from the playoffs this season are the Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul and Black Griffin. Both players left Game 4 of the first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers because of injuries. Paul fractured his right hand and Griffen aggravated his quadriceps. The Clippers would lose the series.
As fans, we all have seen our favorite players go down with an injury. It hurts even more during an intense playoff series. We cry, get angry, and then use it as an excuse to why our team lost. Many of the players on here are legends in their own right, however, some are role players that still played an important part in their team’s success. Get ready to read some history and we do apologize if we cause any symptoms of depression when you come across your favorite team or player.
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15 Kendrick Perkins
Playoff Series: 2010 NBA Finals vs Los Angeles Lakers
Injury: Knee in Game 6
He was neither the first option nor the second and definitely not the third, but Perkins had a purpose on the 2009-10 Boston Celtics. His role as the center was just as important as any other, especially when going up against the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. Both teams matched up so well, it would have to take a major injury to tip the tide in one teams favor. The Celtics had a 3-2 lead over the Lakers but couldn’t seal the victory when Perkins tore two ligaments in his knee in the early stages of Game 6. He wouldn’t return for the series and the Lakers would go on to win the championship.
14 Byron Scott
Playoff Series: 1989 NBA Finals vs Detroit Pistons
Injury: Pulled hamstring in practice
Byron Scott may not have been the greatest point guard ever, but he was good enough to be a valuable part of the Los Angeles Lakers championship teams. During the 1988-89 season, they would finish 57-25 and hold the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. They easily destroyed the competition, sweeping each series. Once they got to the finals, they were the favorites to win. How could they not be? They had Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabber. During a practice before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Scott would pull a hamstring and be forced out of the series. It would hurt the team tremendously, and another injury on this list (our #1), would ultimately decide the fate in the finals.
13 Kevin Love
Playoff Series: 2015 Eastern Conference first round vs. Boston Celtics
Injury: Dislocated Shoulder in Game 4
When LeBron James came back to the Cleveland Cavaliers after winning two championships with the Miami Heat, everyone penciled them in as heavy favorites to win the NBA Finals. Their shot at winning increased when they traded for all-star power forward Kevin Love. With James, Love, and point guard Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers went 53-29 and secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. They would face the Boston Celtics in the first-round and easily won the series in four games, but the team would pay a price. In Game 4, Love would dislocate his shoulder and it knocked him out of the playoffs. The Cavaliers would reach the NBA Finals, but would lose in six games to the Golden State Warriors. Who knows what the series would have been like, especially if the Cavaliers were at full strength.
12 Yao Ming
Playoff Series: 2009 Western Conference Semi-Finals vs Los Angeles Lakers
Injury: Fractured foot in Game 3
The 2008-09 Houston Rockets had a great season by finishing 53-29 and becoming a contender in the playoffs. They were led by Yao Ming and his 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. They would beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the first-round of the playoffs in six games. Their championship dreams came crashing down when the big fella broke his foot in Game 3 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. With Ming out of the playoffs, the Rockets still put on one of the grittiest performances in the playoffs, but lost in seven games. The injury was so brutal, Ming would only play in five more games before retiring.
11 Patrick Ewing
Playoff Series: 1999 Eastern Conference Finals vs Indiana Pacers
Injury: Torn Achilles in Game 1
Due to a lockout during the 1998-99 season, basketball didn’t start until February. The Knicks finished 27-23 and squeaked into the playoffs as the No. 8 seed. They would then go on a memorable run, knocking out the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, and Indiana Pacers. It was during warm-ups against the Indiana Pacers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals when Ewing popped his Achilles. Ewing would play in the game nevertheless and no one knew the extent of the injury until after the contest. Ewing’s season was declared over, but the Knicks would win the series. They would face David Robinson and Tim Duncan of the Spurs, but were easily man-handled and lost the NBA Finals in five games.
10 Russell Westbrook
Playoff Series: 2013 Western Conference first round vs. Houston Rockets
Injury: Torn meniscus in Game 2
Ruseelll Westbrook is known for his explosive style, so it isn’t all that surprising that he would blow out his knee at some point in his career. What was surprising was the timing of his injury. After he and Kevin Durant lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 60-win season and the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, Westbrook would tear his meniscus in Game 2 of the first-round of the playoffs against the Houston Rockets. The Thunder would win the series, but lost in five games to the Memphis Grizzles in the next round.
9 Dirk Nowitzki
Playoff Series: 2003 Western Conference Finals vs San Antonio
Injury: Knee in Game 3
Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks were on fire during the 2002-03 season with a record of 60-22 and earned a No. 2 seed in the playoffs. They set a franchise best for most wins at the time and Nowitzki finished with 25 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game on the season. He was an animal during the playoffs averaging similar numbers from his season’s stats. Tied 1-1 against the San Antonio Spurs, Nowitzki would sprain his knee in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, knocking him out of the playoff picture. The Spurs would win in six games and go on to become champions.
8 Derrick Rose
Playoff Series: 2012 Eastern Conference first round vs Philedelphia 76ers
Injury: Torn ACL in Game 1
He became the youngest player to ever win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011 but an assortment of injuries ruined his 2012 campaign. Rose would participate in 39 games that year, but the Bulls went onto secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 50-16 (lock-out year). They had a huge advantage over the No. 8 seed, the Philadelphia 76ers, and were a favorite to go deep into the playoffs. With less than two minutes to play in Game 1 in the first-round, the Bulls had a commanding lead, however, their championship aspirations would come to a halt when Rose tore his ACL driving to the hoop. The 76ers went onto win in six games and many questioned why Rose was still in the game at that time.
7 John Havlicek
Playoff Series: 1973 Eastern Conference Finals vs New York Knicks
Injury: Torn right trapezius muscle in Game 3
He often gets overshadowed by Boston Celtics greats like Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Bob Cousy, and Paul Pierce, but let us not forget Havlicek’s storied career. He averaged the most points (nearly 24 points) on the 1972-73 Boston Celtics and along with Dave Cowens (the MVP), helped the Celtics to a 68-win season, the best in franchise history. They earned the No. 1 seed and were seen as the favorites in the playoffs. During Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Havlicek ran into the Knicks’ Dave DeBusschere and severally injured his shoulder. He would miss Game 4 (a loss), but returned in a limited capacity for the rest for the series. The Celtics would lose in seven games and the Knicks would go on to become NBA champions.
6 Chris Webber
Playoff Series: 2003 Western Conference Semi-Finals vs. Dallas Mavericks
Injury: Torn ACL in Game 2
The No. 1 pick in the 1993 NBA draft was the glue that held the Sacramento Kings together. Sure, you had Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, and Vlade Divac, but C-Webb was their leader in scoring and rebounds. In 2002-03, he averaged a 23 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, leading the Kings to a record of 59-23. The Kings were beating the Mavericks 1-0 in the Western Conference Semi-Finals when Webber would sustain an ACL injury in the second game. His season was declared over and the Kings would lose to the Mavericks in seven games.
5 Kyrie Irving
Playoff Series: 2015 NBA Finals vs. Golden State Warriors
Injury: Patella fracture in Game 1
As we noted with Kevin Love, the Cavaliers were considered heavy favorites to win the 2015 NBA Finals when their prodigal son, LeBron James, returned in the off-season. They finished the season 53-29 and earned the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference. After losing Love in the first-round, the Cavaliers would continue their success until the NBA Finals. It was during overtime in Game 1 when Irving would fracture his kneecap dribbling the ball. As the second scoring option on the Cavaliers, it absolutely wrecked their chances of winning a championship against the Golden State Warriors.
4 Bill Walton
Playoff Series: 1978 Western Conference Semi-Finals vs Seattle Sonics
Injury: Broken foot in Game 2
A year after winning the NBA’s Finals MVP award, Walton would be hampered by injuries but still put up 20.5 points, 14.3 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game in the 1977-78 season. It was good enough to win the MVOP award and the Portland Trail Blazers finished with the best record in the league, 58-24. Walton and the Trail Blazers (sounds like a 70s band name) would lose to the Seattle Sonics in the Western Conference Semi-Finals in six games. Walton, who was plagued by the injuries all season, broke his foot in Game 2 and was shut down for the rest of the series. Walton would go on to file a malpractice suit against the team, citing he was unsatisfied with the quality of medical care he was receiving.
3 Elgin Baylor
Playoff Series: 1965 Western Division Finals vs Baltimore Bullets
Injury: Knee in Game 1
Baylor averaged 27.1 points and 12.8 rebounds per game for the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1964-65 season. Along with NBA legend, Jerry West, the two would propel the Lakers to a record of 49-31 and a No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. He would suffer a horrific knee injury against the Baltimore Bullets in Game 1 of the Western Division (Conference) Finals. The injury forced him out of the playoffs. The Lakers would win on the dominant performance of West’s 46 points per game in the series, but the team couldn’t match up with the talented Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals. Baylor would never come close to averaging 30 points again.
2 Bill Russell
Playoff Series: 1958 NBA Finals vs St. Louis Hawks
Injury: Ankle sprain in Game 3
He has more rings than anyone in the history of the sport, winning 11 titles for the Boston Celtics. What's even crazier is he could have had one more championship added to his collection during the 1957-58 season. It was a rematch of the 1957 finals between the St. Louis Hawks and Boston Celtics. The series was tied 1-1 when Russell rolled on his ankle in Game 3. He would miss the next two games and when he did come back, he wasn’t the same player. The Hawks would win the NBA Finals in six games and it would be their only championship to date.
1 Earvin "Magic" Johnson
Playoff Series: 1989 NBA Finals vs Detroit Pistons
Injury: Pulled hamstring in Game 2
Magic absolutely stole the show when he helped the Los Angeles Lakers win the 1987 and ’88 NBA Finals. The Hall of Famer was primed for another title run in the 1988-89 season, averaging 22.5 points, 12.8 assists, and 7.9 rebounds that year. As noted with Byron Scott, the Lakers didn’t lose a single game during their run to the NBA Finals, but injuries would kill their dreams of a three-peat. After the loss of Scott before Game 1, Magic would pull his hamstring in Game 2 which ended his season. Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons would sweep the Lakers and capture their first NBA title.
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