Injuries happen all the time in sports. Whether it’s as simple as a scratch or as bad as a torn ACL, athletes get used to pain. While the worst, most severe injuries are usually thought to happen in football and hockey, the NBA has had its fair share of devastating injuries over the years.
Throughout the year, a variety of players will be injured and forced to sit out a few games. These injuries aren't often thought of as being too gruesome, but, every so often, we see an injury that makes us look away. Keep in mind that unlike any other sport, NBAer’s aren’t wearing any protection at all. This usually leads to some nasty falls resulting in broke bones, sprains, and a lot of blood spilling onto the court. With so many games in such a short amount of time, many players are pressured to go back in as soon as possible, if not, their team may fall in the playoff hunt.
So with that in mind, here are the 15 Most Gruesome Injuries in NBA History.
* Warning: Some of these videos are quite graphic, so discretion is advised.
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14 Baron Davis’s Career Ending Knee Injury
Back when the Knicks weren’t the laughing stock of the league, Baron Davis was a key player on the team. In 2012, they managed to make it to play playoffs and faced the eventual champions Miami Heat.
In Game 4, the Knicks only win in the series, Baron Davis grabbed a rebound and marched up the court. He tried to take a shot, but as he extended his arms, his knee buckled and Davis went down. The injury didn’t look too bad at first, but replays showed his knee buckle inward as his foot stayed planted on the court.
Davis was cut by the team in the offseason and was still rehabbing as late as 2014. The injury was the end of his career, as he’s never played a second in the NBA again.
13 Andrew Bogut Eviscerates his Arm
In a 2010 game against the Suns, Bucks center Andrew Bogut went for a dunk in the second quarter. He landed awkwardly on his right arm--perhaps awkwardly isn’t the right word, maybe bone-crunchingly painfully is better.
Unlike the previous injury, everyone watching knew it was bad the moment they saw it. The announcers certainly knew, as they cried “oh no” several times; they were almost as pained as Bogut. In fact, Bogut could actually be heard on the telecast shouting in pain.
What the announcers believed was a broken wrist actually turned out to be a broken hand, dislocated elbow and sprained wrist. He missed the remainder of the season, but he would recover. In fact, the timing of the injury alleviated some of the pain, as it came right before the NBA lock-out. Bogut elected to play basketball in 2011 in his native Australia, where he was able to get back into the game and properly rehab the injury.
12 Jamal Crawford Sprains his Neck
In 2003, when Jamal Crawford was a member of the Bulls, he was guarding a Timberwolves player when he went up for the ball. He ended up landing on the back of the player, rolling down and landing with full force on his neck and the back of his head. His legs went over his head and he crumpled over on the ground in pain.
Again, this is one of those injuries where you don’t have to wait for a replay and where the arena went silent for a minute. Medics put a brace over his neck and he was taken out on a stretcher after lying down motionless for a few minutes.
Luckily, the injury looked worse than what it was. Crawford sprained his neck and he was out of the hospital the next day,
11 Marquis Daniels Collapses
Marquis Daniels was driving with the ball in 2011, when all of a sudden he just fell over. Barely touched by the defender, he fell and hit his head on the court so hard you could hear the thump over the broadcast. At first, no one knew what was going on, but as the medical staff began looking at him, it became clear that Daniels wasn’t moving and everyone realized how serious this was.
After five minutes of lying on the floor motionless, Daniels was carried out on a stretcher. It was later discovered that he had a bruised spinal cord and would miss 1-2 months. Given how severe the aftermath of the injury looked, Daniels should consider himself lucky it was only that.
10 Rudy Tomjanovich Gets his Face Broken
Unlike all the other entries on this list, this injury was no accident. On December 9th, 1977, the Lakers, led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, were playing against the Houston Rockets and Rudy Tomjanovich.
Kevin Kunnert got caught up with Abdul-Jabbar, who was holding on to him for seemingly no reason. Both teams slowly started to rush the court, as Jabbar wouldn’t let go. One of the people rushing the court was Tomjanovich, who ran straight into Kermit Washington. Washington, for whatever reason, decided the best course of action was to punch Tomjanovich square in the face.
The result was ugly. Tomjanovich was hit and in the recoil of the blast, slipped and fell, landing head first on the court. This stopped the fight before it happened, as players gathered around the fallen player to see if he was okay. Blood was gushing from Rudy’s nose and the towel used to stop it turned crimson red in an instant.
Tomjanovich would recover, but his NBA career never got back on track, as he retired a few years later. He'd have more success as a coach, leading the Rockets to two NBA titles.
9 Shaun Livingston Breaks his Knee
Back when the Clippers were terrible and the Hornets were still the Bobcats (the Charlotte Hornets, not to be confused with New Orleans, who are now the Hornets, got it?), Shaun Livingston was having a decent season.
Playing for the Clippers, Livingston went up for a dunk against Gerald Green in a fairly standard "posterized" kind of play. However, Livingston came down doing a split and his left knee buckled and snapped in the absolute wrong direction. If you listen closely, you can hear him screaming in agony.
The injury should have ended his career. He tore his anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate, suffered collateral ligaments, and dislocated his kneecap. It almost did. He only played 12 games over the next two seasons and bounced around the league for years, playing for a total of nine teams. However, Livingston was able to help Golden State win the championship this year, proving that with hard work and determination, you don’t have to give up your dreams, and other such clichés.
8 Joel Przybilla Ruptures Patella
Former NBA player Joel Przybilla ruptured his Patella tendon in a 2009 against the Mavericks. The Trail Blazers center came down from a rebound and landed on his knee awkwardly, highlighting how easily someone can severely injure themselves.
The camera didn’t get a good view of the injury itself, but it did pick up the aftermath, as Pryzbilla bounced on the floor and quickly grabbed his knee. He missed the rest of the season, leaving the Blazers without a healthy center. While never a great player, he never was able to get back to his former ability and was out of the league in a few years.
7 Glen Davis Gets a Concussion
With a nickname like “Big Baby,” you would think he’s prone to flopping whenever an opposing player touches him. That’s exactly what the referees thought in a 2010 playoff game when Davis landed on the floor and stayed there. They continued play as Davis writhed on the floor and then tried to stumble back into the game.
Eventually, the refs called a timeout and replays revealed that Davis wasn’t flopping this time.
Davis went up for a rebound, but collided with several players and landed on his head. He stumbled up after several seconds and drunkenly wobbled around the court like a chicken with its head cut off. He fell into the arms of a ref and was quickly surrounded by teammates before falling back on the floor.
This one's more gruesome because of the aftermath than the injury itself. Watching someone with a concussion wobble around like that is very unsettling.
7. T.J. Ford Lands on his Back
T.J. Ford demonstrated in 2012 how easily a promising NBA career can come to a nasty end.
In a game against the Knicks, Baron Davis was defending Ford when he knocked the Spurs player to the ground. Davis knew instantly something was wrong when Ford didn’t get up and briefly checked on him before continuing play. Ford was sitting there for some time before play was stopped. He was breathing heavily and didn’t look like he could get up.
Ford was on the ground for minutes as medical examiners talked to him. No one was attempting to move him at all, including Ford himself. Eventually they flipped him over and walked him out, when Ford courageously refused a wheelchair and the game continued for everyone but him.
The injury ended up being little more than a stinger, but it was enough of a scare to make Ford retire the following Monday.
6 Steve Nash’s Bloody Lip
A game from 2010 between the Suns and the Pacers demonstrates just how violent some NBA games can get. Steve Nash was defending the rim from the driving Earl Watson when Watson inadvertently elbowed Nash in the face.
Nash went flying back like he’d been punched by Superman. When he got up, the camera zoomed in on his face to reveal a site Batman’s Joker would think was gory. Nash was bleeding heavily from his nose and smiling, laughing while talking to another player. His mouth was full of blood and his face was covered in red.
The injury wasn’t significant, but just the site of creepy Steve Nash is enough to leave nightmares.
5 Paul George Breaks a Leg
In a scrimmage practice game for Team USA in 2014, Paul George went up to block James Harden’s lay-up. He ended up getting hit and slammed into the basketball net’s pole. He hit it like a sack of potatoes and landed with a thud. This being a practice game, play immediately stopped as everyone rushed to see if he was okay.
George wasn’t okay. Replays show George’s ankle bending at a 90 degree angle, snapping clean in half.
George would miss most of the following season, but somehow managed to come back from a broken leg. He had a hard time finding his groove, but can you blame him after that?
4 Greg Oden’s Knee
Greg Oden is synonymous with the term “bust” in modern sports, but unlike a Ryan Leaf or Vince Young, it’s not his fault. Oden’s brief NBA career has been tarnished by injuries, most notably coming early in his second season.
In December of 2009, a teammate bumped into Oden, sending him falling to the ground. It turned out that the fall broke Oden’s kneecap. That’s all it took.
The already injury prone player would miss the rest of the season and subsequently all of the following season due to an unspecified “set back”. Oden went through a myriad of surgeries over the years and didn’t play again until the 2013-2014 season with the Miami Heat, after which he was cut and hasn’t played since.
3 Joe Johnson’s Orbital Break
In 2005, while playing for the Suns, Joe Johnson went up for a dunk against the Mavericks. It didn’t end up being the poster moment he was hoping for, as he landed face first on the hardwood. His head recoiled from the blast and as a final insult the ball hit him in the head.
Shockingly, Johnson was able to get up and walk away without help. He ended up with a broken orbital bone, i.e. his eye socket, and you can see from the deformity to the eye. It was an ugly fall and he should consider himself lucky it wasn’t worse.
2 Andrew Bynum’s Career Ending Injury
Andrew Bynum was once a rising star. He was never able to remove the “rising” from that title because, by all accounts, he didn’t work hard enough, but he had a lot of potential. Potential that would never be realized due to injury.
In 2009, Bynum went down in a game against the Grizzlies and took a teammate with him. Again, the injury itself is hard to make out, but the aftermath is as grizzly as ever. I can only apologize to everyone for that joke.
Bynum was grabbing his knee in pain, screaming in agony. He would miss the next 32 games of that season and re-injured the knee the following year, which would make him miss the start of the next season.
He ended up developing arthritis due to the injury, which would result in surgery at the start of the 2012-2013 season that would keep him out the whole year. He was never the same after that surgery, becoming a journeyman for the 76ers, Cavs and Pacers.
This is one of those injuries that’s gruesome both because of how it looks on the court, the immediate reaction and the long-term effects over the player’s career.
1 Derrick Rose’s Many Injuries
What would become the first of several season-ending injuries, Derrick Rose went for a lay-up in a playoff game against the 76ers, when in mid-air his legs went for a little dance.
Rose landed in an ugly way and stumbled around for a bit as if he were still trying to play. He tore his left ACL that day and ended up missing the entire following season.
In his 2013 return, he only played ten games before another major injury. The Bulls were facing the Blazers when Rose cut for the ball, planting his leg and bending his ankle awkwardly. The bend tore his right meniscus and he would miss the rest of the season after electing to receive surgery.
Unsurprisingly, both legs would give him problems in the following years, arguably ruining a potential Michael Jordan-like career. Rose is still a really good player, but he’s not as great as he once was.
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