The 2014-15 NBA season has been marred so far by injury with star players including Kobe, Durant, LeBron, Bosh, Wade and George all missing significant time. These injuries have cleared a path for more wide open playoff and MVP races, but their absence also hurts the league as one of the best pleasures is to watch these players go against each other. This past week Bulls fans heard the all-too-familiar news that hometown hero Derrick Rose would have to undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus, the same meniscus that he had repaired just a year ago. Rose's once promising career has been derailed by injuries in recent years as he looks like he may be joining a select group of players whose bodies never allowed them to have the careers they should have.
Advances in treatment and surgery have made injuries like a torn ACL or meniscus much easier to come back from in recent years, and improvements to player's training regiments and diets have led to much fitter athletes in the league today. Teams are also starting to rest their players as much as they can as the toll of the 82-game season and playoffs can leave players drained come finals. Many of the players on this list were touted as the next-someone, the next-MJ, the next-Kareem, but as we know it takes more than talent and work ethic to become those players, you need some luck. The following list includes players who have had great careers that could have been even better and players who careers didn't really get off the ground because of injury.
10 Elton Brand
Elton Brand has settled into his role as a solid veteran in the lockeroom so well in recent years with Hawks and Mavs that it may be difficult to remember he was one of the best power forwards in the NBA. A number one overall selection by the Bulls, he spent most his early career, being named Rookie of the Year in 2000-01 after averaging 20 PPG and 10 RPG. Brand's athleticism and wing-span allowed him to become one of the best shot blockers and defenders in the league.
9 Greg Oden
It may seem difficult to rationalize now in your mind but Greg Oden was taken first overall in 2007, ahead of last year's MVP Kevin Durant. Despite a checkered injury history even before his one year at Ohio State, the Blazers fell for Oden's rare combination of size and skill and decided prospects of nature are too rare to pass on. They were right, but unfortunately for every Hakeem and Kareem there is a cautionary tale of Sam Bowie or Bill Walton.
8 Brandon Roy
Happily for Blazers fans they have a solid contending team led by star players Aldridge and Lillard which helps the soothe the sting of the injury curse on their best players early in their careers as evidenced throughout this list. Roy was developing into one of the best players in the league, and one of the preeminent shooting guards to carry the torch on from Kobe. Roy came out of college with knee injuries but made it through the early years of his career looking explosive and healthy winning Rookie of the Year in 2006-07.
7 Amare Stoudemire
While Amare Stoudemire has still had a very good career its one that could have been much more if not for an onslaught of injuries. Early in his career Amare was an athletic phenom the likes of Shawn Kemp or Charles Barkley. Amare paired with Nash in Phoenix for one the best teams to never to win a title, and made multiple all star games and all-NBA teams. The Nash and Amare pick and roll was close to unguardable and a play that teams have been trying to replicate since.
6 Tracy McGrady
Few stars as good as Tracy McGrady fade as abruptly as he has. After starting his career off with the Raptors, McGrady took a leap in his first season with the Orlando Magic in 2000, averaging 26.8 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4.6 assists per game and quickly became one the league's most dominant, talented players. After years of playoff disappointment in Orlando, the Magic traded McGrady to the Houston Rockets in 2004 where he would go on to team up with fellow injury-riddled superstar, Yao Ming.
5 Grant Hill
Grant Hill was marketed as an heir apparent to Magic Johnson. After an impressive collegiate career Hill took the NBA by storm winning rookie of the year and becoming a walking triple-double. While playing for the Pistons in 1996-97, Hill averaged 21.4 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 7.3 APG. He was named first-team All-NBA for the first and only time in his career that season. He was a rising superstar when he was moved to Orlando but the time his injury issues changed the franchise and Hill's legacy.
4 Yao Ming
3 Penny Hardaway
Shaq's running mate before Kobe was a 6-foot-7 guard that drew Magic Johnson comparisons in his early years due his play-making ability and size, but was separated by his athleticism that rivaled players like Kobe and Wade. Penny Hardaway averaged 20.9 PPG, 7.2 APG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.7 SPG in 1995, teaming with Shaq and heading to the NBA finals where they would lose to the Houston Rockets.
The combination of Shaq and Penny seemed destined for a long run as a perennial power for Orlando but Shaq left the Magic to join the Lakers in 1997 and left Penny as the lone star on the team. Penny suffered a knee injury during the 1997-98 season that forced him to miss most of the season. After teaming up with Jason Kidd in Phoenix, Penny continued to be hampered by knee injuries the rest of his career but settled into his role as a veteran mentor for the young talent on the Phoenix Suns before playing his last few years in New York and Miami. Losing his athleticism early in his career held him back for reaching his potential during his peak years. There's no doubt that he would have been a Hall of Famer had he been able to stay healthy.
2 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose was selected first overall in the 2010 draft by his hometown Chicago Bulls, the city where he had won numerous high school championships, becoming a local legend. Rose's explosion and athleticism were evident from day one of his career and he became the youngest player ever to win MVP in 2011. Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs against Philadelphia and missed the entire 2012-13 season.
After struggling to return to his pre-injury form, Rose once again injured his knee, tearing his meniscus during the 2013-14 season and opting to repair it instead of remove, which forced him to miss the rest of the season. Rose's recent torn meniscus will sideline him for 4-6 weeks as the surgery was less intensive than originally considered.
1 Bill Walton
Many NBA fans may know Bill Walton as the best NBA commentator of all time and the father of Luke Walton, but Bill was also one of the league's best big men during his career. Walton was one of the nation's best collegiate players at UCLA under legendary coach John Wooden and was selected No. 1 overall by the Blazers in 1974. Walton came into the NBA as a rebounding machine who eventually led the team to a title in 1977 and also won the MVP that season.
Walton's career started off rocky with his first two seasons being hobbled by injuries to his feet and nose. Walton managed to return to form and win an NBA championship with the Blazers in 1977, taking home NBA Finals MVP. Walton won MVP the following season but suffered his first of many serious foot injuries and never regained form throughout his career. Walton has the record for most games missed during an NBA career. He ended up picking up another NBA title and the Sixth Man of the Year in 1986 with the Celtics. Walton was elected to the Hall of Fame despite his short NBA tenure but could have been one of the more dominant players of his generation.
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