Stephen Curry and the NBA's 5 Most Frequently Injured Players

Zach BuckleyNational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 20, 2012

Stephen Curry and the NBA's 5 Most Frequently Injured Players

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    How does an NBA player earn the label "injury-prone?"

    Is there a game limit listed in the AP Stylebook? Do media members vote each season on when to change their injury qualifiers from "unfortunate" or even "fluky" to "chronic?" Is there a consensus meaning around the NBA, or does the label differ from one person to another?

    For the players on this list, some clearly have earned their "injury-prone" labels. Their careers have shown that their annual trips to the training room are as certain as a superstar dominating trade deadline rumors or the NBA Slam Dunk Contest drawing ire every All-Star Break.

    For others, though, the jury may still be out. Time is on their side even if their bodies have not been to this point.

    Whether or not these players have actually contributed to their labels is, at the least, debatable. What is not up for debate, however, is the fact that these players cannot help their teams in street clothes on the sidelines.

5. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors

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    A quick glance at Curry's career line would suggest that the sharp-shooting point guard does not deserve the label.

    Prior to this season, the 24-year-old had missed a total of just 10 games in his first two NBA seasons. But in the "what have you done for me lately" terms of today's media, Curry may as well have missed all but 10 games in his two-plus years.

    It seems unfair to thrust the "chronic injury" label on Curry already, but with at least seven ankle sprains and surgery in a 16-month period, it's almost unfair not to.

    The scariest part of Curry's injury history is its Groundhog Day nature. He's not a player who suffers this nagging injury, then that nagging injury. It's the same ankle, the same ugly twists and turns of said ankle, and the same result.

    When team executives talk openly about shutting down their star player (yes, even if that team might be in tank mode trying to salvage a protected draft pick) with one-third of the schedule left to play, that speaks volumes about just how chronic that injury is.

4. Michael Redd, Phoenix Suns

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    Forget Linsanity, Tebow-mania or any other one-word sports story that has emerged in the last 12 months.

    For NBA fans, the resurrection of Redd's career ("Reddsurrection," anyone?) has been the sports story of the year.

    After appearing in less than 72 games in just two seasons over a season-year stretch, the former Bucks career nearly derailed after tearing ligaments in his left knee in January 2009. When Redd again suffered ligament tears in the same knee in 2010, many wondered what his career had left, if anything.

    The one-time All-Star and All-NBA selection appeared in just 61 games over three seasons before his once-prolific career in Milwaukee came to an unceremonious end last season.

    Redd followed the formerly-known-as-chronically injured Grant Hill to the miraculous healing waters of Phoenix and has since appeared in 30 of the Suns' 36 games since debuting on Jan. 12.

    The fact that Redd was able to return after consecutive crippling injuries is remarkable. The fact that he's actually produced since returning to the floor—including Sunday's season-high 25 points in 18 minutes—cries for an ESPN Films production.

    Given his injury history, time will tell how long his body holds up. But basketball fans should enjoy the ride as long as they can, because Linsanity and Tebow-mania showed everyone how quickly heartwarming stories can slip off the back page.

3. Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors

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    Curry's teammate in title alone (neither have appeared in a game since Bogut was acquired from the Bucks in the March 14 trade), Bogut's injury history somehow leaves cause for trepidation and optimism all at the same time.

    Some (including Bogut himself) say that his injuries fall under the unfortunate injury category. Breaking an elbow off a made dunk and fracturing an ankle from landing on another player's foot does seem to lean toward the unlucky side.

    But those also do not address the 46 games he missed in three seasons that were not attributed to either of the above injuries.

    And Warriors fans know better than anyone that ankle injuries can have a tendency to linger (see: Slide 1).

    It'd be nice to give Bogut the benefit of the doubt and predict a healthy 2012-13 campaign. Then again, it'd be nice for the centerpiece of a deal in which you gave up your best player for to arrive healthy and productive.

2. Jermaine O'Neal, Boston Celtics

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    O'Neal's injury history is long and painful to read. Now shelved for the season and in need of surgery on his ailing left wrist, speculation has begun that his career may be over.

    After a rather forgetful beginning to his career, O'Neal rallied off five consecutive seasons of 70-plus games, which coincided with the beginning of his six consecutive All-Star appearances.

    After his 70-plus game streak ended, though, he managed these numbers: 38, 31, 13, 40, 14, 12, 58.

    That would be games played—206 to be exact. From 2004-05 through 2010-11, O'Neal missed 206 games, an average of nearly 30 games per season.

    At his peak, O'Neal was an All-Star mainstay with a six-year run of no fewer than 19.0 points and 8.8 rebounds. His career numbers (13.7 points and 7.4 rebounds) speak volumes about his consistency since his career began with that forgettable stretch in Portland (four seasons with never more than 4.5 points or 3.4 rebounds).

    O'Neal is set to turn 34 this year, and with his injury history, that retirement talk may be more than speculation sooner than later.

1. Greg Oden, (Most Recently) Portland Trail Blazers

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    Whether or not Oden's free-agent status should remove him from this list is certainly a credible argument, but considering that Oden was on an NBA roster (making nearly $9 million, no less) this season and has become synonymous with chronic injuries, he still seems like a natural fit to round out this list.

    Oden is so many things to so many people.

    He's the 24-year-old with the 64-year-old face and the 84-year-old knees.

    He's the 2007 NBA Draft's top pick (ahead of All-Everything Kevin Durant, among others) despite a less-than-stellar collegiate campaign (15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds in his lone year at Ohio State) that included some injury baggage.

    He's been a victim of circumstances. Oden entered the league anointed as the franchise savior in Portland, with stories already comparing Oden over Durant to Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Oden played all 82 of his career games (that would be 82 games over four seasons, for those scoring at home) in the NBA's slowest-paced system. His relatively impressive numbers (12.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks in 23.0 minutes) have been relatively ignored because he hasn't stayed on the court long enough for anyone to remember them.

    He's perhaps the unluckiest member of the incredibly fortunate fraternity known as NBA players. His knees have been decimated and attempted to be restored with three microfracture surgeries (twice on his left knee, once on his right).

    And with the NBA's lack of productive big men, Oden just may be your favorite team's biggest offseason addition (and gamble—the understatement of the century).