Terrible Timing: The Worst Playoff Injuries Ever

Zack PumerantzAnalyst IIIMay 7, 2012

Terrible Timing: The Worst Playoff Injuries Ever

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    As detrimental as they can be to a team, injuries in sports are most heartbreaking when they occur during a title run.

    With clubs scripting lineups, managing egos and studying game film, they don't quite need a superstar injury to worry about as well. But life is always a roller coaster.

    Derrick Rose's torn ACL is the most recent in an unfortunate collection of playoff injuries that have both tarnished optimism and altered psyches.

    It's about time we check out the worst playoff injuries ever, those that we believe prevented the team from achieving desired promise. Or rather, a championship.

    These guys will break clavicles for that shiny hardware.

15. David Krejci's Dislocated Wrist

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    After beating the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2010 playoffs, the Bruins were hungry for some Flyers (a delicacy in the Swagger section).

    With a 2-0 series lead heading into Philly, momentum seemed firmly in place.

    But the Bruins would lose their second-leading scorer David Krejci to a dislocated wrist following an awkward hit by Mike Richards. The Bruins still won the game, taking an overwhelming 3-0 lead.

    Without Krejci, however, Boston would relinquish momentum and lose the series. 

14. Scott May's Broken Left Arm

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    When the undefeated, Bob Knight-led Hoosiers swept the entire Big Ten by an average of 22.8 points per game during the 1974-75 season, it was clear that Scott May and his prolific crew couldn't be stopped.

    But May would break his left arm during the team's 83-82 victory over Purdue and really destroy his team's optimism.

    The No. 1 Indiana squad would lose its first game to the Kentucky Wildcats 92-90 in the Mideast Regional, in heartbreaking fashion at the '75 NCAA tournament.

13. Dominik Hasek's MCL Sprain

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    After leading the league in save percentage (.930) and winning both the Vezina and the Hart Trophies, goalie extraordinaire Dominik Hasek seemed ready for a stellar postseason...until he sprained his right MCL in the first round of the 1997 NHL playoffs.

    Some speculated a quitting approach in the series versus Ottawa because of his feud with coach Ted Nolan, but either way, Hasek's condition would allow Steve Shields a chance in goal.

    Shields would go on to propel the Sabres to a five-game loss in the second round.

12. Kenyon Martin's Broken Leg

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    Averaging 18.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game, consensus National Player of the Year Kenyon Martin had it all during his senior season at Cincinnati...

    Until a broken leg in the Conference USA tournament prevented him from playing in the 2000 NCAA tournament.

    Oh yeah, and potentially cost his Bearcats the tournament championship, the No. 1 ranking, a No. 1 seed and a national championship.

    At least the Nets took him No. 1 overall the following draft. Fairytale ending.

11. LaDainian Tomlinson's Bruised Knee

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    After becoming the fourth-fastest player to reach 10,000 rushing yards in NFL history and winning his second consecutive rushing title, L.T. seemed ready for a memorable postseason in 2008.

    But despite bruising his left knee and missing the second half of the Chargers' divisional playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts, Tomlinson was determined to battle the playoff-losing trend that his team began experiencing following successful regular seasons.

    Two carries for five yards in the AFC title game would help Tomlinson and his team lose to the Patriots 21-12.

10. Yao Ming's Hairline Fracture

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    After advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since '97, Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets felt confident that 2009 would be their year.

    But a hairline fracture in the center's left foot during Game 3 against the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals would keep the massive center out for the rest of the playoffs.

    A deteriorated Rockets squad would take the Lakers to seven games before crumbling out of the playoffs.

9. Major Harris' Separated Shoulder

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    After finishing in the top five in the Heisman Trophy race in 1989 and earning ECAC Player of the Year honors, West Virginia signal-caller Major Harris was ready to shock the world in the Mountaineers' first ever national championship game against the heavily-favored Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

    And let's not forget that Harris had just led West Virginia to the school’s first ever undefeated regular season.

    But a hit on the third play of the game would separate this phenom's shoulder. And while it didn't keep him out of the game, his arm was significantly hindered.

    Notre Dame would win 34-21.

8. Bob Lanier's Torn Knee

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    A three-time Converse All-America selection, Bob Lanier led St. Bonaventure to the NCAA Final Four in 1970. Optimism obviously swirled about.

    But he wouldn't play following his torn knee injury late in the regional championship game, and he had to watch Bona lose to Artis Gilmore's Jacksonville University in the national semifinals.

7. Willis McGahee Tears Everything in '03 Fiesta Bowl

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    During a Miami career that saw Willis McGahee rush 282 times for 1,753 yards, the star Hurricane experienced one of the more excruciating injuries in college football history.

    After garnering 67 yards and a touchdown in the title game for the Canes against Ohio State, McGahee would have his knee destroyed on a hit by safety Will Allen in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl national championship.

    The Canes would lose in double overtime, and Miami hearts were broken for good.

6. Jim McMahon's Destroyed Shoulder

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    It doesn't get any more obvious than this.

    Charles Martin would receive a two-game suspension for this slam, while Jim McMahon would experience traumatic injuries for the rest of his career featuring this repeatedly-injured shoulder.

    But as the Superfans would point out, this prevented Da Bears from repeating as Super Bowl champs in '86.

5. Ted Ginn's Sprained Foot

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    An exciting element to every Buckeyes game, Ted Ginn Jr. electrified crowds and frustrated often helpless defenses.

    And the opening kickoff of the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, which he returned 92 yards for a touchdown, was another stellar instance of Ginn's athleticism. 

    But after teammate Roy Hall landed on his foot during the celebration, Ginn sprained his left foot and didn't return.

    He would watch his team get blown out from the bench, as Florida defeated Ohio State 41-14.

4. Carson Palmer's Torn MCL and ACL

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    The Cincinnati Bengals' first playoff game in 15 years—emotions flowing, optimism soaring.

    Carson Palmer's 66-yard slice to rookie Chris Henry on the first play caused a crowd eruption. But pure excitement turned to shattered hope as Palmer's leg was destroyed by Kimo von Oelhoffen.

    The Steelers would win 31–17 amid their Super Bowl XL run.

3. Derrick Rose's Torn ACL

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    An injury-plagued finish to this season finally received its last straw when Derrick Rose ripped Chicago's hearts in two, and thrashed their hopes and dreams.

    Only one iconic shot can truly capture the moment.

2. Magic Johnson's Hamstring Injury

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    Headed for their third consecutive title, the powerhouse Lakers saw Magic Johnson finish the 1988-89 season with 22.5 points, 12.8 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game (winning his second MVP award).

    They soared through the postseason and naturally reached the NBA Finals.

    But a hamstring injury in Game 2 would give backcourt responsibilities to Tony Campbell, David Rivers and Michael Cooper, who clearly couldn't handle the prolific Detroit backcourt of Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and Finals MVP Joe Dumars.

    Pistons with the sweep.

1. Dirk Nowitzki's Sprained Knee

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    From 19 wins in his rookie season to 60 in 2003, German sensation Dirk Nowitzki was developing into a superstar before our eyes. And now the Mavs owned the West's No. 3 seed.

    In Game 1 against the Blazers, Nowitzki exploded for a career-high 46 points. He then propelled the Mavs to a Game 7 win over the Kings in Round 2 with 30 points and 19 rebounds. Against the Spurs in the Game 1 of the conference finals, he finished with 38 points and 19 rebounds. He couldn't be stopped.

    As Game 3 was coming to an end, Nowitzki sprained his knee and was gone for the rest of the postseason. The Spurs would win the title.