10 NBA Players Who Suffered a Torn ACL and Recovered Better Than Ever
As a Timberwolves fan, I shuddered when rookie sensation Ricky Rubio went down with a torn ACL in March.
In a year where Minnesota's rough streak was barely beginning to look up, Rubio suffered a season-ending injury in one brief second against the Lakers.
It ended his season...but will it end his career?
No doubt, Chicago fans are experiencing the same fears after seeing All-Star Derrick Rose go down with the same injury last month.
Sports medicine has come a long way, and a torn ACL no longer means the end to an athlete's career. Here are 10 NBA players who suffered the dreaded injury but returned to the court stronger than ever.
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Denver forward Al Harrington had been in the league for only four seasons when he tore his ACL as a member of the Indiana Pacers in 2002. At the time, he was averaging 13.1 points per game.
Harrington underwent ACL reconstructive surgery, however, and returned to the game no worse for the wear. In fact, he actually looked like a stronger player than he had before injuring his knee.
Although Harrington continues to bounce around the league (he's played for six teams over 14 seasons), he delivers consistent numbers and athleticism in whatever roster he finds himself on.
Currently, the 32-year-old puts up averages of 14.2 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game for the Nuggets.
(photo credit: canishoops.com)
That year, Jefferson was averaging 23.1 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per gane, and it proved a tough loss for the Timberwolves.
The big man was a bit slow in returning from the injury—he appeared sluggish and stiff for awhile—and Minnesota ended up sending him to Utah and trying a different route.
Since being a member of the Jazz, though, Jefferson's numbers have risen almost entirely back to where they were prior to the injury. This season, he averaged 19.2 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game, and he's proven to be a major impact player in several victories throughout the year.
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Most people might not even realize that 13-year veteran Baron Davis actually tore his ACL prior to entering the NBA.
As a freshman at UCLA, Davis suffered the injury coming down from a dunk during an NCAA Tournament game.
The injury didn't deter David, though, and he was drafted No. 3 overall in the 1999 NBA draft. From there, he went on to excel season after season. David peaked during his time with New Orleans and Golden State, averaging 17-22 points per game from 2002 to 2008.
The veteran has begun to slow down naturally, but the college injury he received was basically irrelevant to his successful NBA career.
The timing of this slideshow is unfortunate in Davis' case, however, as he recently tore his ACL a second time. The injury occurred in Game 4 of the Miami-New York playoff series. In this case, considering his age and the diagnosis (complete tear of MCL and ACL), Davis may have seen his last days on the court.
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Prior to the injury, West was averaging 18 points per game and helped his team toward the playoffs. New Orleans fans cringed at the loss of West, and reports about the gruesome injury weren't exactly optimistic.
Only one year after surgery—and no longer with the Hornets—the 32-year-old West is defying the odds and making an impact in Indiana. While West's scoring may be down (13 points per game), he's also sharing minutes with more scorers than he was with the Hornets.
"I wanted to beat this thing," said West. "I wasn't going to let anything get the best of me. Tearing my ACL was not going to slow me down. I feel great now."
Not only is West confident in his own recovery process, but he's now encouraging other athletes who find themselves sidelined with ACL injuries. His advice to Derrick Rose?
"Listen to the doctors, the physical therapists," West said. "Don't feel sorry for yourself. He has to attack his rehab and get himself going. That's really the only way to be the player you used to be. It'll happen. He'll be fine. He'll be back. And I'll be the first to congratulate him."
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Fortunately for the New Orleans Hornets, he's done just that. In his fourth season, Smith put up his best numbers thus far, averaging 10 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game. He's also increased his playing time exponentially since the injury, going from 14 minutes to 23 minutes per game.
At only 26 years old, Smith can be expected to continue improving his numbers over the next several seasons.
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It's been 11 years since Jamal Crawford tore his ACL, and not one of those seasons was wasted due to the injury.
Crawford underwent reconstructive surgery in 2001, and he went on to excel in the league, reaching his peak seasons in the mid 2000s.
To the Michigan alum, half the battle relies on attitude alone:
After surgery, you start rehab and start to see some progressions. You get a little more confident as it goes along. And then the last stage is the mental part: 'Can I still do that move? Can I still do that cut?' The actual leg you injure ends up being stronger than the leg that's not injured. But you don't believe that at first. You're scared. You doubt.
Crawford refused to let the mental games take over, and he continues to impact Portland with 13.9 points per game and 3.2 assists per game.
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The Florida alum was only two years out of school and determined not to let the injury end his career.
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In 2001, during his third year in the NBA, guard Bonzi Wells injured his ACL. Portland initially avoided any real details, but it was soon made known that Wells would undergo surgery for the torn ligament.
The injury didn't hold Wells back, however. He appeared in a list of names in a 2002 Sports Illustrated article that acknowledged those athletes who specifically had recovered well from ACL injuries.
Wells went on to play nine more successful seasons in the league, grabbing averages as high as 17 points per game and 3.3 assists per game.
Kendrick Perkins, at 6'10'', has never been a major scorer. However, in averaging 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game, he's been influential to the rosters of Boston and Oklahoma City, respectively.
While playing in Boston, Perkins tore his ACL prior to Game 7 in the 2010 playoffs.
To everyone's surprise, the big man made his return only six months after surgery. Although Perkins struggled a bit initially, he used the opportunity to get back into shape and keep a strong presence beneath the basket.
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Similar to Baron Davis, Kyle Lowry suffered a torn ACL during his college career and still went on to excel in the NBA.
Lowry recovered flawlessly from his 2004 injury at Villanova, and stats have increased with most of his six seasons.
In 2011-2012, Lowry averaged 14.3 points per game and an impressive 6.6 assists per game for Houston.
Most fans would have no idea he even tore his ACL—this guy shows no sign of slowing down.
So take heart, Bulls fans. Although only time will tell, the chances are great that Rose will return to help you win a championship next season.
And fellow Minnesotans—we won't give up. As they say, there's always next year...and Rubio will be back.