I think it’s time to amend Benjamin Franklin’s declaration that life contains certain unavoidable events: death, taxes and now, the fact that Yao Ming must miss at least half the season due to injury. Certain players seem intrinsically inclined to injury due to a variety of reasons. Body type, style of play and even bad luck have all contributed to sapping some of the league’s best players of their talent.
History has been one of the best guides to forecasting which active players will have their careers cut short because of injury. Bill Walton serves as one of history’s leading examples. Over an injury-riddled 12-year career, Walton appeared in less than half of his team’s games following his No. 1 draft pick status in the 1974 NBA draft.
Unfortunately, Portland’s Greg Oden’s career has had some uncanny parallels to Walton’s. After missing all of the ’07-’08 season due to knee surgery, Oden was limited to only 61 games the following season. Last year, the seven-footer played in a meager 21 games before he blew out his knee pursuing a blocked shot.
Even those who subscribe to the Benjamin Button theory that Oden will actually get younger with time can’t ignore the fact that he has been the victim of bad luck.
Oden played a full healthy season in his one year at Ohio State and was able to stay on the floor throughout his high school career. This gives hope that maybe the missed time is due to a rash of fluke incidents rather than a career-long trend similar to ones that have claimed the careers of Bill Walton, Sam Bowie and “Pistol” Pete Maravich.
There might as well be a skull and crossbones next to Tracy McGrady’s name ever since the uber-talented forward experienced a series of debilitating back injuries during the 2005 season.
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