NBA: The All-Injured Team (1986 to 2011)
In honor of the NBA lockout, I’ve been pondering players whose careers were cut short or derailed due to injury. As is common in the NBA, the majority of these players had/have injuries to various regions of the leg and a few to the back and shoulders. (I’ll stop short of the lack of heart for Vince Carter. That joke’s been made too many times.)
To keep it current, I only selected players from the last 25 years. My judgment is skewed for players who were really great early in their careers and for early career injuries. I’ve assembled them into the same format the league does for its All-NBA team: first, second and third teams with two guards, two forwards and a center on each. Here are the 15 players.
Enjoy, and I’d love to hear of any players I may have overlooked.
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, First Team
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, Guard
Four-time All-Star selection and three-time All-NBA team (first 1995, 1996; third 1997).
Reached NBA Finals (1995), Olympic gold medalist (1996), All-Rookie first team (1994), Rookie Game MVP and the third overall pick (1993).
Injuries in 1996-1997 (knee/ankle/hamstring).
First-team All-NBA in second and third seasons.
Averaged 21 points, seven assists and four rebounds while shooting more than 50 percent from the field in his first-team All-NBA campaigns
Noticeably slower and less explosive after surgery. But hey, we'll always have Lil Penny.
Vince Carter, First Team
Vince Carter, Guard
Eight-time All-Star selection and two-time All-NBA team (second 2001; third 2000).
Rookie of the Year (1999) and Olympic gold medalist (2000).
Injuries in 2002 (quadriceps/knee), 2003 (knee/ankle) and 2004 (quadriceps/ankle/Achilles).
Averaged 27.6 points, 3.9 assists and 5.5 rebounds in 2000-2001.
One of the most athletically gifted players the league has seen. But when a jumper injures his quads, knees, ankles and Achilles tendon, it usually doesn't bode well. Still holds the title of best dunker to ever live.
Grant Hill, First Team
Grant Hill, Forward
Seven-time All-Star selection and five-time All-NBA team (first 1997; second 1996, 1998-2000).
Co-Rookie of the Year (1995), Olympic gold medalist (1996) and the third overall pick (1994).
Injuries in 2000 (left ankle), 2005 (groin) and 2006 (hernia).
Averaged 25 points, five assists and six rebounds in 1999-2000. Missed the majority of games between ages 28-33. One in a long line of Heir Jordans.
Chris Webber, First Team
Chris Webber, Forward
Five-time All-Star selection and five-time All-NBA team (first 2001; second 1999, 2002, 2003; third 2000).
Rookie of the Year (1994).
Injuries in 1995 (shoulder), 2001 (ankle), 2003 (ankle/knee), 2005 (knee/ankle/shoulder) and 2006 (back).
Averaged 27 points and 11 rebounds in 2000-2001.
Played more than 70 games in six seasons. Webber had the best hands out of any big man and he dated Tyra Banks before she went crazy crazy.
Yao Ming, First Team
Yao Ming, Center
Eight-time All-Star selection and five-time All-NBA team (second 2007, 2009; third 2004, 2006, 2008).
All-Rookie first team (2003) and the first overall pick (2002).
Injuries in 2005 (toe), 2006 (left foot/right knee), 2008 (left foot) and 2009 (left foot).
Averaged 25 points, nine rebounds and two assists in 2006-2007 season.
Only one season where he averaged more than 36 minutes per game (2007-2008).
Played more than 70 games in four out of eight seasons. His basketball IQ was off the charts as was his semi-unintentional comedy.
Mark Price, Second Team
Mark Price, Guard
Four-time All-Star selection and four-time All-NBA team (first 1993; third 1989, 1992, 1994).
FIBA World Championship gold medalist (1994).
Injuries in 1990 (ACL) and 1995 (wrist/heel).
Averaged 19 points and nine assists in 1989-1990.
Splitting the double-team. Played more than 36 minutes a game in two seasons. An ideal point guard with his three-point shooting, quick decisions and penetration.
Kevin Johnson, Second Team
Kevin Johnson, Guard
Three-time All-Star selection and five-time All-NBA team (second 1989-1991, 1994; third 1992).
Most Improved (1989) and FIBA World Championship gold medalist (1994).
Injuries in 1992-1993 (hamstring/knee) and 1995 (abdominal hernia).
One of the best offensive point guards of his era. Averaged 20 points and 10 assists for three straight seasons (1989-1991).
Played 70 or more games in first five seasons; only did it once more after injury in 1992-1993.
From age 26 to 31, he averaged less than 57 games a season.
Shot 49.3 percent from the field for his career. Everyone remembers the dunk over Hakeem Olajuwon, and we shouldn't ever forget it.
Larry Johnson, Second Team
Larry Johnson, Forward
Two-time All-Star selection and All-NBA team (second 1993).
Rookie of the Year (1992), first overall pick (1991) and FIBA World Championship gold medalist (1994).
Injuries in 1993 (back).
Averaged 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in his second year; he would never hit average double-digit rebounds after his injury.
His game became more perimeter-oriented once he lost his explosiveness and power. Retired after 10 seasons but he left behind a legacy of UNLV, Grandmama and a four-point play.
Antonio McDyess, Second Team
Antonio McDyess, Forward
All-Star Selection and All-NBA Team (third 1999).
All-Rookie first team (1996), second overall pick (1995) and Olympic gold medalist (2000).
Injuries in 2001 (knee) and 2002 (knee).
Averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds in 2000-2001.
Played more than 36 minutes per game in two seasons.
Missed all but 10 games in 2001-2002 and all of 2002-2003. I remember thinking, “Hey, a more athletic Shawn Kemp with a mid-range jumper.” And just as I had that thought the knee pops.
Alonzo Mourning, Second Team
Alonzo Mourning, Center
Seven-time All-Star selection and two-time All-NBA team (first 1999; second 2000).
Two-time Defensive Player of the Year (1999, 2000), All-Rookie first team, FIBA World Championship gold medalist (1994), Olympic gold medalist (2000) and the second overall pick (1992).
Injuries in 1994 (calf), 1997 (heel/knee), 2000 (kidney), 2002 (kidney), 2003 (kidney), 2006 (calf) and 2007 (knee).
Averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in first eight seasons.
Played in more than 70 games in five seasons; played more than 36 minutes per game in three seasons.
One of the strongest and most intense players in league history.
Brandon Roy, Third Team
Brandon Roy, Guard
Three-time All-Star selection and two-time All-NBA team (second 2009; third 2010).
Rookie of the Year (2007).
Injuries in 2006 (left heel), 2008 (right ankle) and 2010 (right knee).
Never played a full 82-game season.
It’s hard to play ball without cartilage in your knees. There has to be something in Portland’s water, right?
Baron Davis, Third Team
Baron Davis, Guard
Two-time All-Star selection and All-NBA team (third 2004).
Third overall pick (1999).
Injuries in 1998 (ACL), 2002 (back), 2003 (left knee), 2004 (ankle/back), 2005 (ankle/Achilles), 2006 (ankle/rib), 2007 (calf), 2009 (tailbone), 2010 (left knee) and 2011 (various).
From age 23 to 31, played more than 70 games in two seasons.
Averaged 22 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 2003-04.
One of the quickest jumpers I've ever seen. He just looks like he gets to the rim before anyone else can get off the ground. Is over-eating an injury?
Tracy McGrady, Third Team
Tracy McGrady, Guard/Forward
Seven-time All-Star selection and seven-time All-NBA (first 2002, 2003; second 2001, 2004, 2007; third 2005, 2008).
Two-time scoring champion (2003, 2004) and Most Improved (2001).
Injuries in 2005-2007 (back spasms), 07-08 (left knee/left shoulder, arthroscopic surgery on both after the season) and 2009 (microfracture surgery on left knee).
Averaged 32 points, five assists and six rebounds in 2002-2003 season.
Played more than 70 games in seven out of 14 seasons; never played a full 82.
It irks me to hear former coach Jeff Van Gundy and Rockets general manager Daryl Morey say he never reached his full potential because of a lack of preparation. Some people think his back injuries may have been avoided with a stricter offseason regimen, which might be true. There aren't many top-tiered guards (and he is a shooting guard) with careers derailed by back spasms.
Epitome of the phrase, "He's not a shooter; he's a scorer." Oh, I’m not sure you’ve heard (wink): He never led a team out of the first round of the playoffs.
Jermaine O'Neal, Third Team
Jermaine O'Neal, Forward/Center
Six-time All-Star selection and three-time All-NBA team (second 2004); third 2002, 2003).
Injuries in 1996 (knee), 1997 (calf), 1999 (ankle), 2002 (knee/ankle), 2005 (shoulder), 2006 (groin) and 2007-2011 (various knee/ankle).
Averaged 20 points, nine rebounds and two blocks from 2001-2007.
Played more than 36 minutes per game in two seasons.
Well, his most memorable moment involved a fight with fans in the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Brad Daugherty, Third Team
Brad Daugherty, Center
Five-time All-Star selection and All-NBA team (third 1992).
All-Rookie first team (1987) and the first overall pick (1986).
Injuries in 1989 (back) and 1994 (back).
Averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds from 1990-1993.
Retired at age 28.
Unfortunately, he had to play during an era that included Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O'Neal. Now he does NASCAR. Who’d have guessed?