Greg Oden and the 50 Most Injury-Prone Athletes of All Time

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst INovember 20, 2010

Greg Oden and the 50 Most Injury-Prone Athletes of All Time

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Greg Oden, one of the 50 most injury-prone athletes of all-time?

    Even if he goes on to lead the Trail Blazers to five NBA titles, it will still technically be true.

    By the end of his fourth season in Portland, injuries will have forced him to miss exactly three-fourths of the team's regular-season games.

    We'll have to wait to see if these injuries ruin his career, like they have to so many other fine young prospects. Plenty of those sad cases are on this list.

    But being injury-prone doesn't always destroy a player's career. Some managed to overcome multiple injuries to make their sport's Hall of Fame or win championships, leaving us to imagine just how much better they would have been had they managed to stay healthy.

    A few factors account for the positioning on this list: volume of injuries, severity of the injuries, level of devastation to a career and the high-profile nature of the injury.

    Regardless, a spot on this list is in no way a knock on the player: Some guys just catch bad luck.

    Let the debate begin!

No. 50: Duce Staley

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    MIAMI - DECEMBER 15:  Running back Duce Staley #22 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs for a first down against the Miami Dolphins on December 15, 2003 at Pro Player Stadium in Miami, Florida.  The Eagles defeated the Dolphins 34-27.  (Photo by Eliot J. Schec
    Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-2006

    Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers

    Staley burst on the scene in 1998 as a very good replacement for the departed Ricky Watters, rushing for over 1,000 yards. And a year later, when Andy Reid came to town, he had a great season.

    He carried the ball 325 times in 1999, totaled 1,273 yards and 41 receptions and was a great support to the team's rookie quarterback, Donovan McNabb.

    But a terrible foot injury in 2000 cost him 11 games, and a year later he missed five more with a shoulder injury. He returned with a fine year during the Eagles near-Super Bowl berth in 2002, but the emergence of Brian Westbrook and other younger backs (see later entries on this list) cost him his job.

    Prior to the 2004 season, he left one end of the Keystone State for the other and signed with the Steelers, where he had a great season despite missing six games because of leg injuries.

    More injuries followed in 2005, during the Steelers' Super Bowl season. He only started one game (although, he was very productive in that one start, a win up in Green Bay) and carried the ball just 38 times.

    In 2006, he made a token appearance in the season opener, but he never carried the ball and retired soon after.

No. 49: Chris Chandler

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    27 Dec 1998: Chris Chandler #12 of the Atlanta Falcons is helped off the field during the game against the Miami Dolphins at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Dolphins 38-16.
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 1988-2004

    Teams:  Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Phoenix Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Houston Oilers, Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears

    Chris Chandler was helped or carted off the field several times. So he probably deserves his dubious nickname, Chris "Chandelier."

    But it is pretty remarkable that this "fragile" quarterback survived 17 years in the NFL.

No. 48: J.D. Drew

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    SEATTLE - JULY 22:  J.D. Drew #7 of the Boston Red Sox is congratulated after hitting a two run homer in the sixth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on July 22, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Years: 1998-present

    Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox

    Although he's never had a season where he missed even half his team's games, Drew has suffered from several injuries (hamstring, wrist, back) that cost him many games.

    He missed at least 50 games in 2001, 2003, 2005 (he only played in 72 that season) and 2008.

    Considering his 1997 draft status (second overall), his move to re-enter the draft to be taken elsewhere a year later and his perpetual enormous contracts, he hasn't quite lived up to his expectations—injury-induced or otherwise.

No. 47: Corey Maggette

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    NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 08:  Corey Maggette #50 of the Golden State Warriors dunks the ball against the New Orleans Hornets at New Orleans Arena on March 8, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Hornets defeated the Warriors 135-131.  NOTE TO USER: User expres
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Years: 1999-present

    Teams: Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors, Milwaukee Bucks

    The 13th overall selection from Duke (that probably should have been an indication right there), Maggette has endured plenty of ailments over the years, including a bum hip, foot and hamstring.

    When healthy he's been a pretty good player, averaging 16 points and five rebounds per game during a long career.

    But since his rookie year, he has played in 70 or more games in just six of those 10 seasons.

    The foot injury allowed him to play in just 32 games during the 2005-06 season and three seasons later, his first with the Warriors, he missed 31 games with another injury.

No. 46: Mark Fidrych

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    Years: 1976-80

    Teams: Detroit Tigers

    "The Bird" burst on the scene in 1976, winning the Rookie of the Year award and nearly the Cy Young as he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and an incredible 24 complete games.

    A knee injury the next spring didn't slow him down, but his rotator cuff did.

    The chronic injury limited him to appearances in just 16 games from 1978-80, and he was forced to retire after spending the 1981 season trying to make a comeback.

No. 45: Fred Couples

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    SAN FRANCISCO - NOVEMBER 06:  Fred Couples plays in round 3 of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Harding Park Golf Course on November 6, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Years: 1980-present

    For a long time, Couples was the "greatest player to never win a major," until he finally broke through with an epic Augusta National victory in April 1992.

    He's won 14 additional PGA titles, and has been in contention at several other majors, including this year's Masters, where, at age 50, he finished sixth.

    But chronic back problems have become just as much a part of his legacy.

No. 44: Shawne Merriman

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    SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 19:  Linebacker Shawne Merriman #56 of the San Diego Chargers waits on the line of scrimmage against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qualcomm Stadium on September 19, 2010 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 38-13.  (Photo by Step
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years: 2005-present

    Teams: San Diego Chargers, Buffalo Bills

    The 2005 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year had an incredible three-season streak in which he made three All-Pro teams and totalled 39.5 sacks, despite that PED suspension.

    But in 2008, a knee injury cost him all but the season opener. That injury, plus one to his foot, slowed him down a great deal in 2009. And this year, he has missed six games and spent time on the IR with a calf injury.

No. 43: Mike Hampton

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    22 Oct 2000:  Starting pitcher #32 Mike Hampton of the New York Mets throws against the New York Yankees during Game 2 of the MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. <DIGITAL IMAGE> Mandatory Credit: Ezra Shaw/ALLSPORT
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Years: 1993-present

    Teams: Houston Astros, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Florida Marlins, Atlanta Braves, Arizona Diamondbacks

    Maybe he was just cursed...or maybe the Rockies were.

    Hampton was outstanding in 1999 with the Astros (22-4, 2.90 ERA) and then he was dealt to the Mets, where he won the NLCS MVP and helped lead New York to the World Series.

    That offseason he signed a gigantic contract with the Rockies, and it was all downhill from there.

    He bounced around with the Marlins and Braves before requiring Tommy John surgery in 2005. An oblique muscle, a hamstring, another surgery on his elbow and a pectoral muscle injury kept him out of the big leagues until July 2008.

    Late in 2009, he tore his rotator cuff and missed virtually all of 2010.

No. 42: Joe Namath

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    Years: 1964-76

    Teams: Alabama Crimson Tide, New York Jets, Los Angeles Rams

    Namath's senior season at Alabama has to be counted as a factor in his truncated NFL career. Running Bear Bryant's option, he suffered a few knee injuries that slowed him down, but did not keep him from being the first pick in the AFL's 1965 draft.

    Namath stayed healthy his first five seasons and led the Jets to their great win in Super Bowl III. But beginning in 1970, his injuries stole many snaps from Broadway Joe.

    From 1970 to 1973, he missed 30 of the Jets' 56 games. He was later traded to the Rams, where the knees and a sore hamstring (and Chuck Knox) limited him starting just four games.

No. 41: Žydrūnas Ilgauskas

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    CHICAGO - MARCH 31:  Zydrunas Ilgauskas #11 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots over Luol Deng #9 of the Chicago Bulls during the game on March 31, 2005 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Cavaliers 102-90 in overtime. NOTE TO
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1996-present

    Teams: Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat

    Z started out great for the Cavaliers in 1996 and played in all 82 games that season.

    But several different foot problems cost him to miss 45 games during the strike-shortened 50-game season in 1999. He missed all of the 2000-01 season and he missed 58 games the next year.

    He's made a remarkable turnaround since then, playing in 60-plus games ever since. Still, he missed a lot of time in his prime.

No. 40: Joel Zumaya

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    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JUNE 28:  Manager Jim Leyland #10 of the Detroit Tigers follows Joel Zumaya #54 of the Detroit Tigers, with the assistance of trainers, off the field after falling to the ground clutching his elbow in the eighth inning against the Minnes
    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Years: 2006-present

    Teams: Detroit Tigers

    The rookie right-handed reliever was a huge part of the Tigers' pennant-winning team in 2006.

    We all know about the Guitar Hero injury he suffered prior to the 2006 ALCS.

    But since then, he has been plagued with several other injuries. Hand, shoulder, wrist, elbows, all have been a problem.

    He's only made 109 appearances in the last four years, not terribly good for a reliever—and one who made 62 as a rookie.

No. 39: Courtney Brown

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    29 Oct 2000: Courtney Brown #92 of the Cleveland Browns walks on the field during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Bengals defeated the Browns 12-3.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 2000-06

    Teams: Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos

    LaVar Arrington, his fellow Penn State Nittany Lion/top-two pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, didn't fare much better, but Courtney Brown had more of an injury-prone career.

    Brown was the first overall selection that year, fittingly by the Cleveland Browns.

    But after playing all 16 games as a rookie, he missed 11 games in 2001 and missed just about all of the 2004 season.

    He was cut and signed by Denver, where he stayed relatively healthy in 2005—before the next year's preseason, when he tore his ACL and was forced to retire.

No. 38: Kellen Winslow Jr.

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    CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 12:  Kellen Winslow #80 of the Cleveland Browns walks on the sidelines during the gam against the Baltimore Ravens on September 12, 2004 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. The Browns defeated the Ravens 20-3. (Photo by D
    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Years: 2004-present

    Teams: Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    The second member of the Winslow family to join the NFL as a tight end was just as talented as the first. But Kellen Jr.'s career was plagued by injury, unlike his Hall of Fame father.

    Just two games into his career, Winslow broke his fibula, costing him the rest of the season. He was on schedule to return in 2005, until he crashed a motorcycle in a parking lot and missed the entire next season as well.

    In 2006 and 2007 (a Pro Bowl year), both were good seasons for Winslow, but a staph infection forced him to miss half of the next year and he was traded to Tampa the following spring.

    He has yet to miss a game in one-and-a-half seasons with the Bucs.

    Don't worry, Browns fans: Tim Couch, Gerard Warren, William Green and Jeff Faine aren't next on this list.

No. 37: Marian Gaborik

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    NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 17:  Marian Gaborik #10 of the New York Rangers in action against the Boston Bruins during their game on November 17, 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Years: 1998-present

    Teams: New York Rangers, Minnesota Wild

    Gaborik was the Wild's prized third-overall selection in the 2000 draft. And he had a great start his first few seasons, being named to the All-Star team in 2003.

    But he suffered a groin injury following the 2005 lockout and missed a good portion of the next year as well. Hip surgery in 2008 led to a sour end to his career in Minnesota.

    When he joined the Rangers in 2009, fans feared the worst, but he returned to finish with a great season and is hopefully over the injury bug.

No. 36: Gale Sayers

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    Years: 1965-71

    Teams: Chicago Bears

    Anyone who knows their football history knows about the "Kansas Comet" and how magnificent he was as a rookie in 1965, scoring 22 touchdowns in a 14-game season. Over the next four years he was incredible, despite tearing his knee up late in the 1968 season.

    He rebounded with a great campaign in 1969, leading the NFL in yards and carries. But in 1970 he tore up the other knee and missed all but two games.

    The second comeback wasn't as magical and he retired a year later.

    Sayers wasn't "injury-prone" in the same way others on this list were. But the two devastating knee injuries to an electrifying back in the prime of his career were a great loss for the NFL.

No. 35: Ken Griffey Jr.

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    30 Jul 1994:  Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. of the Seattle Mariners in action during a game against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois.  The White Sox won the game 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1989-2010

    Teams: Seattle Mariners, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago White Sox

    Injuries didn't ruin Junior's career. He's still a Hall of Famer and one of the top two (along with Barry Bonds) position players of the 1990s.

    But he certainly spent a lot of time on the disabled list.

    He missed most of 1995 (before his famous winning run in the postseason) with an injured wrist. And once he left Seattle for the Reds, the injuries only mounted.

    Hamstring and calf problems cost him over 500 games from 2001 through 2006.

    Another wrist injury and another leg injury cost him even more time, and he didn't achieve much with the White Sox or in his second go-round with the Mariners.

    Had he stayed healthy, he probably would have hit 756 home runs before Barry Bonds. He finished with 630.

No. 34: David Boston

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    21 Oct 2001: David Boston # 89 of the Arizona Cardinals celebrates his touchdown against the Kansas City Chiefs during the game at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. The Arizona Cardinals win, 24-16 over the Kansas City Chiefs.  DIGITAL IMAGE Mandat
    Adam Pretty/Getty Images

    Years: 1999-2005

    Teams: Arizona Cardinals, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins

    Before Larry Fitzgerald, the standard for Arizona Cardinals explosive wide receivers was this former Ohio State Buckeye. He caught 169 passes for 2,754 yards during a two-year stretch from 2000 to 2001.

    But he tore his knee midway through the 2002 season and missed the final eight games. He still signed a huge deal with the Chargers that offseason, but he did not get along with the coach and was shipped to Miami.

    There he again tore his knee in 2004, missed the whole year and only played in five games the next season.

    And despite legal problems over the ensuing time, he was given a chance to play in the CFL. But more injuries, this time to his foot, prevented him from playing more than just one game in 2008.

No. 33: Jonathan Bender

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    3 Feb 2001:  Jonathan Bender #24 of the Indiana Pacers waves to prove he is open against Lindsey Hunter #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks during the game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Bucks defeated the Pacers 104-85.  NOTE TO USER: It is ex
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1999-2010

    Teams: Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks

    The fifth-overall pick in the 1999 draft, Bender has never been able to stay healthy.

    A slew of knee injuries kept him off the court throughout most of his career.

    Aside from 2001-02, he was never able to play more than 20 minutes per game, and from 2003 to 2006, he only played in 30 games.

    After retiring in 2006, he made a comeback with the Knicks in 2009 and played in nearly that many games in one year (25). But he was not brought back this season.

No. 32: Bob Sanders

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    INDIANAPOLIS - NOVEMBER 01:  Bob Sanders #21 of the Indianapolis Colts moves on the field during the NFL game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 1, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 2004-present

    Teams: Indianapolis Colts

    As a two-time All-Pro, when healthy, Sanders is one of the league's premier defenders.

    His NFL career got off to a slow start, as foot and knee injuries kept him off the field for 10 games as a rookie.

    And two years later, during the Colts' championship season, a knee injury forced him out another 12 games, although he created two turnovers in their Super Bowl win.

    But since winning the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, arm, shoulder and knee injuries have forced him to the sideline for 32 of the Colts next 41 regular-season games.

No. 31: Carl Pavano

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    MINNEAPOLIS - OCTOBER 07:  Carl Pavano #48 of the Minnesota Twins delivers a pitch in the first inning against the New York Yankees during game two of the ALDS on October 7, 2010 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Years: 1998-present

    Teams: Montreal Expos, Florida Marlins, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins

    Pavano worked through several early injuries in his career to become a quality starter in the major leagues.

    And after an 18-win season in 2004, he signed an enormous deal with the Yankees.

    There he suffered so many injuries he earned the nickname "American Idle."

    Less than two years into the contract, once reported that he missed "more than 14 months due to shoulder, back, buttocks, elbow and now rib injuries."

    From 2006 through 2008, he made just eight appearances for the Bronx Bombers.

    He made a nice comeback with the Indians and the Twins and is now ready to hit the free-agent market again.


No. 30: Chris Carpenter

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    ST. LOUIS - SEPTEMBER 5: Starter Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals pitches against the Cincinnati Reds at Busch Stadium on September 5, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Reds 4-2.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-present

    Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, St. Louis Cardinals

    Carpenter was off to a pretty good career in Toronto before a shoulder injury/torn labrum cost him most of the 2002 season and, after signing with St. Louis, all of the 2003 season.

    But he started pitching better than ever after that shoulder surgery, winning 21 games and the Cy Young Award in 2005.

    He hurt his elbow in 2007 and only made one start, and one start again in 2008. Naturally, he returned to lead the NL in ERA in 2009.

No. 29: Grant Hill

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    26 Dec 1997:  Grant Hill of the Detroit Pistons runs towards the basket in a match between the Detroit Pistons v Miami Heat in the NBA League played at the Palace of Auburn Hills , Auburn Hills, Miami, USA. Miami Heat won the game 88-74. \ Mandatory Credi
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1994-present

    Teams: Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns

    Another early link in the sad chain of Dukies who, for whatever reason, baskeball or not, couldn't stay healthy in the NBA: Corey Maggette, Jay Williams, Bobby Hurley, Christen Laettner, Shane Battier, etc.   

    Hill was the third overall pick in 1994, but he played in just 47 games from 2000 to 2003.  

    After recovering from that ankle injury in 2004, sports hernia/groin problems kept him out of 61 games in 2005-06 and that looked to be end of his career.

    But it wasn't. He's returned to have a productive stay with the Suns, but who knows what might have happened had he been healthy throughout the previous decade.

No. 28: Garrison Hearst

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    9 Jan 1999: Garrison Hearst #20 of the San Francisco 49ers lays on the field with a broken leg during the NFC Play Offs against the  Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the 49ers 20-16. Mandatory Credit: Craig Jon
    Craig Jones/Getty Images

    Years: 1993-2004

    Teams: Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos

    Hearst had already overcome a bad knee injury during his college career at Georgia to be a Heisman candidate and a first-round selection.

    But in his first year with the Cardinals, he again injured a knee and missed half of the season. The same injury hampered him in 1994 and he played just eight games.

    After a career revitalization in San Francisco, he endured a terrible ankle injury (which nearly killed him after post-surgery complications) in a January 1999 playoff loss to Atlanta that kept him out of football until 2001.

    Somehow, he recovered to rush for 1,200-plus yards that season and was a productive player until 2003, when (now a Bronco) a broken hand cost him the second half of the 2004 season.

No. 27: Anfernee Hardaway

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    14 Nov 1995:  Guard Penny Hardaway of the Orlando Magic looks on during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the Orlando Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Magic won the game, 94-88. Mandatory Credit: Allsport  /Allsport
    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Years: 1993-present

    Teams: Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Western University Dolphins (alias, Butch McRae)

    Oh, if it had only been Lil' Penny who suffered all those injuries.

    After Shaq bolted to Los Angeles, Hardaway limped through the 1996-97 season with injuries and missed most of the next year, only playing in 19 games thanks to a terrible knee injury.

    Four surgeries were needed. But he was healthy again in 1999, starting every one of the games during the shortened lockout season.

    In 2000-01, another knee surgery meant he only played in four games.

    More injuries followed and, in his 30s, Hardaway could only play 271 games before retiring at age 37.

No. 26: Chris Webber

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    Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

    Years: 1993-2008

    Teams: Golden State Warriors, Washington Bullets, Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Detroit Pistons

    It's hard to not pair Penny Hardaway with Chris Webber. They were No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in the 1993 NBA Draft. Years later it seems that Webber had a very "Blue Chips"-like career at Michigan. And Webber missed even more games than Hardaway did due to injury.

    In his second season with Washington, he missed 28 games. In his third he missed 67. He stayed pretty healthy with the Kings until the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals. A knee injury cost him all but 23 games of the next year's regular season.

    He spent parts of the next four seasons on the bench because of injury and retired after a disappointing 2007.

No. 25: Correll Buckhalter

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    GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 10:  Running back Correll Buckhalter #28 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the football against the Green Bay Packers on November 10, 2003 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Eagles defeated the Packers 17-14. (Photo by Jo
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 2001-present

    Teams: Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos

    One of the two running backs who made Duce Staley expendable, Buckhalter was an attractive replacement for Andy Reid's offense. He was from the University of Nebraska and built very solid.

    And he had a great rookie season in 2001, leading the team in rushes and rushing yardage.

    But knee injuries cost him all of the 2002, 2004 and 2005 NFL seasons. He stayed fairly healthy over the next five seasons, but ankle injuries right now have cost him carries in 2010.

No. 24: Sam Bowie

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    INGLEWOOD, CA - 1989:  Sam Bowie #31 of the Portland Trail Blazers battles for position during a game in the 1988-89 NBA season against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years: 1984-95

    Teams: Portland Trailblazers, New Jersey Nets, Los Angeles Lakers

    As if being taken after Hakeem Olajuwon and before Michael Jordan wasn't hard enough, Bowie soon had another hole to dig himself out of.

    Several injuries throughout a 10-year career cost Bowie any chance to live up to his second-overall selection in the 1984 NBA draft.

    Just as Jordan was peaking, and as Olajuwon was leading the Rockets to their first NBA Finals appearance, injuries let Bowie play in just 25 games during a three-year stretch from 1986-89.

    A minor career rebirth with the Nets from 1989-92 was not enough to make up for the time he missed and he will always be remembered as a draft-day bust.

No. 23: Bill Walton

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    1980:  Center Bill Walton of the San Diego Clippers stands on the court during a game against the Chicago Bulls at Chicago Stadium in Chicago, Illinois.  Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1974-87

    Teams: Portland Trailblazers, San Diego/LA Clippers, Boston Celtics

    Sam Bowie and Bill Walton have to be back-to-back, don't they?

    Both were top picks (Walton No. 1, Bowie No. 2) and centers from the two most-storied college programs in history.

    But while Bowie was a bust in Portland, Walton was an MVP and a world champion.

    Still, Walton's injuries were just as damning as Bowie's.

    Leg, ankle and wrist injuries cost him plenty of games, but not nearly as many as his feet, which have become infamous. He did not play in the 1980-81 or 1981-82 seasons and, although he was a great sixth man on the 1985-86 world champion Celtics team, his career was over a year later.

No. 22: Sandy Koufax

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    Years: 1955-66

    Teams: Brooklyn/LA Dodgers

    After signing with his hometown Dodgers in 1955, Koufax's career as a "Bonus Baby" was in great jeopardy because of a litany of arm injuries.

    Eventually he morphed into arguably the finest pitcher in baseball history, and did so loaded with cortisone and pain pills.

    This was a case of being injury-prone, but playing through the pain—and playing phenomenally. Still, he couldn't outpitch the pain forever and in 1966, at the age of 31, he had to retire because of the arthritis in his elbow.

No. 21: Charles Rogers

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    CLEVELAND - AUGUST 21:  Wide receiver Charles Rogers #80 of the Detroit Lions during warmups before the game with the Cleveland Browns on August 21, 2004 at Cleveland Browns Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland defeated Detroit 17-10.  (Photo by David Ma
    David Maxwell/Getty Images

    Years: 2003-05

    Teams: Detroit Lions

    Two broken collarbones and six games in his first two years as a professional.

    Forget about all that followed: the drug suspensions and being released. That is a terrible stroke of bad luck and a terrible stroke of being injury-prone.

No. 20: Matthew Stafford

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    DETROIT - NOVEMBER 07: Detroit Lions team doctor Kyle Anderson checks the right shoulder of Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions after leaving the game during the third quarter of the game at Ford Field on November 7, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan. The Je
    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Years: 2009-present

    Teams: Detroit Lions

    Not that there is much similarity in their off-the-field lives, but if you're going to mention Charles Rogers' injury-prone first two years, you have to at least mention Matthew Stafford.

    He's actually suffered four pretty brutal injuries in his first two seasons as a top Detroit Lions pick in the NFL Draft.

    As a rookie in 2009, there was the separated shoulder in November and a knee injury that cost him the final two games of the season. And this year, he hurt his shoulder in the opener and missed five games, only to return and re-injure that shoulder, possibly costing him the rest of the 2010 campaign.

No. 19: Andrew Bynum

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Andrew Bynum #17 of the Los Angeles Lakers rebounds the ball in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowled
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Years: 2005-present

    Teams: Los Angeles Lakers

    A knee injury cost him half of the 2007-08 season.

    A torn MCL cost him 12 weeks a year later.

    Another knee injury in the 2010 playoffs didn't cost him any time as the Lakers won another title.

    That's at least a step in the right direction.

    But he hasn't played yet this year, and who knows when he will.

No. 18: Penn State Running Backs, 1990s Edition

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    10 Sep 2000:  Curtis Enis #44 of the Chicago Bears breaks out of John Lynch #47 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L-R) grasp during the game at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Buccaneers defeated the bears 40-0.Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Years: 1990-2000

    Teams: New York Jets, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers (Blair Thomas),

    Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, (Ki-Jana Carter),

    Chicago Bears (Curtis Enis)

    As individuals, they don't deserve to be on this list. But together, Blair Thomas, Ki-Jana Carter and Curtis Enis do.

    Each one of these former Nittany Lion runners had, thanks to chronic injuries (mostly knees), woefully short NFL careers.

    If it wasn't for Franco Harris before, and Larry Johnson after, someone should have looked into what Joe Paterno was doing to his running backs up in Happy Valley. 

No. 17: Terry Glenn

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    1 Oct 2000: Terry Glenn #88 of the New England Patriots scrambles with the ball during the game against the Denver Bronocs at the Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado. The Patriots defearted the Broncos 28-19.Mandatory Credit: Brian Bahr  /Allsport
    Brian Bahr/Getty Images

    Years: 1996-2007

    Teams: New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys

    We all know that, as a rookie, Glenn disappointed head coach Bill Parcells, when Parcells had to announce that "she" wasn't ready to play one week because of a hamstring. But he only missed one game that 1996 Super Bowl season.

    The subsequent years were much more injury-prone.

    He missed 13 games over the next two years after Pete Carroll took over. In 1999-2000, he stayed reasonably healthy, but a hamstring injury and a dispute with the front office meant he played in just four games and was soon traded to Green Bay.

    In 2004, back with Parcells in Dallas, he missed 10 games.

    And finally, in 2007, he needed arthroscopic knee surgery and could only play in one game. Then he retired.

No. 16: Tracy McGrady

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 28:  Tracy McGrady #1 of the Houston Rockets is on the court in Game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Dallas Mavericks during the 2005 NBA Playoffs at the Toyota Center on April 28, 2005 in Houston, Texas. The Mave
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-present

    Teams: Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons

    McGrady stayed pretty healthy during the early part of his career, becoming a pretty big star by the time he left Toronto for Orlando.

    But back problems were a constant problem during the middle part of the decade, especially with the Rockets. In 2005-06 and 2007-08, he missed more than 50 games because of the back and a shoulder injury.

    Then, in February 2009, he was ruled out of the season's final 47 games with a knee problem. And the injury (he had microfracture surgery) let him play just 30 games the next year.

    He has played in every game this year, however.

No. 15: Yao Ming

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a call during the first half against the Golden State Warriors  November 29, 2007 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Years: 2002-present

    Teams: Houston Rockets

    Like many big men and many on this list (Walton, Ilgauskas, Bowie), the lower body let Yao down.

    Late in 2006, he broke a bone in his left foot and missed 26 games.

    A knee injury the next season cost him 34 games.

    A year after that, he suffered a stress fracture in his foot and missed the end of the season and the 2008 playoffs.

    In the summer of 2009, more surgery was needed and he didn't play a minute of the 2009-10 season. 

    Leg and ankle injuries have cost him a few weeks this year.

    If McGrady and Yao had been able to stay healthy, would the Lakers have won the past three Western Conference titles?

No. 14: Cadillac Williams

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers runnning back Carnell Williams celebrates a touchdown run against the Atlanta Falcons Dec. 24, 2005 in Tampa.  Williams rushed for more than 100 yards as the Bucs won 27 - 23 in overtime.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Years: 2005-present

    Teams: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Maybe he wouldn't have blossomed into the 21st-century's version of Bo Jackson. But the Auburn Tiger won Rookie of the Year in 2005 and helped lead the Bucs to the playoffs.

    And he overcame a broken collarbone as a freshman in college to do so.

    In 2006, leg injuries slowed him down, but he still played in 14 games.

    Then in 2007, he tore his patella tendon and missed 12 games.

    He eventually returned from the injury midseason and played in six games, only to tear the patella in his other knee in the season finale. Knowing how hard he had worked to return, the image of him being helped off the field was one of the sadder moments of the 2008 season.

    Remarkably, he hasn't missed a game in the past two seasons.

No. 13: Nomar Garciaparra

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    13 Oct 1999:  Nomar Garciaparra #5 of the Boston Red Sox points from the infield during the ALCS game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York. The Yankees defeated the Red Sox 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-2009

    Teams: Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland A's

    A few minor injuries early on in his career caused Nomar to miss a handful of games from 1998-2000.

    But it was his wrist that crushed his legacy. He only played in 21 games in 2001.

    Hand, calf and hamstring injuries throughout the rest of the decade meant "Nom-ahhh" missed half of the 2004 season (coincidentally the Red Sox miracle year, in which they dealt him to Chicago before the deadline).

    In his final five years, with Chicago, LA and Oakland, he only played in just about half of his team's games.

No. 12: Reggie Bush

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    NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 07:  Reggie Bush #25 of the New Orleans Saints runs downfield against  the Atlanta Falcons on December 7, 2008 at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Years: 2006-present

    Teams: New Orleans Saints

    Given his Heisman Trophy and the scandal that followed, being the second overall pick in the draft, and his high-profile romance with Kim Kardashian, Bush is a pretty big celebrity in the sports world.

    For that reason, his calf, knee and hamstring injuries have probably made him look more of a "bust" than he really is. But he did miss 12 games from 2007 to 2009.

    Then he broke his leg in Week 2 of the 2010 season and hasn't been back, although he might return on Sunday.

No. 11: Mark Prior

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    CHICAGO - OCTOBER 14:  Starting pitcher Mark Prior #22 of the Chicago Cubs throws against the Florida Marlins during Game 6 of the National League Championship Series October 14, 2003 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 2002-06

    Teams: Chicago Cubs 

    After his great 2003 season and nearly helping the Cubs win the pennant, Prior missed the first two months of the 2004 season with an Achilles injury.

    He was on and off the disabled list a year later, then missed the first two months of the 2006 season, and only made nine starts.

    The 2007 season didn't bring any better news, as he was sidelined with season-ending shoulder surgery after just one minor-league start.

    Upon signing with the Padres, he hurt his shoulder in 2008 and has yet to return to the big leagues.

No. 10: Allen Iverson

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    11 Dec 2000:  A close up of Allen Iverson #3 of the Philadelphia 76ers gets ready to shoot a free throw during the game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Timberwolves defeated the 76ers 96-91.
    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-2010

    Teams: Philadelphia 76ers, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Memphis Grizzlies

    The diminutive point guard and 2001 MVP is another case of a player who suffered plenty of injuries, yet overcame them to play, and play amazingly.

    Back and leg injuries sidelined him several times from 1999 to 2001 and half of the 2003-04 season.

    And from 2006-08, he played in just 65 games, which eventually helped him move on to Turkey.

No. 9: Jim McMahon

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    26 Jan 1986: Quarteback Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears prepares to hand off the ball during Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots at the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Bears won the game, 46-10.
    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    Years: 1979-96 

    Teams: Brigham Young University Cougars, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers

    Bears fans like to talk about how many Super Bowls they would have won in the 1980s had McMahon been able to stay healthy. Maybe three more, maybe just the one in January 1986. 

    Either way, McMahon's injury problems started before he reached the Windy City.

    Aside from once stating that he wore his famous black visor to help relieve a problem from childhood (stabbed in the eye with a fork?), as a freshman at BYU, injury forced him to redshirt in 1979.

    Once he joined the Bears, he became the starter in 1983, but in early November 1984, he bruised his ribs and kidneys and was lost for the season.

    A year later, the Bears reached the Super Bowl, despite several minor injuries that cost him a few games (including a neck injury and his famous buttocks ailment that he allegedly showed off to a helicopter camera crew during Super Bowl week).

    After that 46-10 win over New England, he missed more than 10 games in 1986 with a shoulder injury and only played in 16 games total the following two seasons.

    Largely a backup after that, he never was 100 percent. But he remained in the league for several more years and fittingly retired after another Super Bowl win in New Orleans, this as the understudy to Brett Favre with the Packers.

No. 8: Steve Emtman

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    4 Oct 1992:  Defensive lineman Steve Emtman of the Indianapolis Colts looks on during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  The Colts won the game, 24-14. Mandatory Credit: Scott Halleran  /Allsport
    Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    Years: 1992-97

    Teams: Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins

    A decade before the Cleveland Browns were infamously snake-bitten with ill-conceived first-round selections, the Colts set the standard: Cornelius Bennett, Andre Rison, Jeff George, Quentin Coryatt and Trev Alberts.

    But Emtman had to be the saddest of those cases.

    The first overall pick out of Washington in 1992, Emtman tore both knees and ruptured a disc in his neck during the first three seasons of his career. He played in just 18 games from 1992 to 1994.

    Somehow, he recovered to play two quality seasons with Miami, but after a year in Washington, he retired at the age of 27.

No. 7: Eric Lindros

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    4 Jan 2001:  This is a portrait of center Eric Lindros #88 of the New York Rangers. It was taken during the NHL game against the Washingon Capitals at the MCI Center in Washington, DC.  The Capitals defeated the Rangers 5-2.  Mandatory copyright notice: C
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Years: 1992-2007 

    Teams: Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars 

    Remarkably, in his first 11 years, from 1992-2001, Lindros never had a season in which he didn't endure some type of injury.

    There were rib, knee, wrist and shoulder injuries and countless concussions. Only once did he play in more than 73 games, but he was still a seven-time All-Star.

No. 6: Chad Pennington

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    ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 02:  Quarterback Chad  Pennington #10 of the Miami Dolphins walks off the field against the Dallas Cowboys during a preseason game at Cowboys Stadium on September 2, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Imag
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Years:  2001-present

    Teams: New York Jets, Miami Dolphins

    Pennington became a pretty big hero in New York, leading the Jets to the postseason in 2002. But he broke his hand in the 2003 preseason and missed seven weeks.

    Then, in 2004, he tore his rotator cuff and missed three games.

    He needed another surgery on his throwing rotator in 2005 and missed 13 more games.

    An ankle sprain in 2007 meant more missed time.

    In favor of Brett Favre, he was cut and signed by the Dolphins prior to 2008, when he won a second Comeback Player of the Year award.

    Of course, he tore his shoulder again in 2009 and missed 13 more games, letting Chad Henne take over.

    And then there was what happened last week against Tennessee. They benched Henne, put Pennington back in and he immediately tore his shoulder again and will probably miss the rest of the season.

No. 5: Steve McNair

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    HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 28:  Quarterback Steve McNair #9 of the Tennessee Titans sets to pass during the game against the Houston Texans on November 28, 2004 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. The Texans defeated the Titans 31-21. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Years: 1996-2009

    Teams: Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, Baltimore Ravens

    Like the previous entry, the late Steve McNair's ability to play through injuries was legendary.

    During the Titans' lone Super Bowl season, he needed disc surgery and missed five midseason starts and still nearly led the team to a world championship.

    After that, he really only missed significant time in 2004: half the season because of a bruised sternum.

    But it seemed every week of the NFL season during the previous campaign, he seemed to be "questionable" because of some injury to his leg, shoulder or the terribly-lingering bruised sternum.

    He probably holds the NFL record for most starts following a week of practice in which he didn't take a single snap.

    McNair was fond of the old Marine slogan: "Pain is just weakness leaving the body."

No. 4: Kirk Gibson

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    SAN DIEGO - 1988:  Outfielder Kirk Gibson #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers with his helmet off during a 1988 season game against the San Diego Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Years: 1979-95

    Teams: Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Kansas City Royals, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Gibson's famous home run off of Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series is especially famous because he hit it on two terribly messed up and painful knees.

    But other injuries during his 17-year career meant that he played in 130 games or more in a season just four times.

    Still, he won two World Series, NL MVP and an ALCS MVP.

No. 3: Kerry Wood

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    16 Jun 2000:  Pitcher Kerry Wood #34 of the Chicago Cubs winds up for the pitch during the game against the Montreal Expos at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.  The Cubs defeated the Expos 9-8.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Years: 1997-present

    Teams: Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees

    After his brilliant rookie season in 1998, he needed Tommy John surgery and missed all of 1999.

    Another arm injury in 2004 forced him to the disabled list for two months, followed by another arm surgery in 2005, when he made just 10 starts.

    Then there were knee, shoulder and rotator cuff injuries that let him appear in just four games in 2006.

    In 2007, he transitioned into a reliever, but hurt his elbow. And in 2010, a muscle strain put him on the DL for the 14th time.

    The stories of Prior and Wood only makes the Cubs 2003 NLCS loss even more heartbreaking.

No. 2: Greg Oden

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers dunks over Anthony Randolph #4 of the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    Years: 2007-present

    Teams: Portland Trailblazers

    This one needs little explanation. He was the first overall pick in 2007, and during the four subsequent seasons, he's played in 82 games total.

    The chronic knee injuries to basketball big men are a theme on this list. But Oden's injury-prone career might be the worst example.

No. 1: Mickey Mantle

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    Years: 1951-68

    Teams: New York Yankees

    The somewhat famous picture above shows all of Mantle's injuries from 1951 to 1963.

    Still, during that span, he won three MVPs, a triple crown and seven World Series.

    After that photo was taken, he played another five seasons, but missed more than 150 more games because of the pain.

    Mantle may have been the best player of all time had he stayed healthy. Or maybe he was, considering what he achieved on two terrible knees.


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