Don’t panic yet … everything indicates Stephen Curry will be back from this ankle injury and it won’t shred the Warriors’ title hopes to bits and pieces.
But if it doesn’t … well, let’s just say we don’t want to see Steph’s name on this list.
Here are some of the most unfortunate injuries in NBA history that changed some serious title hopes. Like how the Orlando Magic should have won every championship from 1999-2007…
10. Joe Johnson
Johnson has had a great career that hasn’t been derailed by injuries. However, when he broke his orbital bone back in the 2005 playoffs, the Suns lost their best chance at getting a title in the Steve Nash era. Johnson was a huge piece of that team behind Nash, Shawn Marion and fully healthy Amare Stoudemire (an honorable mention guy), and the Suns’ chance to beat the Spurs in the WCF went out the window without him. This team had the best record in the NBA and couldn’t capitalize because of it.
9. Jay Williams
This one sucked. I was a huge Jay Williams fan back in the day, but having it all taken away in a motorcycle accident is way tougher to sit with rather than physically falling apart on the court. Blink of an eye and it was over. The Bulls had a really nice young team at that time that certainly would have had the opportunity to flourish into a lot more with Williams healthy.
8. Greg Oden
Poor Greg Oden was such a sure thing if he just could have stayed healthy. Would he be as good as Kevin Durant? Probably not, but it definitely had the potential to be a debate. Portland was probably the worst place for him in retrospect because of the injuries … if only they’d handled him a little bit differently maybe he could have been able to stay on the court. A “Big Three” of Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy (another honorable mention) sounds like a pretty good core to me.
7. Tracy McGrady/Yao Ming
If only this duo could have stayed healthy. For T-Mac it was his back and Yao had the classic foot problems for a big man — robbing us yet again of what could have been. In 2009 the Rockets somehow took the eventual champion Lakers to a Game 7 in the West Semi-Finals without both of these guys … pretty hard to imagine them not winning with them healthy. So would they have won it all? No doubt Houston had the right formula. Tough break.
6. Dirk Nowitzki
Back in 2003 the Spurs may have benefited from yet another injury to a powerhouse in the West (and Steve Nash was on the wrong end of things yet again). The Mavs were tied with the Spurs for the most wins in the league with 60 that year and the two teams met in the WCF. After Dirk torched San Antonio to steal Game 1 on the road, he went down with a sprained knee in Game 3 and never returned. Dallas went on to lose in six, crumbling away another golden opportunity.
5. Kevin Garnett
If you’ve read any of my work here on the DK Playbook, you may have realized that I never turn down the opportunity to mention that KG’s knee injury back in 2009 cost the Celtics a pair of rings to round out a three-peat in the late 2000’s. After Garnett went down, Boston had no chance without him in the 2009 postseason, and then easily could have expected more from him in the 2010 Finals that came down to the wire in a Game 7 had he not been as restricted. He’ll always have 2008, though.
4. Derrick Rose
This one is painfully obvious. Rose still has some time in his career to turn things around, but it’s safe to say we’re never going to see that MVP level again from him. We all thought D-Rose was going to be doing exactly what Russell Westbrook is doing in the league right now, but this kid just could never stay on the floor. It sucks, and it’s probably going to lead to Chicago rebuilding when they really should have been contenders for the next 10 years starting in 2011.
3. Bill Walton
We pretty much only saw one almost healthy season from Walton while he was in his prime and it resulted in a championship for the 1977 Blazers. Walton suffered through foot injuries for practically his entire career. Had he not, Portland likely would have been right in the mix with the Lakers and Celtics during the ’80’s. Of course, Walton finished his career as a Sixth-Man for the Celtics and was able to help them win a ring in 1986 while playing in 80 games — by then he was a shell of himself, though.
2. Penny Hardaway
Penny was such an amazing talent. He had so much Magic Johnson in him until multiple knee injuries took it all away. Those early years with Shaq were a ton of fun to watch, and that team appeared to be going places. Remember, it was Orlando who was the only team in the ’90’s to bounce MJ’s Bulls from a playoff series (yes, it was the season he returned with just 17 games remaining and wore number 45). A wins a win, though. Who knows? Maybe if Shaq stayed in Orlando that team could have been battling Utah in the Finals one of those seasons. But post-1998 this team would have been dominant in the East.
1. Grant Hill
I always think of Penny and G-Hill in the exact same light — both had Magic/LeBron type games that got ripped away from them. At the time, “The Next Michael Jordan” phrase was being thrown around when talking about Hill until Kobe came along. Hill was fantastic in Detroit, but never had the pieces around him to win. That was supposed to change when he signed with the Magic to playing alongside T-Mac in hopes of bouncing back from the Penny era … ummmm talk about bad injury luck in Orlando. Hill played four games that year and just 200 total in his seven seasons in Orlando. Eventually he revived his career in Phoenix, but this guy could have been the cornerstone of a championship team if his ankles never fell apart.
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