The god forsaken injury bug, that’s why.
It’s hard for our generation to find another time in sports where so many significant injuries have so dramatically shifted the basketball landscape. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, after suffering a ruptured Achilles, was working his way back. Six games later: the future Hall of Famer is out another six weeks with a fracture of the lateral tibial plateau in his left knee. I’m no doctor, but a 35-year-old man suffering two major injuries has me believing this may be the end of Bryant’s incredible career, or at least his career as basketball fans have come to know it.
Staying with the NBA, or the Nothing But Anotherdepressinginjury according to ESPN basketball writer Marc Stein, can anyone feel worse than Derrick Rose? The Chicago Bulls star skipped an entire season to recover from a torn ACL, only to go down with a torn meniscus 10 games into his highly-anticipated return.
Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez is out the rest of season with a broken foot. How are the three stars’ teams doing in their absence? The Lakers, Bulls, and Nets are a combined 32-47 this season, with all three on the outside looking into the playoff picture.
At Duke, injuries have played a significant role as well. Andre Dawkins’ return to the basketball court was inspiring, but delayed due to a back injury he suffered during the preseason. The redshirt senior played a grand total of two minutes in the Blue Devils’ first two games, something head coach Mike Krzyzewski said was due to poor shooting in practice coming off of the tailbone injury.
Dawkins has since had a handful of solid performances and when he plays well, so does Duke. In games that Dawkins scores in double figures, Duke is 4-0, with an average margin of victory of 22.25 points per game. The Blue Devils’ are 5-2 without such performances, winning by 11.43 points per game in their five victories.
Let’s not forget Toegate. In 2010, Kyrie Irving was poised to have the kind of season that a player of his caliber was born to have. Duke had just won the national title, and the Blue Devils were even better on paper the next season with Irving entering as the nation's No. 1 overall recruit. Averaging 17.4 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.3 rebounds per game entering a showdown with 2010 national runner-up Butler, Irving and the Blue Devils were cruising.
Enter injury bug.
Has a campus ever cared more about a big toe? The student body was so alarmed they made a Facebook page asking students to donate their toes for a good cause. Irving returned for the 2011 NCAA tournament, which ended with a 93-77 loss to Derrick Williams and the Arizona Wildcats.
It’s not just basketball either. Duke football will take on Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A bowl this Saturday night on New Years Eve in its biggest bowl game in more than 50 years. The Blue Devils will be missing redshirt senior offensive tackle Perry Simmons, a third-team All-ACC selection. Simmons suffered torn ACL and MCL in his left knee during the ACC championship game loss to No.1 Florida State.
How important was Simmons? He had started 50 consecutive games at right offensive tackle and is a two-time All-ACC selection the past two seasons. Needless to say, losing Simmons, in addition to suspended running back Jela Duncan, will be tough for Duke to overcome against 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel.
What Bryant, Rose, and Lopez meant to their teams cannot be overstated. Losing those guys would be the equivalent of Jabari Parker, Jamison Crowder, and Chelsea Grey all going down for Duke this week. Peyton Manning is breaking records left and right, but it was only two seasons ago that he was sidelined for the season as his Indianapolis Colts sputtered to the worst record in football. Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is now out for the rest of the season on the eve of a winner-take-all division battle with the Philadelphia Eagles.
As I said before, I’m not a medical expert, so I’m not going to write on how basketball and football players should change their routines to avoid such injuries. However, I do know sports, and losing star players hurts the team’s ability to win. It’s not difficult to understand, but be wary sports fans—the injury bug is out, and your team could be next.