Kobe Could Add to Career-Ending List

Basketball is a game of split-second decisions and lightning fast moves, giant leaps and great falls.

As Kobe Bryant himself said in a post on Facebook, it was a move he has made “millions of times.”

With a torn Achilles tendon, the question is whether the 34-year-old All-Star will become the latest to join a list of NBA players who have had their careers ended by horrific injury?

MAURICE STOKES — He was the 1956 Rookie of the Year with the Rochester Royals, averaging 16.5 rebounds and pulled down 38 rebounds in a single game. A three-time NBA All-Star as the franchise moved to Cincinnati. On March 12, 1958 at Minneapolis, in the last game of the regular season, Stokes drove to the basket, drew contact, fell to the floor, struck his head and lost consciousness. He returned to the game and three days later scored 12 points with 15 rebounds in a playoff game at Detroit. On a flight following that game, he suffered a seizure, fell into a coma and was left permanently paralyzed. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic encephalopathy, a brain injury that damaged his motor-control center. Stokes died 12 years later at age 36. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2004.

BILLY CUNNINGHAM – The Kangaroo Kid was a four-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA first teamer and 1967 champion with the 76ers. He was also the ABA MVP with the Carolina Cougars in 1973. On Dec. 5, 1975 in a game against the Knicks in Philadelphia, he was driving down the left side of the lane with Butch Beard challenging. Halfway down, Cunningham pulled up short, his knee locked, and he fell to the floor in a heap, having torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. In 11 pro seasons, Cunningham averaged 21.2 points and 10.4 rebounds. He was 32. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1986.

CHARLES BARKLEY – The 11-time All-Star and 1993 MVP was averaging 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in his 16th NBA season as a member of the Rockets and had long seemed indestructible as a he carved out a career as one of the great power forwards of the game despite standing only 6-foot-6. Barkley was in Philadelphia, the city where his NBA career began, positioning himself for a rebound barely eight minutes into the first quarter on Dec. 8, 1999 when he collapsed to the floor, rupturing the quadriceps tendon in his left knee. Typical Sir Charles, as he was being carried off the floor, said: “Just what America needs, one more unemployed black man.” Refusing to let the injury become the last image of his career, Barkley returned on April 19, 2000 in Houston for a game against Vancouver long enough to grab a signature offensive rebound and score a put-back basket, then walked off the court. He was 35. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2006.

ISIAH THOMAS – Perhaps the greatest little man ever to play in the NBA, he was a 12-time All-Star and led the Pistons to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990 and was the MVP of The Finals in 1990. Thomas averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists in his 13-year career. Already bothered by an assortment of injuries including a strained arch, broken rib and hyperextended knee, he tore his right Achilles tendon with 1:37 left in the third quarter on April 19, 1994 in a home game against the Magic. “I felt like I got shot with a cannon,” he said. “When I did it, I thought it was my Achilles. I had no control of my foot. I don’t know exactly what happened.” The career-ending injury also kept Thomas off Team USA for the 1994 World Championship. He was 11 days shy of turning 33. He was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2000.

DIKEMBE MUTOMBO – The eight-time All-Star, four-time Defensive Player of the Year, two-time rebounding champ and second-leading shot blocker in NBA history played 18 seasons with six different teams. The great rim protector who made his finger-wag at opponents following a blocked shot his signature, was playing with the Rockets when he collided with the Blazers’ Greg Oden in the second quarter of Game 2 of a first-round playoff series at Portland on April 30, 2009 and fell to the floor. Mutombo had ruptured the quadriceps tendon in his left knee. “It is over for me for my career,” he said that day. He was 42.

YAO MING — The 7-foot-6 center from Shanghai was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 draft by the Rockets and an eight-time NBA All-Star. He’d been plagued by an assortment of foot and ankle injuries and it was originally believed to be just a strained tendon in his left leg when Yao had to leave the court just six minutes into a game at Washington on Nov. 10, 2010. An MRI later revealed a stress fracture in his ankle. “You hope this is the last surgery for him,” teammate Shane Battier said. “Good lord. That guy’s seen more hospital beds than Florence Nightingale.” But Yao never played another NBA game and announced his retirement in July 2011 at age 30.

JAY WILLIAMS – The 6-foot-2 point guard led Duke to the NCAA championship in 2001, national college player of the year in 2002 and was the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft by the Bulls. He averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists as a rookie in Chicago. On the night of June 19, 2003, Williams crashed his motorcycle into a streetlight on Chicago’s North Side. He was not wearing a helmet, was not licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois, and was also violating the terms of his Bulls contract by riding a motorcycle. Williams’ injuries included a severed main nerve in his left leg, fractured pelvis and three torn ligaments in his knee including the ACL. He required physical therapy to regain use of his leg and never played another game in the NBA. He was 21.

SHAQUILLE O’NEAL — At 7-foot-1, 325-pounds-plus, the 15-time All-Star, four-time champion, three-time Finals MVP and two-time scoring champ appeared undentable and unbreakable during his 19-year NBA career. Playing for his sixth team, O’Neal was bothered by foot problems throughout the 2010-11 season in Boston. He returned to the lineup on April 3, 2011, but played just six minutes before limping down the court on a Celtics possession in the first minute of the second quarter. “The doctor thought it was very minor. Scary more than anything,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “But we’ll see.” Shaq returned to play just 12 minutes in two games in the second round of the playoffs against Miami and announced his retirement on Twitter in June. He was 39.

82 Comments

  1. BasketCase says:

    I honestly think this could be a gift and a curse for the Lakers. The Lakers have really been squandering Dwight Howard ever since he joined the team, sure he hasn’t been healthy, but running the offense through Kobe (while the obvious choice) has never allowed Dwight to get into the rhythm that needs to be the dominant force that he was in Orlando (and anyone who says he wasn’t, needs to dig up some old clips),
    The fact is, up to this point, it has been a waste for the Lakers to have had him, when they could have signed someone for cheaper that would grab rebounds and throw in 10-15 points like Dwight has been for most of the season.
    Now it may force D’Antoni to play some inside/outside Basketball, rather than just running everything through Kobe first.
    I know Dwight’s freethrows have been shocking but he has been under-utilised and hopefully Nash will come back in time to run some good pick and roll offense with Dwight.
    I don’t necessarily see them making it past the mighty Thunder in round 1, but I look forward to seeing if they can tweak the offense to make the most of their options now that Kobe is out.

  2. Kobeblackhole says:

    dont worry when kobe returns that laker team will make sure that he scores 81 points again, i can envision now the whole game only kobe throwing shots after shots after the game he would put up 35 shots out of 100.

  3. the Seer says:

    Lakers sell to Seattle, buy Clippers

  4. Confusing Article says:

    This article seemed to be all over the map, with a jumbled blend of chronic injuries, one-time injuries, and even off-court motorcycle injuries, with players of all different ages and other varying factors contributing to their retirement. The question we should be asking is What is the prognosis for a player in his mid-30′s who experiences a catastrophic leg injury, specifically, a complete severance of the Achilles? Unfortunately, if you look further into that, you will discover a minimal return-to-form rate. Add to that the fact that Kobe was already starting to question how many more years he could endure his rigorous training, and I think we’ve seen the last of Kobe as we knew him. I think he’ll come back for a short time in order to go out on a more positive note, but his era is, for all intents and purposes, over.

  5. Andre says:

    Am I the only one who can envision Kobe coming back for like a Game 7 in the Conference Finals.

  6. Another thing that may be motivating Kobe to push through this injury and finish his career on his own terms is that a ruptured Achilles ended Shaq’s career. He elected to retire rather than face the torturous rehab required at age 39. This is one more way for Kobe to distinguish himself from (and perhaps elevate himself above?) his greatest frenemy, nemesis, and championship co-conspirator. A ruptured Achilles ended Shaq’s career; it will not end Kobe’s.

  7. Tyler says:

    Man you really forget how young Isiah was, only 32 years old in 1994. He should have played up until 1999 just like Joe Dumars did, and you totally forget that!! the pistons could have had a starting lineup of Isiah/Stackhouse/Hill/Mahorn/B. Williams with Dumars coming off the bench…that would have been quite a team.

  8. Me says:

    How about Ziggy Markuchef. He good player. He almost dunk one time, but make wife mad and she cut his shooting finger off. Poor Ziggy.

  9. bluedrumble says:

    I felt sorry for T.J.FORD too when he retired. Ok, maybe he wasn’t one of the great stars, but I think he’s worth a mention here.
    Anyone on this?

  10. perkele says:

    Tracy McGrady should definitely be on this list. Arguably one of the most talented players the game has ever seen had his career cut by multiple injuries. He would still be a force equal or greater to Bryant if he hadn’t be injured

  11. Barkley was 37 not 35 in 2000!

  12. steve says:

    What about Penny Hardaway & Grant Hill? Great ballers but injuries

  13. sajfghaniu says:

    he’ll be back after a year, kobe should also enjoy this break and after that, play till the age of 40…all time great!

  14. imran says:

    @ W/E this is the Lakers not any cheap team

  15. Michael says:

    Where’s TMac? He was an all-star that suffered through way too many surgeries.

  16. Gillsy says:

    Kobe will be back and weather D12 stays or goes once next year is done the Lakers will hi the reset button and fill p the cheque book and be back to the playoffs.. The only problem will be hey don’t have a Phil Jackson or Pat Riley to fill the coatches box which has been the secret to their success over the years.

  17. kb24 says:

    kobe is the best player in the nba at the moment he will bounce back from the injury

  18. Banjo says:

    Lol Brandon Lloyd. Where’s C-Webb? that man was up with KG and Duncan before he got a) robbed of a title by the refs in 2001 b) knees gave out on him.

    Forever my favourite. It’s hard to see the Kings farting about before they move to SEA, where are Webb and Divac going to have their Jerseys hung???

  19. The Stern Button says:

    How can the stern button help now? who will benefit for those phantom fouls? steve blake will be the beneficiary of 20 FT attempts? how about the other 30? lakers had 50FT attempts vs GS 16FTs.

  20. BAP says:

    This is a 35 year old issue and may not have been related to his recent minutes.

    35-40 is when you rupture tendons and you are at risk to do it again. A guy a used to work with ruptured one achilles one year and the other 18 months later.

    I ruptured my gastronemius and another friend ruptured his quadriceps, he was 34 and I was 35.

    I did almost rupture my achilles when I was 26 and that was overuse and due to running a race without fully warming up.

    If it is a tear, which should heal in a few months, then fine, but if it a true rupture and Kobe Bryant tries to come back, I foresee another tendon issue, possible the contralateral achilles 6 to 18 months later.

    Of course, I would be happy if he came to my team and played 15 to 20 minutes a game !!

  21. j-head says:

    Funny, nobody’s mentioned Grant Hill yet. Although his role on the Clippers is pretty minor, he had a couple of really good years as a starting small forward of Nash’s Suns — nothing like his years in Detroit, but still a pretty significant percentage of the final scores. When he was in Orlando, everyone thought he was done for good, but after years of rehab he was playing again — he must be almost Nash’s age. I don’t know if Kobe’s willing to take a reduced role, though, But it was bound to happen. No way someone can play 48 minutes a game, guarding the best player of the opposing team for long stretches, aside from directing and finishing on the offensive end as 1st option. I guess it will be up to D12, Gasol, and Nash to prove once and for all whether a Kobe-centered Lakers team was justified or not!

  22. Winston says:

    What about Grant Hill?
    And are we forgetting T-Mac and Penny?

    • sportsfanfan says:

      The list is of guys that retired due to their injuries, Grant Hill and T-Mac are still logging minutes for their respective franchises. Can’t explain Anfernee though.

  23. Jowellchua says:

    He should retire years back he never been a good player, he just keeps shooting balls after balls. while the whole team suffers. retire now so that the lakers can be viable again.

  24. Emil Dub says:

    This article was so depressing.

  25. what about says:

    There are so many other players, who had to end their career due injury 4 example Jamal Mashburn…

  26. Philko49 says:

    You people are delusional.Kobe’s injury will have an emotional effect on every Laker player.Their decisions should and will be made from a business standpoint only.LA fans are going to experience what small market fans have been experiencing for years.It’s a genuine shame,but athletes are not video game characters.If they’re not smarter than the average fan,they’ve hired someone who is.

  27. Anfernee says:

    Penny Hardaway anyone?

  28. *(%)* says:

    I hope D.Rose does not end up being part of this list

  29. Vic Clement says:

    BERNARD KING – At 6’7″ and 205 pounds, Bernard King epitomized the NBA small forward of the 1980s. With his long arms and quick release, King was an explosive runner on the fast-break and a tremendous scorer. King led the NBA in scoring in 1985 with 32.9 points per game and was selected twice to the All-NBA First Team and four times to the NBA All-Star Game.

    On January 31, 1984, as a Knick, King made history by becoming the first player since 1964 to score at least 50 points in consecutive games: scoring 50 points on 20 for 23 shooting with 10 free throws in a 117-113 Knicks victory over the San Antonio Spurs on January 30, and following it up with another 50 point performance in another road victory – this time in a 105-98 win over the Dallas Mavericks – on 20 for 28 shooting and 10 free throws. The next season, on Christmas Day, 1984, King lit up the New Jersey Nets for 60 points in a losing effort, becoming just the tenth player in NBA history to score 60 or more points in a single game. King had scored 40 points by halftime, and finished the game with 19 of 30 shooting from the field and 22 of 26 from the free throw line.

    At the peak of his career, however, King suffered a devastating knee injury – a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. He suffered the injury while planting his straight leg before jumping, causing the knee to bend, against the then-Kansas City Kings’ Reggie Theus as Theus was driving to the basket in Kansas City, Missouri on March 23, 1985

  30. andy says:

    what about Brandon Roy come on man his story was the best

  31. james says:

    lmfao even if d12 leaves, rich, giant corporation that is the la lakers will be able to buy new stars

  32. Peter says:

    Don’t forget Penny Hardaway. Was looking like the second coming of Magic Johnson until injuries hit and destroyed his career.

  33. Coach K says:

    Forgot to add Alonzo Mourning in the list, When he had his Knee Injury vs Atlanta, I cannot remember the date, but he did not recover and retired at the end of that season.

  34. Dave says:

    And are we forgetting Andrew Toney? I beleive so.

  35. Just-a-thought says:

    Fran, why don’t you just go and write for Bleacher Report? Seriously. That’s where negative, provocative “writers” spend their time.

    No matter; Kobe will take your pathetic comparisons and “prediction” and put it right where it belongs. In the garbage.

  36. Hell says:

    Imagine nash playing with excelent power forward and center? They only need someone to play a little defence and they are way better if nash handles the ball the most.

  37. PistonsFan93 says:

    As much respect I have towards Kobe, I can honestly and obviously say that since this happened, a lot of Kobe-haters are just having a champagne party right now. If Laker fans thought it was hard just to get in the playoffs, it sure is gonna be tough now now without the Black Mamba. Kobe is right. He doesn’t give up, quit, or lay down. He keeps fighting. But we’re all human. We can only reach a certain limit. I say Kobe will bounce back and play one more good year. He won’t get a title, but at least he’ll play with heart and determination. But for now, every anti Laker person is jumping around and celebrating, me included.

  38. zion says:

    what about Brandon Roy? he should be first on this list

  39. ced says:

    Man, what a bummer for one of the most talented ever, one with an incredible work ethic, and obviously the one with the most desire and heart of all. Love Kobe.

    Hope things turn out as close to the way that he would like as possible.

  40. Gabe says:

    Also worth noting, Dominique Wilkins tore his achilles at the age of 32, returned to average almost 30 points per game, and continued to play in Europe long after his NBA days. Also, most of these cases you’re sighting were prior to advances in sports science and/or players who were older than Kobe when they injured themselves.

    • bigwes95 says:

      but most of the players haven’t played 17 years either when their injuries happened. and people coming back and being that productive rarely happens. can you really name many people? because I can definitely bring up a whole lot more people who’s career ended or they became next to nothing of what they used to be.

    • Lakers' fanboy says:

      “Older” but kobe definitely matches the miles on those legs tho. this is the 17th season..Kobe started early and throughout his career he played heavy mins. so bringing up the age doesnt really matter when someone started to play in the pro at 17 years of age and we are talking kobe bryant. he basically never had a day off since day 1 in the nba.

  41. NBA fan says:

    I am surprised no one mentioned Brandon Lloyd, or T-Mac

  42. Your Prayers Answered says:

    When asked to name a player we would not see in the playoffs, you said “Kobe Bryant”.

    Your wish certainly has come true Mr. Blinebury.

    But apparently that’s not enough. You’d also like see his career end … any particular score to settle ?

    • uoykcuf says:

      I think fran has enough of kobe mimic MJ’s every move. whisper *Fran’s a BULLS fan*

    • TJ says:

      There is a difference between predicting something will happen and wanting something to happen. Jeez, for a team with so many championships, the Lakers sure do have the biggest case of persecution delusion in their fanbase.

  43. Jo fresh says:

    I really think the whole retirement thing is premature. A lot of the early retires from NBA slowly came to an end despite the injuries, Kobe has still played like an elite this year. I think he’s not gonna last forever, but has at least 2/3 semi-solid years left then he’ll hit the bucket.

  44. Kevin says:

    YOU CANNOT COMPARE A 7 FOOTERS INJURY TOO KOBE’S, ONCE A 7 FOOTER REACHES MID-LATE 30′S THEY START BREAKING DOWN, AND THERE IS NO RETURN, THOMAS GOT INJURED IN A TIME WHERE HE WAS NOT FORTUNATE TO HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY WE HAVE NOW, AND JAY WILLIAMS WAS DUMB THEREFORE, KOBE WILL COME BACK, IF HE WANTS TO

    • bigwes95 says:

      please turn caps-lock off. and what about people like T-mac, arenas, Brandon roy, derrick rose still, and all these people? people all said they could come back, and have any of them came back to being even a shade of them old selves? no, none have, and how can kobe come back just because Jay Williams was stupid? I think he can come back, but he won’t be as good, a decent player still, but not anywhere near what he is/was.

    • TJ says:

      Capslock: It’s cruise control for cool. Also unreadable.

  45. Jacob says:

    Where’s T-Mac at? The only reason he’s not already made the top-10 in scoring is because of injuries with back and knee issues. Sure he’s playing overseas still but truth be told injuries retired “T-Mac” now we just have a guy named Tracy McGrady. Same for Gilbert Arenas. Kobe will bounce back fom this though because he has more heart and works harder than anyone the NBA’s ever seen.

  46. sportsfan says:

    Kobe has always wanted to be like Jordan and now they both have experienced a major injury. Kobe will come back to finish next season and retire on a good note.

  47. Brandon says:

    Don’t forget about the injury misfortunes of former great Tracy McGrady. He led the league in scoring twice and was a 7 time allstar. If not for being plagued by multiple injuries while playing too many minutes too often, he’d probably still be a dominant NBA force.

  48. grantstern says:

    I’d put Alonzo Mourning’s knee blowout in Atlanta on this list. Zo could’ve stayed on the bench with spot minutes for years to come, but not after that catastrophic on court injury. Shaq’s injury list was long and there wasn’t a single night that finished him besides the cumulative nature of all of those nights of punishment.

  49. cono_m says:

    Pathetic article.

  50. Gary Payton says:

    Seven blogs on Kobe ? The only news out there in NBA

  51. dc says:

    Father time undefeated…

  52. ko0kie says:

    wow totally forgot about jay williams..

    • haeri says:

      Thanks to Wikipedia, you know about the end of Jay’s career now. This part of Mr. Blineburry’s article is widely copy-pasted from the Jay Williams Wiki site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Williams_(basketball)#Motorcycle_accident) with citation or acknowledgment. I’m not sure, if this is the way “journalists” should be working – even if it’s for minor topics like sports idols injuries.

      • plagiarize says:

        LOL it’s straight up copy pasted from the wiki. I got suspended in school for doing this kinda stuff.. but I guess it’s allowed in the real world..

  53. W/E says:

    Kobe’s career is done,D12 will leave LA, Nash will retire Gasol get traded, they wont be able to compete for the next couple years, R.I.P Lakers.

    • u really think that would happen??????????????? ur a laker hater howard will sign with the team cuz he can take advantage of kobes inury gasol has shown that he can play good basketball plus they are a destanation spot for some players int= tha league

      • uoykcuf says:

        With D12 and Gasol and probably nash working together, Lakers chance to win it all improves with Kobe’s injury. Pick and roll all day, baby!

      • some players are even talking about the lakers amnestying Kobe and then signing LeBron James

      • sportsfanfan says:

        Dwight isn’t staying in LA, that’s the reality of the situation. You can be a fan all you want but the odds of Dwight AND Pau staying in LA to wait on Kobe (Probably his last great season) to chase another championship are slim to none.

        Showtime in LA didn’t last forever, neither did Shaq & Kobe, or Shaq on his own in other franchises.

        LA is doomed to be Clipper city if the Lakers don’t start planning for the future.

    • MNH says:

      @W/E, How cold coudl you be. This is only a game man. What you get out of being so rude? !

    • Scott says:

      i been saying this for ages, Lakers have to go through the dark ages like Chicago did after MJ, Kobe might be back but what is the point? he was going to retire after next year anyway…and there is no way he will ever want to be a role player, he is a dedicated chucker….

    • OKCKD35 says:

      You must not watch basketball, lakers will always field a competitive team, they play in a major market and have an owner that is not afraid to pay out luxury tax. They will go after big names in free agency and work to rebuild the roster. I think. D-12 will stay, I couldn’t see him on the aging mavs, and Brooklyn spent an awful lot on Johnson and williams

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      i agree… sad way to end things in laker-land…but its reality