Top 5 NBA players who had short careers due to injuries

Penny Hardaway.
Penny Hardaway.
Modified 10 Apr 2021

Exceptional players have found their way to the NBA and dazzled, but not all have had the opportunity to have a full and accomplished career. Contact, coupled with the natural wear and tear of the body, had players watching from the sides when they ought to have been competing for trophies. Even as some players like Shaquille O'Neal left the game of their own volition, many others were not as lucky.

Although the NBA has produced several superstars and Hall of Famers, the list could have been a lot longer if most players stayed healthy throughout their careers.

It is worth noting that the NBA is continually revising rules to protect players and ensure that avoidable injuries remain so - avoided.

5 NBA players whose careers got disrupted as a result of irrecoverable injuries

Players like Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade decided to retire from professional basketball willingly after enjoying spectacular careers. However, others were forced to retire because the injuries sustained could have gotten worse if there was a further strain.

Most players come into the NBA knowing they would have a knock or two. No one expects to have an injury so severe that it takes you out completely. Sadly, some rising talents have faced this demise.

Here are the top five players who have had their blossoming careers cut short due to injury.

#1 Penny Hardaway

Penny Hardaway's career got off to a flying start as he was the third overall pick in the 1993 NBA Draft. He was paired with Shaquille O'Neal in the Orlando Magic, with the duo causing problems for other teams in the NBA. In his second season at the club, Hardaway led his team to the 1994-95 NBA Finals, where they lost to the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets.

Penny made four All-Star appearances in his first five seasons in the NBA; however, his injury problems started early in the 1997-98 season. He suffered a knock to his left knee, one serious enough to require surgery.

He recovered and treated the basketball community to eye-catchy performances. Even then, it was clear that the player was not the same and could not perform at the highest level.

#2 Greg Oden

Greg Oden (Image credits: Bleacher Report)
Greg Oden (Image credits: Bleacher Report)

Greg Oden was an amazing prospect all through college, which convinced the Portland Trail Blazers to make him the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. He could not get going as he did not play one game in his entire rookie season due to a knee injury.

Oden couldn't catch a break as his first NBA game of the 2008-09 season for the Trail Blazers ended early after he injured his foot. The Center managed to play only 61 games after sustaining a knee injury later on in the season.

It was injury after injury for the big man, who managed only 105 appearances in the NBA. He ended his professional career posting eight points per game and 6.2 rebounds.

#3 Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy was a Shooting Guard who got traded to the Portland Trail Blazers after the 2006 NBA Draft. He ended up being the Rookie of the Year, even after missing 20 games due to a left heel injury.

Roy had an injury-ravaged career, as the majority of the injuries he suffered had to do with his knee. He officially retired in the 2011 season due to knee degeneration - a bone-on-bone collision.

Roy played 341 career games, in which he was 80 percent from the free-throw line and recorded 18.8 PPG, 4.7 APG, and 4.3 RPG. Regardless of his short career - six years - Roy made the All-Star team three times.

#4 Yao Ming

Yao Ming
Yao Ming

Basketball gained popularity in China because of 7"6 Center Yao Ming. Ranked as one of the tallest players in the NBA, Ming competed at the highest level, missing only two games in his first three seasons with the Houston Rockets.

Issues started to develop in the fourth season, which remained consistent throughout his short eight-year career.

He paired up nicely with Tracy McGrady, but no one witnessed how productive that partnership could have been because of recurrent injuries to Ming's foot, ankle, and knee.

#5 Andrew Bynum

Andrew Bynum during his time with the LA Lakers.
Andrew Bynum during his time with the LA Lakers.

Andrew Bynum, who was drafted in the 2005 season, is the youngest player to ever play in the NBA. He made the move to the Los Angeles Lakers straight from high school and was instrumental in their 2009 and 2010 NBA Championship wins.

Things went downhill for Bynum after the 2010 season as he battled recurring injuries. He had his first knock to the left knee in 2008 (partial kneecap dislocation) but underwent surgery and recovered from that.

The 7-footer was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2012 but did not make an appearance for them due to degeneration in both knees. His career came to an end after eight seasons.

Basketball enthusiasts cannot help but wonder what would have been if these players had stayed healthy. Even in the short time they each had, their impact was felt in the basketball community.

Published 10 Apr 2021
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