The rugged nature of professional basketball creates a ton of NBA injuries each season. NBA teams routinely submit injury reports each week throughout the season. These injuries can be devastating to players, teams and fans alike. A couple of key injuries can be all it takes to send an NBA team from the playoffs to the draft lottery. Any player can go from all-star to role player in a heartbeat if they suffer the wrong injuries. Certain athletes have been snake bitten by career-altering injuries and this guide highlights the worst of the worst.
- Bill Walton: Anyone who saw Walton play at UCLA enjoyed a glimpse of how truly dominant he could be on the court. That dominance never really transferred to the next level during an injury plagued NBA career. During his first two seasons with Portland, after the Trailblazers selected him No. 1 overall in the 1974 NBA Draft, Walton missed several games with a broken nose, broken foot, broken wrist and broken leg. He recovered enough by his third season to lead Portland to an NBA title in 1977 and earn league MVP honors. But Walton broke his foot again the following year and it began a string of ankle and foot injuries that cut short a promising pro career.
- Sam Bowie: It is bad enough to be selected before Michael Jordan in the NBA Draft. It is even worse when your career is marked by one major injury after another. Bowie never had a chance to justify Portland choosing him over Jordan after injuries sidelined him for frequent stretches during his four seasons with the Trailblazers. A compound fracture of his tibia cost Bowie all but five games of the 1987-88 season. He sat out the entire season the following year when he broke his leg again in the same exact place. Bowie was never the same. Basketball failure has not followed him off the court, where Bowie has made a nice living racing horses in Kentucky.
- Ralph Sampson: Wilt Chamberlain once labeled Sampson as the no. 1 waste of NBA talent after a mediocre pro career. It is hard to blame Sampson for how things played out. As a 7-foot-4 center coming out of Virgina, Sampson had a soft touch around the basket and was a good ball handler. When Houston drafted him No. 1 overall in 1983, many people expected him to become a superstar. Sampson enjoyed three strong seasons with the Rockets before a series of knee injuries destroyed his career and turned him into a seldom used 12th man.
- Danny Manning: Call it the Clipper curse. Midway through his rookie season in Los Angeles, Manning tore his ACL and missed the remainder of the season. He bounced back from that first knee injury to become an all-star in his fifth season with the Clippers and left the franchise as it's all-time scoring leader a year later. When Manning signed with Phoenix, he suffered two more ACL tears in 1995 and in 1998. The third tear essentially finished him off and Manning went from valuable sixth man to a role player bouncing from team to team over his last few seasons.
- Grant Hill: Before suffering a major ankle injury in 2000, Hill was one of the league's best all-around players. Hill had a total of 9,393 points, 3,417 rebounds and 2,720 assists. Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, and LeBron James are the only NBA players to surpass these numbers after their first six seasons. The Orlando Magic lured him away from the Detroit Pistons, thinking Hill would be a cornerstone they would build around. He missed all but 47 games during his first four seasons in Orlando because of lingering ankle problems and eventually had his ankle surgically broken and repaired to get it to fully heal. Hill made a successful comeback and has carved out a niche as a veteran leader with the Phoenix Suns. But his balky ankle prevented Hill from becoming one of the all-time great players in the NBA.