Injuries happen. They evoke gut wrenching visceral responses in viewers, cause front office’s to rethink entire season’s worth of strategies, and they make players think twice about how they play. That’s the harsh reality of the NBA. Injuries are inevitable, and unfortunately, it often seems as if these injury situations are progressively becoming more prevalent as more and more major stars go down with injuries that have completely reshaped the playoff pictures, draft odds, and fan sentiment.
One way to examine the differences player's face in coming back from an injury, is to compare and contrast snapshots of currently injured players and how they are making a comeback from their respective injuries. Each situation is unique, and the recovery for each of these injuries is dependent on some very different things. On one end of the spectrum you have the youngbloods like Jabari Parker and Julius Randle just looking to make their mark on the NBA, and on the other you have players like Kobe Bryant attempting to write a swan song amidst the looming threat of a career ending injury. These examples illustrate the different stages of injury, and bring to light just how unique each situation is for each of these players.
It seems counterintuitive, with improving medical technology, and recovery techniques that speed up how quickly a player can get back to contributing for a team, one would assume that the incidence of injuries would go down, but just in the past year, we have witnessed so many players go down, that the injuries span the length of an entire NBA career. That is to say, for pretty much every stage in an NBA career, there was an injured NBA player or two that corresponded to it, from the early rookie stages of a basketball life, to the bittersweet twilight of an NBA storyline.
The truth is that an NBA career is usually pretty short, and an injury can tragically end the story of a promising prospect before they even get a chance to prove themselves. These athletes are fragile, just like us, and understanding this can be tough when all of our perceptions of these athletes are based upon performing superhuman feats of athleticism, when in reality, at the end of the day, they are just as human as we are.
The complexity of any given injury is often understated, and the litany of factors that go towards successfully from an injury differ for different players, at different times during their careers. The the environment in which we are hurt, and the environment in which we heal are both interconnected with each other. The expectations, the psychological pressures, the internal struggles that come along with any injury are just as huge roadblocks in a player's career as anything else. The expectations surrounding a comeback can create a multitude of factors that not only affect the length of your recovery, but also the efficiency and confidence with which you make your return.
At the end of the day, it is all about context, and successfully recovering from any injury requires a very nuanced understanding of all the factors that are in play during the recovery process. At different stages during your career, these factors are going to differ based on physical, as well as psychological and sociological pressures.
Every comeback story from injury is a multifaceted journey that requires facing various setbacks and coming to terms with them in the context of your NBA career. As you mature, you develop new understandings of what the impact of an injury is, and how to deal with it. Within the context of a larger NBA career, injuries can be the end all be all, or they can just be another bump in the road. What determines whether you end up as a bust or make an inspirational comeback is how you tackle the unique, subjective, and treacherous monster that is injury.