DunkOrThree > The 10 Worst Injuries in Basketball History: A Closer Look

The 10 Worst Injuries in Basketball History: A Closer Look

Publish Date:18.03.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

Unfortunately, injuries are a part of sports. While most athletes do everything they can to keep their bodies in prime shape, nearly every player gets hurt at one time or another. Sometimes those injuries are minor, and sometimes they can derail an entire career.

There have been a range of extreme injuries throughout the NBA’s long history. The sport is incredibly demanding and takes a toll on even the toughest athletes. However, not all go down forever. No matter how tough an injury may be, there’s always a chance to recover.

This guide expands on that by going over, not just the worst injuries in basketball, but how the athletes who suffered them managed to bounce back.


Notable Injuries in NBA HIstory

This section tackles the worst injuries in basketball history by covering how they happened and who they occurred to.

1. Greg Oden’s Knee Issues

Few players have had as much hype, and suffered as much disappointment, as Greg Oden. The number one overall pick had all the makings of an NBA superstar, except for durability. He suffered a knee injury in practice during his first season in 2007 and went out for the year.

If that wasn’t enough, he injured his foot in his NBA debut the next year, then chipped his left knee a few weeks later. He then suffered a fractured patella, which caused him to miss the rest of the year, and underwent two more surgeries the two following seasons.

2. Klay Thompson’s Back-to-Back Problems

Athletes often deal with injuries, but rarely do such injuries occur on the world’s stage. That fate befell Klay Thompson in 2019, when he tore his ACL going up for a block during Game 6 of the Finals against the Toronto Raptors.

He immediately left the game, and missed the next season. Then, just as he was about to come back, he tore his achilles in a pickup game in 2019. That would keep him sidelined until 2022, showing that even the strongest athletes are not immune to issues.

3. Derrick Rose’s Blown ACL

When Derrick Rose entered the league in 2008, he exploded onto the scene and was touted as one of the most exciting point guards of all time. That came to an abrupt halt in 2009, when he suffered an ACL tear in the 2012 playoffs against the Philadelphia 76ers.

His knee gave out during a jump, tearing his ACL and leaving him hobbled. It was so bad that he missed the next season and never managed to get back to the level he was before that devastating day.

4. Marquis Daniels’ Collapse

Marquis Daniels gave all onlookers a huge scare in a game against the Magic in 2011. The Celtics’ guard collapsed after a routine collision led to a bruised spinal cord.

The injury caused him to lay motionless for several minutes, and he had to be taken away by a stretcher. The impact shows the risk pro athletes face every night they go on the court.

5. Baron Davis’ Devastating Knee Damage

After a long and successful NBA career, Baron Davis was no stranger to injuries. Despite that, his worst came while playing for the Knicks in 2011. During a playoff game against the Miami Heat, he blew out his right knee while dribbling down the court.

The damage was so severe, he needed to be taken off in a stretcher. Doctors found during surgery that the movement tore Davis’ patella tendon and completely ruptured both his ACL and MCL. That derailed his season and ended the Knicks playoff run.

6. Andrew Bogut’s Arm Injury

Big men rarely suffer horrible injuries, but Andrew Bogut proved the exception to the rule while playing for the Bucks in 2010. When going up for a dunk, he came down wrong and landed on his arm. The injury dislocated his elbow, broke his hand, and sprained his wrist.

Three injuries in one impact is bad enough, but it was made worse due to the fact that Bogut couldn’t easily heal from the damage. He missed the rest of the season, hurting the Buck’s championship aspirations and ending their playoff run.

7. Paul George’s Leg Break

While playing for the USA national team in 2014, Paul George faced disaster when he landed on the hoop backstop during a chase down block in a scrimmage. The impact snapped his leg and led to two compound fractures.

The damage was one of the worst basketball injuries and took him out for almost the entire 2014-2015 season. He played in the final six games, but the brutal injury took a while to heal.

8. Rudy Tomjanovich’s Broken Face

Most of the injuries on this list are incidental game-time contact. That’s not the case with Rudy Tomjanovich. During an on-court fight in 1977, Lakers big man Kemit Washington accidentally hit Tomjanovich in the face and ended his season.

The blow shattered his face, fractured his skull, and led to life-threatening head and spinal injuries. He missed significant time due to the severity of the blow.

9. Gordon Hayward’s Leg Injury

In 2017, the Celtics made a big trade for Gordon Hayward to help them start what they hoped would be a championship run. That promise quickly faded when, during the first game with the team, Hayward landed awkwardly on an attempted alley-oop.

The sudden impact caused him to suffer a dislocated ankle and a fractured tibia. While the injury didn’t derail the Celtics season (they would go on a deep playoff run) it did cause Gordon to miss the rest of the year and part of the next one.

10. Shaun Livingston’s Knee Tear

All of the injuries on this list are bad, but the worst in NBA history occurred during the 2007 season when Los Angeles Clippers’ point guard Shaun Livingston shot a routine layup in a game against the Bobcats. While the basket was easy, the landing was not.

He came down wrong, causing his leg to bend in an unnatural way. He suffered a torn ACL, PCL, lateral meniscus, and dislocated patella. It was so bad doctors talked about amputation, and it almost took him out of the game entirely.

Recovery and Comebacks

This section goes over the way the above athletes dealt with the worst injuries in basketball history.

1. Oden’s Early Exit

Greg Oden’s individual injuries were not as severe as some of the other players on this list, but the sheer number of them added up. The big man never managed to stay healthy and only played a handful of total games in the NBA before having to move on.

2. Thompson Returns a Champion

Klay Thompson’s back-to-back injuries are two of the worst any athlete can suffer. Even so, he proved resilient. After missing three years, the shooting guard returned in 2022 and worked with Stephen Curry to bring the Warrior’s their fifth ring in franchise history.

3. Rose’s Lingering Issues

As with many players on this list, Derrick Rose recovered from his injury. However, though he showed flashes every now and then, he never reached his pre-injury heights. He had a few big games, but the initial tear led to long term problems that greatly hindered his overall game.

4. Daniel’s Final Year

Marquis Daniels’ spinal bruise is one of the more unique and scary injuries in NBA history. Though the guard did fully recover after a short hospital stint, it marked the beginning of the end of his career. He only played one more season in the NBA before retiring.

5. Baron Davis’ Final Pain

Davis’ knee injury was not as severe as some other notable ones on this list, but it lingered a lot longer due to his age. The older guard never fully recovered from the damage. He tried to come back, but never again played in the NBA.

6. Bogut Bounces Back

Andrew Bogut suffered many setbacks during his time in the league, but his arm injury was the worst of his career. Still, he pushed through. He eventually healed, bounced back, won a ring with the Warriors in 2015, and played for another six years.

7. George Doesn’t Slow Down

Paul George’s leg break was one of the worst injuries a basketball athlete can experience. Luckily, he was still young and healthy when it occurred. He managed to come back for the final six games of the season, healed up in that offseason, and continues to be a force to this day.

8. Tomjanovich’s Quick Return

Rudy Tomjanovich’s broken skull caused him to miss five months, but the tough big man came back the very next season. Against all odds, he made a full recovery and made the all star game the very next season.

9. Good News for Hayward

Gordon Hayward’s double leg injury took a long time to come back from, but the recovery proved a huge success. He returned a little over a year later and soon went back to his regular form. He put up big numbers for the Celtics and Hornets over the next few years.

10. Livingston’s Incredible Comeback

Shaun Livingston’s leg injury was the worst NBA injury of all time. Even so, he didn’t go down. After months of recovery, his body eventually healed. He bounced around the league before landing with the Warriors in 2014 and going on to win three rings.


Injuries are a part of every sport, and they are incredibly common in basketball. The sport is tough on even the healthiest athletes, and there’s no telling when disaster might strike. That’s a risk all professional players face.

Even so, as the NBA’s worst injuries show, there is hope. Though some of the ailments took players out of the league, most bounced back. Some even returned better than they were before.

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