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Sports Then and Now

Some Key NBA Foot Injuries Now And Then

Posted on December 07, 2017 by Joe Fleming
Bill Walton was never able to achieve his full potential in the NBA due to foot injuries.

Bill Walton was never able to achieve his full potential in the NBA due to foot injuries.

Sprinting and jumping, two of the most frequent activities in professional basketball, are very hard on the feet. And it’s not just the activities on NBA game days. By the time athletes reach that level, their feet have already undergone years of pounding in practices and games since they were teenagers.

Although foot injuries are much more serious when you sprint and jump for a living, these wounds are not limited to top professional athletes. In fact, they are quite common, especially among active people. While your options are usually limited in terms of correcting the injury, it’s always a good idea to follow a doctor’s orders. There are some choices available in terms of recovery including physical therapy, surgery, and bracing. Instead of just any device, use one of these top shoes for foot injuries. They not only hasten your recovery but also add comfortable and maneuverability while you are laid up.

Bill Walton

A foot injury transformed one of the most dominating forces on the hardwood into one of its most prolific towel-waving cheerleaders. Then again, Mr. Walton was always quite a contrast. In college, he was the best player on those unbeatable John Wooden-led UCLA teams. In the 1973 title game, Mr. Walton almost literally beat Memphis State all by himself, scoring 44 points on 21-of-22 shooting in an 87-66 win.

But the foot injuries soon took their toll. After several campaigns on the Portland Trail Blazers team that included two deep playoff runs, an MVP trophy, and a championship title, Mr. Walton missed the entire 1978-79 season in an injury-related holdout. He played on and off for the next decade, even winning the NBA’s Sixth Man Award with the Boston Celtics in 1985. However, Mr. Walton and his foot issues will probably be remembered as the man who still holds the record for the number of career games missed due to injury.

Grant Hill

Whereas Mr. Walton was a powerful offensive and defensive force, Mr. Hill was a point forward who had a high skill level and also made everyone around him better. He was very, very good at both these roles. Some writers have said that he was the best Duke player ever, which is very high praise indeed.

Professionally, Mr. Hill’s career splits into B.F.I. (before foot injury) and A.F.I. (you guessed it — after foot injury). In his first six years, he was one of the best and most popular players in the NBA. He even pulled more All-Star fan votes than Michael Jordan. In his next twelve years, his points, rebounds, and assists averages plummeted as he struggled with foot injuries. He retired in 2013.

Today, Mr. Hill is one of the lead broadcasters for March Madness games and a co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

Yao Ming

When the 7-6 Chinese professional player debuted with the Houston Rockets in 2002, Mr. Ming almost immediately became both a basketball and cultural phenomenon. Nevertheless, many pundits predicted failure. Charles Barkley even said he would kiss Kenny Smith’s ass if Mr. Ming scored over 19 points in any of his games as a rookie. Mr. Barkley later made good on that bet, at least in part, after Mr. Ming went on to score 20 points on nine-of-nine shooting against the Los Angeles Lakers.

A few years later, Mr. Ming approached the pinnacle of his career. He broke Michael Jordan’s record for All-Star votes in 2005, posted impressive offensive numbers under new head coach Jeff Van Gundy, and helped lead the Rockets to their first playoff series victory in a dozen years.

But Mr. Ming missed 250 games during his final six seasons due to various injuries. In addition to his feet, he also hurt his ankles and knees, possibly because these joints worked too hard to compensate for his injured feet. So, Mr. Ming’s injury saga is also a cautionary tale for everyone else who sustains a foot injury. If it does not heal properly, the problems may just be beginning.

This story has a happy ending as well. In 2011, over a million Chinese basketball fans left social media comments about his retirement, in 2016, Mr. Ming was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and the following year, the Rockets retired his Number 11.

The moral of these stories seems relatively clear: Take care of your feet, and they will take care of you.

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