It’s certainly possible for an athlete to come back from a devastating injury stronger and better than before.
Paul George and Kyrie Irving—teammates on this year’s U.S. National Olympic Men’s Basketball team—are living proof of that fact.
Back in August of 2014, George suffered a gruesome compound fracture in his lower right leg that caused him to miss nearly the entire 2014-2015 NBA season. He returned this past season to post a career-high in points per game (23.1) and tie his previous career highs in steals per game (1.9) and assists per game (4.1).
During Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals, Irving suffered a fractured left kneecap. The injury left him sidelined until December 20, but he went on to have a fantastic season, which culminated in his championship-winning shot during Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals.
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At a recent media availability, Irving reflected on the challenges both he and George faced while coming back from injury.
“I didn’t have an injury like he did, but breaking my kneecap in the NBA Finals, I didn’t start walking until a month and a half later after I got the surgery,” Irving said. “So, those days where you’re knocked down and you’re by yourself, those are the days that define you. It defines the way your life is going to be shaped. I know that that’s probably the biggest adversity or the biggest change that [Paul] has ever had to deal with. Just like me fracturing my kneecap was the biggest change I ever had to deal with. It has a way of changing guys. None of us here were there when he was going through rehab, thinking about life, how he was going to get back. None of us were there when he was trying to figure out, ‘where’s the next step?’ That right there, builds character. You can tell, he carries an aura about him now. I don’t know if he had it before. Sometimes, adversity can do that to you.”
Irving and George had an absurd amount of perseverance and hard work to overcome their injuries, and the result has been nothing short of inspirational.
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