For those who don't know, FIBA (Fédération Internationale de Basketball) will host the seventeenth edition of their Basketball World Cup (formerly the FIBA World Basketball Championships) at the end of August. It is their precursor to the Olympic Tournament just like the Confederations Cup is the precursor to the FIFA World Cup. Unlike the FIFA version however, the winner of the Basketball World Cup automatically qualifies for the Olympics and the tournament is not necessarily held in the Olympic host country. The 2014 Basketball World Cup will be held in Spain from August 30th until its conclusion on September 14th. I am not here though to talk about the FIBA Basketball World Cup but instead an injury that occurred in the build up to the event last night in Las Vegas.
The US Men's National Team held a showcase game on the campus of UNLV last night featuring some of the best talent Coach K has to choose from going into the World Cup in Spain. Kevin Durant, a seemingly rejuvenated Derrick Rose, James Harden and others had a glorified scrimmage in front of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a crowd ready to use the USA chants they shelved once our men's soccer team was eliminated in Brazil. The collective air would be taken out of the building though as early in the fourth quarter Indiana's Paul George suffered what has now been confirmed as a open tibia-fibula fracture. For non-orthopedists, his leg turned into a Tetris piece. I am going to put a video of the injury here but please if you are squeamish avoid this. I haven't been able to watch it a second time.
Needless to say George's chances of playing for Team USA this month are shot and his 2014-15 NBA Season is likely over before it even starts. As a supporter of a club, you hate to see injuries happen ever. Yes, they are a part of athletics but that doesn't take the sting away from seeing one of your favorites go down in a heap. Furthermore, I feel it is worse when one of these gruesome events occurs in a game that doesn't even matter. Exhibition injuries are the worst and Paul George's surely isn't the first and it certainly won't be the last.
MLB's Spring Training and the NBA and NHL preseasons are fairly tame when it comes to occurrences of calamity but there are a couple in recent memory that left both the player and lookers on shaken. Aroldis Chapman, the fireballing Cuban closer for Cincinnati whose fastball regularly goes over 100 MPH, took a liner off the bat of Salvador Perez to the head that resonated throughout Surprise Stadium in Arizona like a gunshot. Perennial All-Star and former number one overall pick Blake Griffin had his rookie season wiped out from a knee injury he sustained in the Clips' last preseason game of 2009. Hockey Hall of Famer Pavel Bure's career came to a premature end at the hands of a knee injury against the New Jersey Devils in the preseason. But when it comes to injuries you need not look further than both forms of football.
The FIFA World Cup comes every four years and is a spectacle unlike any other. Footballers play their whole lives for just a chance to represent their country in front of the world. Injuries during the club season ruled out players like Colombia's Radamel Falcao, Belgium's Christian Benteke, and England's Theo Walcott but the schedule of pre-World Cup friendlies were anything but for several players. Italy's Ricardo Montolivo and Mexico's Luis Montes suffered leg breaks against Ireland and Ecuador respectively. Germany's Marco Reus missed his opportunity to hoist the coveted trophy in Rio de Janeiro because of a ligament tear suffered in a friendly against of all opponents, Armenia. France made the final in 2006 but did not have top striker Djibril Cisse in tow after a leg break against China. However if you are talking about injuries in meaningless contests, this football doesn't even hold a candle to the hit list from its American namesake.
The NFL's preseason is one of the dullest things to watch. Starters don't play more than a series or two until the last game and that isn't even a definite. They don't draw ratings and are generally loathed by fans, but most of all season ticket holders who are forced to pay good money for what equates to a scrimmage in pads. Nevertheless, there is usually about one unnecessary injury each preseason that sends shockwaves through the league. In 2003, the Madden Curse struck Michael Vick as Adalius Thomas broke his fibula and cost the Falcons' face of the franchise ten games in a boot. In 1998, Jason Sehorn's shining career for the New York Giants was ended by a severely torn ACL and MCL on kickoff coverage during a preseason game against the Jets. Patriot Darryl Stingley was paralyzed in 1978 and the Chiefs Stone Johnson died in 1963, both in preseason affairs. Nobody will ever wear #33 again for Kansas City in Johnson's honor.
I know that exhibitions will never go away. There is too much money to be made on them and money drives all things sport. I also know that injuries aren't going to stop happening. I just hope when we are making a Venn diagram of the two in the future there is less and less intersection.
Trevor Utley didn't see Paul George's injury live and that is probably good because he enjoyed his dinner but didn't want to taste it again.
Video Credit: George injury (Scotty Brown/Youtube)