Tuesday night NBA fans across the world witnessed what would have been a story of triumph. One for the archives of NBA history. The storyline would’ve been.... Facing elimination in the NBA playoffs being down 1-3 to the Raptors, Kevin Durant battles through injury with superhuman perseverance and in heroic fashion to save the Warriors and propel them into victory solidifying this as one of the greatest finals performances in the history of the NBA. They probably would’ve had a picture of KD with a Superman emblem on his chest and a cape under his Warriors uniform.
People love stories of heroics. Isiah Thomas hobbling around on one foot in game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals against the Lakers and scoring 25 points in the 3rd quarter. Or Willis Reed walking out of the tunnel for the New York Knicks on his bum ankle in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals. Everything was set up for Kevin Durant to be added to that list.
High school, college and professional coaches across the country were just salivating to be able to use this as an example to their players to enforce the philosophy that “pain is weakness leaving your body”. They would’ve used KD as an example to young athletes that the game (not your health) is what matters most. And a real “team player” would sacrifice a “little discomfort” for their team.
I have seen this all before. During my tenure with the Washington Wizards, I witnessed team trainer Eric Waters misdiagnose player after player because what was best for the Wizards organization was for that player to play. I saw them tell Jarvis Hayes that he simply had a case of tendinitis in his knee and had him playing through the pain. Turned out he had a broken knee cap and ruined his entire career. I saw him tell Kwame Brown that he was just experiencing a “little discomfort” in his leg and that he needed to play through the pain to show everyone that he was worthy of being the number 1 pick. Turned out later, he actually had a torn hamstring. I saw Eric Waters tell Gilbert Arenas that nothing was “structurally wrong” with his knee and he needed to show toughness and be a leader, turned out he needed surgery and injured it worse by playing on it. I saw him tell Deshawn Stevenson there was nothing seriously wrong with his back and had him getting ice and stem and playing through the pain. After the season, upon further review by an outside doctor it was discovered that he actually had an Inflamed L5 Nerve that was stuck underneath a disc that required not one but two back surgeries to repair. My point in saying all of this is not to simply blast Eric Waters, I am showing that this happens all the time in professional sports. With team doctors and trainers, there is a conflict of interest and the sworn medical oath becomes blurred and effects their diagnoses. They are hired by the teams and are in essence employees of the organization not employees of the players. So they don’t have the players best interest in mind, typically, they only have the organization’s.
The Golden State Warriors medical staff basically RG3’d KD. They “Any Given Sunday’d” him. They Eric Waters’d him.
He shouldn’t have been playing period.
The risks outweighed the rewards. Even from a team standpoint. This is your franchise player. This is a player who has the capability of single handedly turning an entire NBA championship finals series around. This is a player that you should do everything in your power to convince him how important he is for him to want to re sign with you. However, what they showed was the exact opposite. I don’t care if he insisted on playing, they should’ve have the medical integrity to tell him no. But the Warriors aren’t the only ones. This happens all the time.
I hope all young players see this and learn that no matter what the circumstances or how big the game is, your health always comes first, and you ALWAYS get a 2nd opinion from your own doctors that have nothing to do with the organization like Kawhi Leonard did in San Antonio last season.
Now, everyone with a microphone dogged Kawhi last year. Skip Bayless was still going on his hateful rants and baseless criticisms of Kawhi even this year after the Raptors beat the 76ers in the playoffs.
Skip Bayless tweeted out
“Well, I guess it worked for No. 2 to quit on the Spurs last season complaining of what Spurs doctors decided was no more than a thigh bruise. He wound up in the East, playing against a hobbled, sick Embiid and an overrated Giannis. "Crime" pays.”
Kawhi delt with Coach Popovich taking shots at him, his teammates taking shots at him, the team questioning his injury because their “team doctors” said he was fine. But he got a 2nd opinion and was told otherwise and did what was in his best interest. Danny Green was reportedly playing through a torn groin after being misdiagnosed by the same team doctors that misdiagnosed Kawhi.
And the Spurs are one of the most respected organizations in the NBA with one of the most respected coaches in the NBA. But, the bottom line is, any organization will throw you out there in a heartbeat injured if they feel it is best for the organization. They will publicly criticize you if you don’t play and if you play and re-injure yourself worst or just don’t play up to their expectations (as if they don’t know your playing injured) they will get rid of you in a New York minute just like The Washington Football team did RG3 and just like the Washington Wizards did with Jarvis Hayes.
I remember watching Grant Hill. He was about to literally take over the league.
People were calling him out for not playing hurt. Said he was soft etc etc just like they were saying about KD in this playoff series. The Orlando medical staff derailed Grant’s entire career. Another example is the young Isiah Thomas. He shouldn’t have been playing in Boston in the playoffs but he played, ended up hurting himself more, ended up needing surgery, cost himself 100 million dollars came back and played after losing his sister and they traded him that summer because they knew about his injury and knew that he needed surgery.
Kyrie Irving goes and gets a 2nd opinion and they say you need surgery, the Celtics doctors didn’t tell him he needed surgery, so he had his surgery and came back the next year strong. There is a reoccurring theme here.
I coach my son’s aau team the FBCG Dynamic Disciples, and the first thing I did today was message them in our TeamSnap to make sure they learned the lesson in what just happened to KD.
However, the onus shouldn’t be placed on the athlete’s shoulders. Of course athletes are going to want to play but it shouldn’t be up to them. A solution to this league wide issue was suggested to me by a lawyer by the name of Marlon Amprey. He explained that the Players Association assemble a group of outside doctors/specialists (or specific doctors/specialists the player suggests)
that have no connection to the team whatsoever
that will provide 2nd & 3rd opinions and give players detailed reports on their health and risk of injury. All doctors’ reports given by teams that drastically differ should go under review and there should be repercussions for team doctors and trainers who medically clear players who shouldn’t be medically cleared to play.