5 modern-day NBA careers that ended too quickly

Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Yao Ming speaks during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

After Chris Bosh failed yet another physical, now’s as good a time as any to look over modern-day NBA careers that ended too soon.

Although people often joke that he’s a dinosaur, Chris Bosh’s career may be coming to an end at the age of 32. The AP reported earlier that Bosh failed yet another physical, and won’t be cleared in time for training camp with the Miami Heat. Even if he does make it back this season, he has missed a total of 67 games over the past two seasons due to blood clots.

It’s sad to see this happen to anyone, especially Bosh, who has served his teams and the community well. But if there’s anything he can take solace in, it’s that he’s hardly alone. Plenty of NBA stars had their careers cut short due to injury, whether it’s a highly-touted prospect with tons of failed potential or a star who slowed down after their formative years. It’s unfortunate, but it’s part of the game.

With Bosh’s best years clearly behind him, now is as good a time as any to look back on NBA players who had their careers cut short due to injury. This list will be limited to modern-day players, so you won’t see Sam Bowie or Bill Walton on here.

5. Amar’e Stoudemire

Stoudemire announced his retirement during this year’s offseason after spending his last year with the Miami Heat. Despite being 32, he was hardly more than a role player, and when Hassan Whiteside got hurt in the playoffs, he was forced into the starting lineup. But that only served as a painful reminder of how much lost potential his NB

Apr 1, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA;  Miami Heat forward Amar'e Stoudemire (5) returns to the bench as Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra watches during the game against the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Miami won 112-106. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 1, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Miami Heat forward Amar’e Stoudemire (5) returns to the bench as Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra watches during the game against the Sacramento Kings in the second quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Miami won 112-106. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

A career represented.

The Phoenix Suns drafted Stoudemire out of high school with the ninth overall pick, and for a while, it looked like it would pay off. He won Rookie of the Year in his first season, averaging 13.5 points and 8.8 rebounds. Once the Suns replaced Stephon Marbury with Steve Nash in 2004, they went from a 29-win team to a 62-win team, while Stoudemire enjoyed his best season ever when he averaged 26 points per game, and 29.9 during the playoffs.

But it was all downhill from there, as cartilage damage in his knee was discovered, forcing him to undergo microfracture surgery. Knee problems, as well as other minor injuries, continued to plague him throughout his career. Since 2005, he has only managed to play a full 82-game season twice. And although he was a coveted signing by the Knicks, once he injured his knee again in 2013, he was relegated to a bench player shortly thereafter.

After Nash and Stoudemire earned comparisons to Stockton and Malone, it was hard to see him suffer a major injury like that just one season later. And although he tried his best to power through his chronic knee pain, that’s not something that goes away. As he plies his trade in Israel, Stoudemire is hoping to rediscover some of that magic he had early in his career.

4. Penny Hardaway

After plenty of injury-plagued seasons, Derrick Rose has been unfavorably compared to Penny Hardaway. While he has a chance to regain his form with the Knicks, last season was one of his healthiest in a long time, and it was far from a productive one.

But Hardaway was often compared to Magic Johnson because his size and speed were incredible for a point guard. And while he was paired with Shaq in Orlando, he was a premier talent at the point guard position. He’s also one of the best players in Magic history, having been on one of Orlando’s two teams that made it to the NBA Finals.

But once Shaq left the Magic, Hardaway was forced to shoulder a heavy load. His increased workload was what led to the first of many injury-plagued seasons, and although he was still productive in 1997, averaging 20.5 points and 5.6 assists, but he never got to 20 points per game after that.

He arrived in Phoenix with a lot of optimism, but his injury problems wouldn’t go away. In 2001, he was limited to four games because of two microfracture surgeries on his left knee. And when he did play, flashes of the great player he was were there, but they were just flashes.

Ironically, Hardaway’s last NBA season was spent in Miami where he was reunited with Shaq. But he was waived midseason to make room for Luke Jackson, which tells you all you need to know about how much they really coveted him. While Hardaway didn’t make life easy on himself by attempting to come back early from devastating injuries, at least we’ll always have those first few years of him and Shaq together in Orlando.

Nov 22, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Former player Greg Oden (R) sits near the Cleveland Cavaliers bench in the second quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

3. Greg Oden

When it comes to drafting, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team with worse luck than the Portland Trail Blazers. This is the team that passed up on Michael Jordan and struck out twice in a row when they picked Brandon Roy and Greg Oden over guys like Rajon Rondo and Kevin Durant.

The main reason they chose Oden in 2007 was because of his career in college. In just one season at Ohio State, he averaged 15.7 points per game, which is outstanding for a big man, as well as 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. In addition to being a second-team All-American, he was voted Defensive Player of the Year while Steve Kerr, then a TV analyst, called him a “once-in-a-decade player.”

But before Oden could even suit up for the Trail Blazers, he went through microfracture surgery on his right knee. Then in his rookie season, he suffered a foot injury in his NBA debut. His 2009-10 season was cut short due to a fractured left patella, while a microfracture surgery on his left knee forced him to miss the entire 2010-11 season. He spent three years rehabbing from his knee problems and only spent one more season with the Miami Heat after that.

All told, the 61 games Oden played in his rookie year were the most he had ever spent on the court. And during his career, he was more famous for a leaked nude photo and not any time he actually spent playing. With the unenviable title of one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory, you can be sure the Blazers would like a mulligan on this pick.

Sep 09, 2016; Springfield, MA, USA; Yao Ming speaks during the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony at Springfield Symphony Hall. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

2. Yao Ming

It was great to see Yao Ming inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Having built a reputation as a dominant big man, even while Shaq was playing, and for putting basketball on the map in China, he deserves it. But given how the latter part of his career played out, he should’ve been inducted a lot later.

In Yao’s first three seasons, he averaged 16.4 points and 8.5 points while only missing two games. He helped get the Rockets to the playoffs for the first time in five years in just his second season. But since then, 2008-09 was the only full season he ever played again.

In 2005-06, he missed 25 games but still led the league in All-Star votes. The 2007-08 season was a memorable one since Yao Ming was done for the season after February, yet the Rockets still went on a 22-game win streak. Although Yao had a full season the following year and was dominant, he never got the chance to elevate them to a championship contender.

Had Yao remained healthy, he could’ve given the Rockets some great years. 2009 was the only time he ever made it past the second round in his career, but that was hardly indicative of the player he was. Although he had a hard time staying on the court, he was a treat to watch when he did play. He eventually retired at age 31 citing his lingering injuries. While he was a great player in his own right, he will be remembered for a lot more than just his play on the court.

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 25:  (L-R) Brandon Roy #7 and Rudy Fernandez #5 of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

DALLAS, TX – APRIL 25: (L-R) Brandon Roy #7 and Rudy Fernandez #5 of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 25, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

1. Brandon Roy

Brandon Roy might be the only recent player the Trail Blazers would regret drafting more than Greg Oden. But unlike him, Roy was a star in Portland. He was almost unanimously voted the Rookie of the Year, despite missing 20 games early in the season.

2008-09 remains his healthiest season, and that was when he became a franchise centerpiece. He put up career highs of 22.6 points per game and 4.7 rebounds per game, with some of his highlights including a 52-point performance against the Suns. But despite his best efforts, they only made it to the playoffs as a fourth seed and got eliminated by the Houston Rockets. But since then, he tailed off dramatically.

In 2009-10, he had lingering issues throughout which forced him to miss 17 games. It carried over to the following year when he was out indefinitely due to arthroscopic knee surgery. Roy mostly came off the bench when he returned, and only averaged 12.2 points. He showed flashes of greatness, the most notable being an 18-point fourth quarter in the playoffs against the Mavericks, but his declining play, along with LaMarcus Aldridge’s surging play, made them forget about him.

Roy retired in 2011, stating that he lacked cartilages between both of his knees, but came back for one season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was an ill-fated attempt since he would only last five games before going through season-ending knee surgery, which served as a prominent reminder of how quickly one’s career can drop off. He retired for good in 2013, at the age of 28.

Being an NBA player is a high-risk, high-reward venture. While these players were remembered as stars at one point, injuries – whether long-term ones or a series of minor ones that piled up – ravaged their careers and took them away from playing the game they love.

Going back to Chris Bosh, this may be the most difficult time of his career, but he still has a great chance of making the Hall of Fame. At the very least, he can be glad that his career didn’t wind up on the same path as some of these ill-fated players.

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