If Paul George needs reassurance that he can come back from the compound fracture of the tibia and fibula he suffered Friday night at the Team USA Showcase in Las Vegas, he might want to reach out to the last basketball player to sustain such a gruesome leg injury.
Ex-Louisville guard Kevin Ware returned to the floor a mere eight months after breaking his leg against Duke in the 2013 East Regional finals. Though Ware played only 53 minutes before opting to redshirt last December because he still lacked his previous strength and explosiveness, the Atlanta native pronounced himself fully recovered when he transferred back home to Georgia State this past spring.
"I'm 110 percent now," Ware told ESPN in a TV interview late Friday night. "The biggest thing was just blocking out everybody knowing you as the guy who broke his leg. That's one of the reasons I did leave the University of Louisville and decided to come home to play basketball. It's easier to focus now. All I'm focused on is playing basketball for Georgia State."
Ware tweeted his support after George was hurt Friday night.
Although Ware is the most high-profile athlete to suffer a compound fracture in his leg, others have also successfully made the comeback George will have to attempt.
Doctors told Michigan State cornerback Tyrell Dortch he could end up in a wheelchair if he played football again after fracturing his lower right leg in two places in 2001, but he eventually became a co-captain and key contributor after sitting out the 2002 season. Texas A&M guard Derrick Roland also received a dire prognosis after he snapped his tibia and fibula attempting a layup at Washington in Dec. 2009, but he was healthy enough to play in pick-up games eight months later and has since played professionally in South America and Europe.
Ware was watching at home when George suffered his injury Friday night. He later described to ESPN the pain that George was experiencing.
"On a 1 to 10, I would say it's about an 8," Ware said. "Your leg is basically halfway off your body. It's like nothing I've ever experienced before, no pain in the world."
Ware's comeback bid has received a staggering amount of attention because the bravery he displayed after the injury inspired people across the globe.
As he lay in front of the Louisville bench during the first half of an Elite Eight matchup with Duke, Ware called his teammates over and told them not to worry about his broken leg and to go win the game. Ware later became a rallying cry for his team and an instant celebrity nationally as the Cardinals routed the Blue Devils and defeated Wichita State and Michigan in Atlanta to capture the national championship.
Within a few months of the injury, Ware was jogging again. Within six months, he could dunk a basketball. And within eight months, he returned to a standing ovation during a Louisville exhibition victory over Pikeville on Nov. 7.
If Ware can do all that, he feels it's only a matter of time before George regains his all-star form.
"I'm definitely not Paul George," he told ESPN. "I'm not as strong and I'm not as tough as Paul George, but he'll be fine. It's going to take time and patience, but as long as he's praying and keeping himself in positive spirits, he'll be fine."
Warning: Video of Paul George's injury is graphic
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