PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — There aren’t many players who have reached the absolute pinnacle of their sport and plunged off the top while still in the prime of their career. Tiger Woods is one. And as of Monday night, Kevin Durant is another.
Tuesday afternoon at Pebble Beach, in the midst of a genial, free-flowing press conference that’s become the norm for late-stage Tiger, Woods turned unexpectedly somber when confronting the issue of the catastrophic, and possibly career-altering, injury that Durant suffered in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.
"It was sad," Woods said. "As athletes we've all been there to that spot when you just know it, that something just went, and can't move, can't do much of anything.”
Woods noted that athletes have an innate sense of how their bodies work — and when something’s gone terribly wrong. “ You can see it on his face, how solemn his face went,” Woods said. “He knows it when things pop. You just know. And I've been there. I've had it to my own Achilles. I've had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It's an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That's the hard part.”
Woods suffered devastating injuries
Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open on what turned out to be, in effect, a broken leg — a horribly injured knee that required major surgery. That came about 18 months prior to the explosion of Woods’ personal life, but even after the last tremors of his scandal settled, Woods had to fight through multiple injuries, including a torn Achilles — he played through that for much of 2009 — and back injuries that literally left him flat on his back and unable to swing a club.
Few believed Woods could return to competitive golf, much less major-caliber golf. Those were lonely days for Woods, and he knows that’s what could lie ahead for Durant.
“If he popped it, then that's six to nine months of rehabbing,” Woods said. “That's what people don't see, is all those long hours that really do suck.”
“Why do we do it?”
Woods asked and answered the obvious followup question. “Why do we do it? Because we're competitors. As athletes our job is to make the human body do something it was never meant to do and to do it efficiently and better than anybody who is doing it at the same time. Well, sometimes things go awry.”
But f there’s any bright side for Durant in all this darkness, it’s the fact that Woods is even commenting publicly on him at all, that Woods has healed enough from his own injuries to become once again the centerpiece of his sport. Golf and basketball require vastly different skill sets and place vastly different physical demands on their players, obviously. But the mental strength needed to come back from devastating injury — that doesn’t change no matter what the sport.
Durant has many more years of prime basketball left. Woods can show him the way back to the peak.
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