To reach the NBA, a player has to be the best of the best and to sustain a career at that level demands courage, strength, athleticism, the drive to succeed and a little luck.
Even the very best players can find that the challenge of maintaining their level of performance can prove too much. Yet the underlying ability that got them to the NBA in the first place never diminishes. Here are five of the most high-profile career comebacks that we’ve seen in the NBA since 2000.
At the start of his career, Derrick Rose was regarded as potentially one of the all-time greats. Drafted first overall by Chicago in 2008, he was rookie of the year in 2009 and in 2011. He became the first Bulls player to win league MVP since Michael Jordan, leading his hometown team to the number one seed in the East before they ultimately lost out to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. It seemed like a solid bet to predict great things for the young star.
However, a year later, he tore his ACL in a play-off game. Over the next few years, injury, loss of form and loss of confidence led to a rapid decline and regular moves. The Knicks, the Cavaliers and the Jazz all moved him on until he ended up in Minnesota in 2018, where he finally rediscovered his form, including a career-high 50-point game against Utah.
A role as a valuable bench player with Detroit followed and Rose is currently with the New York Knicks where he is widely regarded as an esteemed veteran and admirable survivor.
Many promising NBA careers have been threatened by injury, but Shaun Livingston’s story was more dramatic than most. A fast-improving shooting guard, Livingston suffered a horrendous injury while playing for the LA Clippers in February 2007. The injury was so severe that it was feared at one point that his leg would have to be amputated. In the end, it took him months to learn to walk again.
But Livingston’s determination was astonishing. Over the next few years, he battled hard to resume his career, earning spells with Charlotte, Milwaukee, Washington, Cleveland and Brooklyn, before signing for the Golden State Warriors and assisting them in five consecutive NBA Finals and three victories.
Paul George is another high-profile star whose NBA career had been threatened by a hideous injury. In 2014, while playing in a scrimmage game in Las Vegas, he suffered a compound fracture in both bones of his lower right leg. The injury shocked the players and George, who by that time was firmly established as an NBA All-Star who could have been forgiven for not returning to his best form.
Nevertheless, George fought his way back. He was an All-Star again in 2016, the year in which he also won a gold medal at the Rio Olympics as part of Team USA. He went on to help both Indiana and Oklahoma become regular play-off contenders before joining the LA Clippers, playing a crucial role in their run to the Western Conference finals this year.
George also managed to have the last laugh in Las Vegas after being spotted playing, and winning, a game of baccarat in 2019, 5 years after sustaining an injury in the same city. The game is very popular among celebrities and other high-rollers – even in fictional settings the game is seen as something played by only the most sophisticated characters. For example, both Sean Connery and Daniel Craig have played baccarat as James Bond.
If you want to follow suit and try your hand at the game, you can find baccarat among the large selection of other casino games such as slots, poker and blackjack, which are all available at the SkyCity online casino.
Drafted third by the Detroit Pistons in 1994, Grant Hill had a stellar start to his NBA career. After six seasons in the league, he had amassed 9,393 points, 2,720 assists and 3,417 rebounds — stats that only Larry Bird, LeBron James and Oscar Robertson had bettered by that stage of their careers.
In 2000, Hill sprained his ankle. That was the cue for a seven year horror show in which he battled continual injury problems, five surgeries and a deadly battle with MRSA. By the time he landed at Phoenix, he had been written off by many. What followed was a remarkable career resurgence. Hill thrived in the Suns’ playing system, helping them to two play-off finals appearances, including the Western Conference Final and passing the 17,000-career points milestone.
Arguably the greatest center ever to play the game, Shaquille O’Neal’s legendary status had long been secured by the time he moved to the Phoenix Suns. At the age of 36 with four NBA championships already under his belt, he could have been forgiven for drifting into retirement and a disappointing 2007-2008 campaign with Miami suggested his best days were over.
However, O’Neill had other ideas. He had an immediate impact on the Suns, helping them to reach the 2008 play-offs before registering his 49th 40-point game in the NBA the following year. He went on play for Cleveland and Boston before eventually retiring.