The news this week of Jabari Parker tearing his ACL for the second time in 3 years has made waves around the NBA community. The dreaded ACL tear has claimed the careers of many of the NBA’s brightest stars and altered the trajectory of franchises banking their hopes on these players. Jabari Parker is just the latest in a long line of young stars to fall victim to an ACL tear. Recovery from ACL injuries is long and grueling, and many players are never able to return to their pre-injury form.
The list of players who never regained their form has to start with Derrick Rose, who infamously suffered a torn ACL in Game 1 of the Bulls’ playoff victory over the 76ers in the 2012 playoffs. Before the injury, Rose was a dynamic player who could explode to the rim at will and finish with precision and grace unrivaled in the game at the time. Rose, a year removed from his MVP campaign, was leading a fantastic Bulls team built around him and his unique talents. As we know, Rose has yet to regain his MVP form and it is reasonable to assume he never will. Rose’s injury essentially removed the Bulls from title contention for two years, and even after his return the Bulls were not able to return to serious title contention, leading to Rose’s trade to the Knicks last summer.
While Rose is a former Chicago Bull, A current Bull has also suffered an ACL injury and been unable to recapture the magic of their pre-injury self. Rajon Rondo, mostly known now as a bit of a malcontent who is just as likely to feud with his coach and teammates as he is with his opponents, suffered his ACL tear in 2013 while with the Celtics. Before his injury, Rondo was a triple double machine and the driving force leading the Celtics to the NBA finals in 2010 and the Eastern Conference Finals in 2012. After returning from his injury, Rondo was shipped to Dallas, where he proceeded to get himself banished from the team during the playoffs and subsequently exiled to basketball purgatory in Sacramento.
Unfortunately, Jabari Parker’s situation is not entirely unprecedented. Another notable Buck to suffer multiple ACL tears in the same knee was Michael Redd, whose 2009 and 2010 seasons both ended because of torn ACLs. Before his injuries, Redd was a feared scorer and knockdown shooter who averaged over 20 points a game 5 years in a row before suffering his injuries. Redd would play only 61 more games in his career between the Bucks and the Suns before being forced to retire.
However terrible the news of Parker’s injury, other players are able to return to full health after their surgery. Ricky Rubio, Nene, Al Jefferson, Leandro Barbosa, and Jamal Crawford have all recovered impressively from their ACL injuries and returned to pre-injury form. Perhaps the most notable player in the game today to return from a devastating ACL injury is Shaun Livingston. Livingston not only tore his ACL, but essentially shredded all the ligaments in his knee in 2007. After bouncing around several teams while recovering from perhaps the worst knee injury in NBA history, Livingston has reinvented himself as the best backup point guard in the league with the Warriors using his excellent passing and mid-range game.
As bleak as it seems, we have very good reason to believe Jabari Parker can return to his Pre-injury form. Advances in medicine happen every day, and Jabari is still just 21 years old. Other players who came back from ACL injuries at such a young age include Nerlens Noel, Kyle Lowry, and Baron Davis. I am hoping Jabari will beat the odds and come back better than ever, and I’m sure the entire NBA community is as well.