Last Friday night, Kevin Ware was sitting in his Georgia State dorm room watching the Team USA scrimmage, and that’s when it happened: Paul George suffered a compound fracture in his right leg – essentially the same injury Ware suffered in Louisville’s Elite Eight win over Duke in March 2013.
“As I was watching it, I saw him try to go up and block the shot,” Ware recalled on The Morning Show with Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, and Dana Jacobsen on CBS Sports Radio. “When he came down and landed, I kind of saw (what happened to) his leg. I automatically just jumped and went out of the room. I’m thinking, ‘This can’t be happening.’ Mine happened. And for it to happen again, I honestly just thought it was like deja vu. This couldn’t be going on again. There’s no way possible.”
As it turns out, there was. Ware immediately flashed back to his own injury.
“I didn’t see how I landed. I tried to get up,” Ware said. “Paul tried to get up, too. He didn’t really know what was going on. But things like that – you don’t know what to think or how to feel at that exact moment when you look down at your leg.”
You would think you’d be in excruciating pain and would know you’ve just broken your leg. According to Ware, that is not the case.
“Your adrenaline is going (so crazy) at the time, you’re not thinking that you’re going to look down and see that your leg is broken,” Ware said. “I honestly didn’t know my leg was broken until I looked at my former coach, Rick Pitino. His eyes just got huge. I kind of looked down at my leg. That’s the only reason I knew. I was going to try to get back up like nothing happened.”
Once Ware realized what had happened, shock set in.
“Nothing like that ever happens to people on a normal basis, especially not in basketball,” he said. “So something so traumatic like that, you really don’t expect it. When I saw it, I just put my head back and I guess I did go into shock. I didn’t feel any pain until I got in the ambulance. But that was really it. That’s the only thing I remember. No pain on the court. All I remember is just laying there.”
The next few days were a blur of medication, sleep and phone calls – a lot of them.
“Like I said, something like this doesn’t happen on a normal basis,” Ware said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people are reaching out to (George) to try to keep him in a positive mindset because that’s what a lot of people were doing for me.”
A positive outlook will be pivotal for George, mainly because he’s going to have to work harder than he ever has in his life. He is expected to miss the entire 2014-15 season.
“I just looked at it like, ‘All right, you’re just going to have to work as hard as you did before you came to Louisville, when you (were trying) to get there,’” Ware said. “And that’s basically what Paul’s going to have to do. It’s probably going to be the hardest he’s ever worked in his life. It’s not you working on your leg. You’re going to have to work on your quad and your knee to get your leg back strong (so you’re) not favoring your right leg. You have to do everything for your left leg. It’s a lot of time. The first couple months, he’s not going to be doing anything at all.”
Eventually, of course, the bone will heal. In fact, it may even become stronger than it was before the injury. George’s psyche, however, may be a different story.
“It just depends on how positive you are and what kind of mindset you have going into it,” Ware said. “In time, it gets back to normal. At first, it’s just tough. The thought process in your body is just like, something traumatic has happened. How do I know this is not going to happen again? You’re just automatically thinking that because it has happened.”
Interestingly enough, the hardest part about recovery, Ware said, isn’t the rehab; it’s the dead time.
“Basketball is our lives,” he said. “It’s like taking something you love away from you.”