The Return of Paul George: Pacers Superstar is Back and Better Than Ever After Gruesome Injury

David Ekaireb, Maroon-News Staff

I’m deathly afraid of needles. On August 1, 2014, I was in a bar with a friend watching the USA National basketball team scrimmage when Paul George fouled James Harden on a breakaway. George took flight in an attempt to pin Harden’s lay up against the backboard and came down awkwardly, injuring him for almost the entirety of the following 2014-2015 season. Without diverting my eyes from the screen, I reactively grabbed my buddy’s wrist next to me, as if someone had surprised me by sticking a giant needle in my chest. He asked what was wrong and I pointed to the screen, telling him to wait for the replay. Together we grimaced as the TV played back what had happened in slow motion. 

Coming down from his block attempt, George’s right foot landed half on the base of the basket stanchion and half on the ground; instead of bending from the knee, his leg made a 90-degree angle at his shin. The compound fracture mirrored the snapping of one’s chopstick. Without making two wholly separate entities, there was a complete breakage of the object rendering it useless, leaving behind a thread of the bondage that once made the object complete. It was one of the most gruesome injuries ever in professional basketball, ironically coming during one of the most insignificant games possible. Team USA was not even playing another country in the scrimmage but was competing against its own players. The game had no significance other than possibly ending the career of one of the most up-and-coming superstars in the world. 

George had just completed his fourth season in the NBA. After three seasons, each one more productive than the last, George had managed to establish himself as one of the league’s most elite players. In 2013-2014, George averaged a career high 21.7 points per game. He was an All-Star, an All-Defensive First Team player and All-NBA Third Team player. His team, the Indiana Pacers, had finished first in the East at 52-26 and had made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they fell short to the dominant Miami Heat. With this breakout season, George had established himself as one of the premiere players in the league and garnered himself a well-deserved spot on the USA national team; however, after his injury, I was unsure if he would ever play again, or if he did, at what level he would be able to perform.

Fewer than two years later, George is currently back on top, making for one of the most historic injury recovery stories of all time. It’s not just that George has fully recovered from one of the most horrifying sights the NBA has ever seen and is back to being an elite player, what’s truly incredible is the fact that he is even better than he ever was before the injury.

George is currently the tenth leading scorer in the NBA, averaging 23.3 points per game, almost two points higher than his average two seasons ago. In addition to points, his numbers in rebounds and assists are also up. George was not just a starter in the All-Star game this season, he was prolific during the contest. In the incredibly high-scoring game, George led the way offensively, scoring 41 points and almost tying Wilt Chamberlain’s record at 42. While falling a point short of the scoring record, George still managed to hit nine three-pointers and snag the record for the most made threes ever in the All-Star game. 

From being a broken chopstick fewer than two years ago, this historic player is back to being among the greats, competing to be named the best in the game and picking up more than his fair share of sashimi along the way.