NBA Players With Herniated Discs

Key takeaway: Despite the challenges of herniated discs, NBA players like Emeka Okafor, Ben Simmons, Dwight Howard, Draymond Green, and Michael Porter Jr. have shown resilience and continued to excel in their careers with proper treatment and support, highlighting the possibility of overcoming such injuries with modern medical advancements.

When someone herniates their disc it is no joke. The slipping of the disc can come with no symptoms and sometimes the pain can even be somewhere other than where you would think (your back).

In some cases, it can even result in surgery and without doctors getting involved it can’t always be easily treated.

With that being said today we are going to talk about some of the best players to ever command the hardwood that had the unfortunate incident of having their disc slipped, so here we go.

Top 5 NBA Players With Herniated Discs

Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor definitely did not spend his entire career injured. As a matter of fact from the 2007-2008 seasons up until the 2009-2010 season, the 2004-2005 rookie of the year played all 82 games. Okafor played for the Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets, New Orleans Pelicans, and the Washington Wizards.

Okafor herniated his disc a couple of years after his three-year streak of not having missed a regular season game in 2013 but it’s definitely not because he didn’t take the time to keep himself in shape.


Ben Simmons

Ben Simmons’ instance of having had his disc flare up and herniate had to be especially frustrating for the Brooklyn Nets as this occurred a month after he was acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers. Steve Nash, who was Brooklyn’s coach at the time seemed to take it in stride and still just decided to wait until he was ready to be inserted back into the lineup again.

Fortunately for the first pick of the 2016 NBA draft, his case was only a mild one as it only appeared to be a minor flare-up. As for his career  Simmons, so far has been a three-time all-star, and led the league in steals in the 2019-2020 season.


Dwight Howard

While herniated discs generally come from flare-ups and months and months of hard training the case of Dwight Howard at least appears to be unique. In all fairness, it could have at least been a combination of both the incident to his herniated disc and the incident that he had with Brendan Haywood when he was punched in the back when he was with the Orlando Magic in a 100-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Then Magic coach Stan Van Gundy wanted to get the video and have it sent to the league office. Unfortunately for Van Gundy and the Magic, those efforts proved to be in vain as Haywood was not disciplined for the incident in the end.  Fortunately, for Howard, it didn’t end his career as he didn’t retire until last year.

As for accolades, Howard lit them up with being an eight-time all-star, led the league in blocks twice, was on the 2019-2020 Los Angeles Lakers championship team, was on eight all-NBA teams, was the 2004-2005 all-rookie team, was on the all-defensive team five times and was also defensive player of the year three times.

The first pick of the 2004 NBA draft spent his career with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Charlotte Hornets, Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers.


Draymond Green

Of all the players who have herniated their disc in NBA history Draymond’s case is at least a little bit newer as the issue was addressed from about January to March of the 2021-2022 regular season.

When he initially came back he still had extremely high expectations for himself and a lot of people thought the Warriors forward was on his way to winning the defensive player of the year, something which he also accomplished during the 2016-2017 season.

As for Greens’ other accolades, they include making four all-star games, winning four NBA championships, leading the league in steals in 2016-2017, and having been on the all-defensive team seven times.

In Green’s case, his disc was bulging and hit his sciatic nerve and now wears additional clothing to support his lumbar, something which helped him in being a contributing factor to the Warriors winning their fourth championship in eight years.


Michael Porter Jr

While Michael Porter is still early in his career that doesn’t mean he hadn’t had some setbacks including the complicated injury of herniating his disc and not only that his professional career hadn’t even started yet when it happened. It happened in 2017 while he was playing for the University of Missouri.

Despite having had the unfortunate mishap of herniating his disc, Porter was still drafted by the Denver Nuggets as the 14th pick in the first round of the draft. Porter ended up missing his entire rookie year and his NBA debut did not happen until Halloween of 2019 when he played 20 minutes and had 15 points and four rebounds in a contest against the New Orleans Pelicans.


Final words

In conclusion, can somebody who suffers a herniated disc come back from such an injury? The fact that all five of these players ended up playing for some time after the injury. In Emeka Okafor’s case, his injury occurred in 2013 and he played until 2018.

For Simmons and Green, both of their injuries are relatively known as they both happened in the first part of 2022 and of course, Porter suffered his in 2018 and still managed to play with the Denver Nuggets for at least four years. His story is still being written as we speak.

With today’s modern medical advances and the complex treatment options that professional athletes can get in today’s game, players will likely be able to continue their careers well after they suffer serious injuries such as herniated discs.

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