Paul George’s brutal injury will not only impact George and his family, but it jeopardizes the future of USA basketball. Playing in a Team USA basketball scrimmage in Las Vegas, newly minted superstar George of the Indian Pacers slid into the basket stand at full speed and snapped his leg. It was such a gruesome injury that USA basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski canceled the rest of the game, according to USA Today. George’s leg snap made witnesses turn away and check their stomachs. It was the type of horrifying injury more often associated with NFL football–akin to Saints cornerback Jabari Greer’s leg-snapping on national TV last year or when predatory Hall-of-Famer Lawrence Taylor famously ended quarterback Joe Theisman’s career, after Theisman’s leg contorted during a sack. The 6’9″ Paul George is just 24.
In the last two years his young leadership and talent drove the Pacers deep into the playoffs–and George transitioned in status from very good player to NBA All-Star. He won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award in 2013 and was All-Defensive First Team in 2014. The Pacers drafted George out of Fresno State College in 2010–a decision made by Pacers President Larry Bird–and he was destined for a long career. The Pacers have invested a lot in their young star–George has a $61 million guaranteed contract in Indiana. Paul George’s injury will have major ramifications for the future of pro players playing outside the NBA–even for USA teams. The extra-curricular play is already a controversial practice given the players’ value and the risks involved in competition. Owners, given George’s brutal example are unlikely to let the practice continue. For real superstars, playing for your country will end up being as passé as playing in college.