Heartbreakingly, Steven Adams will not play an NBA game this season.
In January last year, the Big Kiwi sprained his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) and was out for the remainder of his Memphis Grizzlies’ season. Earlier this week, the team announced he’ll have to undergo surgery to repair the knee after it failed to heal without surgery.
Memphis says “Adams is expected to make a full recovery” but what will it actually mean for the rest of his playing career?
The fact that Steve requires surgery is not good. SportsMD states that the only PCL injury that normally requires surgery is a complete tear of the ligament (rather than a partial tear or strain, which can both be healed without a surgeon getting involved). Other reasons for surgery include the instability in the knee or surrounding ligaments also being damaged.
I’ve struggled to find an example of an NBA player that has torn their PCL. Many have strained it but none, as far as I know, have required surgery for it.
A few NFL players have though. It’s obviously a completely different sport, but looking at their post-injury careers can help us predict how Steve’s NBA future will play out.
Shawn ‘Lights Out’ Merriman was an incredible NFL defender in his prime. He won Defensive Rookie of the Year, made multiple All-Pro teams and even led the league in sacks in 2006.
In 2008, he tore his PCL and lateral collateral ligament (LCL). To start, he went against the advice of doctors and played through his injury. Eventually, he did go under the knife but he was never the same player.
After making 40 sacks in the three seasons pre-injury, he made just six in the five years after before eventually retiring.
“Even though I could still play and contribute to a team,” he wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2015, “I just couldn’t come to grips with the fact that I wasn’t gonna be that dominant player I was when I was at my best. It finally set in that I wasn’t the same Shawne Merriman anymore.”
Steve didn’t play an actual NBA game with his injury but did play in this year’s preseason. We don’t know for sure if he re-injured the PCL during these games (or when training for these games), but because he needs surgery I’d say it’s likely.
Steve has built his career on being the toughest player in the league, grabbing missed shots like they’re free snags at a BBQ, setting brick-wall screens and literally picking up opponents. All that argy-bargy would be hard on the body, especially the knees, and could be a slippery slope to re-injury and a Shawn Merriman ending (in the worst-case scenario).
As time goes on, Steve's basketball future will become clear. Until then, all we can do is hope he comes back and remains the toughest MFer the sport has.