These Athletes Were On Hall Of Fame Paths Until Injuries Got In The Way
Every time an athlete steps onto the field or court, they risk getting injured. For some athletes, the risk is worth the reward. After tearing his ACL and missing the 2008 NFL season, Tom Brady bounced back and led the Patriots to several Super Bowls. Not all sports stars are as lucky as Brady, though. Shaun Livingston was supposed to be the next big star in the NBA before having his knee destroyed during a game. The injury didn’t end his career but pushed him to the bench where he floated around the league until landing with the Golden State Warriors in 2014. Do you remember how great Jay Williams was before getting hurt?
Teddy Bridgewater Still Might Be The Next Big Thing
Photo Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Teddy Bridgewater was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 32nd overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team the same year and looked like he was going to be the savior of Minnesota. The next season he helped the Vikings win their first division title since 2009.
But in 2016, disaster struck. Bridgewater tore his ACL in practice and dislocated his knee joint. He wouldn’t get on the field again for two years. In that time, Case Keenum took the Vikings to the NFC Championship game. In the 2018 season, Bridgwater signed with the Jets to get a fresh start.
Daunte Culpepper Went From MVP Candidate To Out Of The League After His Injury
Photo Credit: Rex Brown/Getty Images
Daunte Culpepper is another “what if” Vikings quarterback. He showed his full potential in 2004, throwing for 4,700 yards with 39 touchdowns. Seven games into the next season the star quarterback tore three of four ligaments in his knee, ending his season and placing his career in question.
Unhappy with how Minnesota was dealing with him, Culpepper demanded a trade before he was healthy. The Vikings shipped him off to Miami for a second-round pick. He started four games in Miami and lasted one season. Three seasons later and he called it a career. Up next, learn how a neck injury crippled Chris Spielman’s career.
Chris Spielman Could Have Been A Hall-Of-Famer
Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Chris Spielman spent his NFL career with the Detroit Lions, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns. He was selected to four Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro three times. All his accolades came before a neck injury in 1997 that required surgery.
Spielman sat out the next year, citing a desire to be with his wife while she battled cancer. In 1999, he signed with the Browns but was forced to retire before week one after suffering another neck injury.
Sterling Sharpe Made Five Pro Bowls In Six NFL Seasons
Photo Credit: James V. Biever/Getty Images
If the last name Sharpe sounds familiar to you, that’s because Shannon Sharpe changed the tight end position in the NFL. But do you remember his brother? Sterling Sharpe was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the seventh overall pick in 1988. He retired six years and five Pro Bowls later after a neck injury in 1994.
When Shannon Sharpe won his first Super Bowl with the Broncos, he gave the ring to Sterling. He also has urged the Hall of Fame to consider Sterling for enshrinement despite his shortened career. Coming up, the full story on Shaun Livingston is revealed!
Shaun Livingston Was Bounced To The Bench After Blowing Up His Knee
Photo Credit: Digital First Media Group/Bay Area News via Getty Images
It’s a miracle that Shaun Livingston is still playing in the NBA in 2018. Taken with the fourth overall pick by the Clippers in 2004, he was a revelation on the court for the perennially bad team and looked to be on his way to a massive payday in 2007. That was until he missed a layup and landing awkwardly on his knee.
Nearly every ligament was torn, and Livingston was told his leg might have to be amputated. He very quickly went from future superstar to contemplating his NBA mortality. By the time he was cleared for basketball activities he was relegated to the bench, where he still plays from today.
Steve Moore Was Carted Off The Ice After Three Seasons
Photo Credit: Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images
Steve Moore was on the first line for the Colorado Avalanche in his third NHL season as he was brutally assaulted on the ice. The attack came as retaliation for a fight in the 2004 season where Moore concussed a player but was not penalized by the NHL.
One of the concussed player’s teammates took revenge his own hands when the team met later in the season. Todd Bertuzzi chased Moore down the ice, grabbed him by the back of the jersey and punched him in the back of the head. Moore fell to the ground unconscious for ten minutes. He was never cleared to play again. Still ahead, Jay Williams’ career ends because of a motorcycle accident.
Jay Williams’s Promising NBA Career Ended With A Motorcycle Accident
Photo Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Easily one of the biggest “what if” athletes of all time, Jay Williams only played one year in the NBA. As a rookie for the Chicago Bulls in 2002, he recorded a triple-double and looked every bit worth his high draft stock (Chicago took him with the second overall pick).
During the offseason, Williams got into a motorcycle accident, tearing his ACL and breaking his pelvis. He said the hardest part of the injury was the “mental part. Living with it.” Today Williams works as a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
Kerry Wood’s Elbow Forced Him To The Bullpen
Photo Credit: David Banks/Getty Images
Kerry Wood made himself a name quickly after making his major league debut with the Cubs in 1998. During his fifth career start, he pitched a complete game, one-hit shutout and struck out 20 batters. The number of strikeouts tied Roger Clemens for the single-game record.
The next year Wood tore his ulnar collateral ligament and required Tommy John surgery. He initially rebounded from the surgery but continued to have pain in his pitching arm. By the end of his career, he accepted a role in the bullpen, blowing his chance to get into the Hall of Fame.
Rick Ankiel Couldn’t Make It Back From Tommy John Surgery
Photo Credit: Sporting News via Getty Images
These days it almost feels like pre-emptive Tommy John surgery should be required for pitchers before the make the majors. In 2004, when Rick Ankiel underwent the procedure, his career almost ended. Prior to the surgery was 12-10 with a 3.84 ERA. When he came back, his ERA ballooned to 5.40 and he made a drastic decision.
Ankiel returned to the minors to learn how to play in the outfield and hit for power. He returned to the majors in 2008 and hit .264 with 25 home runs. His luck faded the next year, and he retired in 2013 at age 33. Next, do you remember how Bo Jackson’s career went off the tracks?
Bo Jackson Could Have Been A Multi-Sport Hall of Famer
Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Bo Jackson set the sporting world on fire as an MLB and NFL prodigy. Drafted by the Kansas City Royals, Jackson spent nine-years in MLB. In 1989 he hit 32 home runs and batted in 105 runs. As an Oakland Raider in the NFL, he rushed for over five yards per carry and set the Monday Night Football rushing record.
His career came crashing down during an NFL playoff game against Cincinnati, though, when he blew out his hip after a tackle. He never recovered from the injury and was forced to retire.
Tony Conigliaro Took A Fastball To The Eye
Photo Credit: Dan Goshtigian/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
You probably don’t know the name Tony Conigliaro, which is exactly why he’s on this list. Playing for the Boston Red Sox, Conigliaro was a slugging phenom until he took a pitch to the face in 1967.
The blow caused Conigliaro, who had averaged 25 home runs a season, massive eye trauma. He returned in a few years with incredible results. Sadly, before his age 30 season, he began losing his eyesight and was forced to retire without reaching his full potential.
Mark Prior’s Pitching Arm Gave Out On Him Too Soon
Photo Credit: George Gojkovich/Getty Images
The Cubs seemed to have the worst luck with pitchers for years. After Kerry Wood transitioned to the bullpen, Mark Prior was touted as his second coming. The prediction proved all too true. After a stunning start to his career, Prior was struck with shoulder and elbow injuries that forced him back into the shadows.
Mark Prior was 25 years old when he threw his last pitch in the major leagues. He ended his career with a 42-29 record and 3.51 ERA. Since being forced to retire early, Prior has gotten into coaching and currently serves as the Dodgers bullpen coach.
Brandon Roy Ran Out Of Cartilage In His Knees
Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Brandon Roy won the NBA Rookie of the Year award with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2006 and was elected to the next three straight All-Star games. With the brightest future ahead of him, Roy’s body gave up, and he was out of the league by 2012.
During his short career, Roy had six knee surgeries and lost all the cartilage in his knees. He attempted a comeback, but couldn’t take the pain, failing to be as effective as he once was. Like Roy, our next athlete would have been a franchise star if his body would have let him. Can you guess who it is?
Greg Oden Never Got To Show How Great He Was
Photo Credit: Marc Serota/Getty Images
Greg Oden was considered a “can’t miss” prospect coming out of the NBA Draft in 2007. His NBA debut was delayed when he had to have microfracture surgery on his right now. When he returned he was dominant, but his dominance didn’t carry into the next season.
A patella fracture followed a string of leg injuries kept Oden off the court for the next four seasons. He returned to the court in 2014, attempting a comeback with the Miami Heat. Before the season was over, he announced his retirement, ending his injury-riddled career.
Greg Cook’s Career Ended With An Undiagnosed Injury
Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
Greg Cook is another player whose career was over before we knew how great he could have been. As the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals, Cook won Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, he played the season with an undiagnosed torn rotator cuff.
By the time Cook’s injury was diagnosed, it was too late to save his career. He had surgery and suited up for one game in 1973, but never saw the field. Off the field, took a job with UPS and passed away in 2012 at 65-years-old.
Mark Fidrych Was Must-Watch Baseball For Four Years
Photo Credit: Bettmann/Getty Images
Coming up through the Detroit Tigers minor league system, Mark Fidrych won 19 games his rookie season with a 2.34 ERA. Just 21 years old, it didn’t take long for the young champ to become a national phenomenon. It helped that he had some of the strangest in-game rituals the sport had ever seen.
Fidrych started just as hot during his second season until a knee injury sent him to the disabled list. In 1980, he was forced to retire after it was discovered he had been playing on an undiagnosed torn rotator cuff. Next up, the only Hall of Famer we’re allowing on this list!
Yao Ming’s Feet Couldn’t Support His Frame
Photo Credit: Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
Yao Ming was a monster when he was on the court for the Houston Rockets. Standing seven feet and six inches tall, the Houston center was one of the league’s premier player as soon as made his debut.
The injury bug hit Ming in his fourth season. Foot problems cause him to miss several games. Throughout the rest of his career, the foot injuries kept piling up, forcing the big man to hang up his sneakers for good in 2010.
Clayton Weishuhn Set Record In His Two Year Career
Photo Credit: Focus on Sport/Getty Images
For two seasons in the NFL in the early ’80s, no defender was more dominant than Clayton Weishuhn. In 1983 he set the New England Patriots’ single-season tackle record, taking down 229 ball-carriers before the final whistle blew.
That ended up being the peak of Weishuhn’s career. At the start of the 1984 season, a knee injury sent him to injured reserve. The next two seasons he battled knee and groin injuries. After being limited to four games in 1986, Weishuhn retired.
Marc Savard Saw His Career Come To A Concussive Close
Photo Credit: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images
Marc Savard starred for the Boston Bruins as a first line player from 2006 until 2009. For those amazing seasons, he averaged around 90 points and was on an easy Hall of Fame path. The path crumbled in 2010 when Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke blindsided Savard, giving him a concussion in the process.
Savard was concussed again in 2011 and was forced to miss the season. Boston would go on to win the Stanley Cup without him. He has never recovered and suffered from post-concussion syndrome today.
Maureen Connoly Was Going To Be The Greatest Tennis Player Of All Time
Photo Credit: Fox Photos/Getty Images
Maureen Connoly was 19 years old when the tennis star got into a horseback riding accident that crushed her right leg. The damage ended her three-year career. Before that she was on track to become the greatest star women’s tennis had ever seen.
Prior to Connoly’s career coming to an unceremonious end, she won nine Grand Slams. She won two Wimbledon titles (back-to-back), two US Open Titles, the Australian Open, and the French Open. From 1951 to 1953 there was no one who could beat her.