By now you’ve heard NBA star Paul George suffered a gruesome leg injury during Friday night’s Team USA scrimmage. He suffered a compound fracture after landing on the stanchion supporting the basket. This injury has brought up a lot of discussion on the nature of court designs, and frankly this is a discussion that needs to be had.
The distance between the baseline and stanchion varies from arena to arena. The team USA scrimmage was held at the Thomas and Mack center which is the home court for UNLV, and there really doesn’t appear to be that much room between the baseline and the stanchion.
Here's the distance between baseline and stanchion at Thomas & Mack pic.twitter.com/x1B3U8wDPQ
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) August 2, 2014
George was going up for a block but didn’t have enough room to land and broke his leg, and will most likely miss next season1. This isn’t the only injury to be caused by a stanchion being too close to the court. Nerlens Noel tore his ACL in college and missed the rest of season, dropped to 6th overall in the 2013 NBA draft, and missed the entire 2013-14 season. He went up for a block, just like George, and tried to stop in limited space. Watch the video of his injury and tell me that if he had more room to slow down it still would have happened.
And even though in the NBA the stanchions are often placed farther away from the baseline, there are still plenty of hazards. In game 1 of the 2013-14 Eastern Conference Finals, C.J. Watson was pushed and hit his head on a press table.
Is there really any reason for a table to be that close? It’s not just inanimate objects either, there plenty of times people have been a hazard. While playing for the Chicago Bulls Dennis Rodman tripped over cameramen that were sitting on the baseline and in true Rodman fashion proceeded to kick one of them.
We can’t forget about the sidelines either…
Now let’s not forget about the great college tradition of rushing the court. Nothing bad has ever happened during one of those right?
Well that’s just one exa—
Well it’s not like its happened dur–
Well the NBA would neve—
Basketball has a problem, and that problem is that they try to pack as many seats, cameras, and reporters into the game, leaving little room outside of the playing court. It’s the only sport where players and fans can physically interact with the players not having to leave the playing area, and the fans not having to leave their seats. You can literally take a few steps out of your seat and you would be standing next to a player.
This might be a cool experience for the fans, and it might be cool to see a Blake Griffin dunk from a camera angle shot by a guy sitting under the hoop. It might be fun to rush the court when your school wins a game compared to David and Goliath. But these are all hazards for players. These guys have made careers out of basketball, some of them may be making millions, and some might just be playing for a scholarship, but their lives revolve around the sport. To deny them safety for the sake of fan experience, or for a couple of extra seats to sell is ridiculous.
Injuries happen in any sport, they are inevitable. Kevin Ware’s injury was just like George’s except he just jumped contesting a shot. He didn’t land wrong, he didn’t run into anything, he just jumped. But injuries that can be easily prevented need to be prevented. The NFL changed how players were allowed to tackle and the MLB banned collisions at the plate. Now it is the NBA’s and NCAA’s turn to make a change, and all they have to do is give players a bit more room.
Hopefully Paul George is recovers and is able to come back stronger than ever, but there is no guarantee that will happen. Watching Derrick Rose tear his ACL sucked, and seeing Kevin Ware break his leg was sickening, but this one stung a little worse. It’s not because he was an up and coming star, it’s not because of its gruesome nature, it’s not that it was during a scrimmage, it’s because it could have been prevented with few extra feet.