The Worst Knee Injuries in College Basketball

Greg Evans March 30th, 2015

With March Madness in full swing, it’s the perfect time to take a look back on seasons past. Time to remember the victories, the almosts, and of course, the injuries that will live on in fame.


Many college basketball players have faced debilitating injuries early in their careers. While some have recovered and gone on to success in the NBA, others were brought to a stop. Knee injuries can be one of the most devastating injuries of all.

Nerlens Noel, University of Kentucky

Noel was named the number one player in the class of 2012 by ESPN while he was still in high school, and eventually chose to attend the University of Kentucky to continue his basketball career. He was a high performer during his first season and was predicted to be the number one pick in the 2013 draft. Only two months before the draft, Noel tore his ACL while blocking a shot in a game against the Florida Gators.

He was out for the rest of the season, but decided to still declare for the draft. He was the 6th overall pick by the Pelicans, who traded him to the 76ers. Noel missed the entire first season as he recovered from knee surgery as a result of his injury. He is now starting for the 76ers, but many wonder if he could have even more success had he not had to sit out for so long.

Tony Allen, Oklahoma State University

While Allen’s injury didn’t happen in college, it’s worth mentioning. Allen played for three different universities, eventually settling at Oklahoma State and leading the team to the Final Four. He was drafted by the Boston Celtics in 2005 and in 2007, he landed awkwardly during a dunk attempt and tore his ACL and MCL. He underwent a successful reconstructive surgery and returned to the court only nine months later. However, since his return, it has been said that he’s lacking his previous “explosiveness.”

Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia University

Butler had a solid college career, including leading the Mountaineers to the Sweet 16 during his sophomore year and then all the way to the Final Four in his senior year. However, in the second half of the Final Four game against Duke, Butler injured his left knee – tearing his ACL, spraining his MCL and sustaining two bone bruises. The Mountaineers went on to lose the game.

Butler was drafted at number 42 by the Miami Heat, who later waived his contract. He had a short stint with the Spurs and is now playing in France. Some speculate that if Butler had not been injured in the quarter-finals, the Mountaineers may have advanced in the tournament.

Alex Poythress, University of Kentucky

Poythress came from the same class as Nerlens Noel and played for the same college team, but has a vastly different career. Instead of being drafted after his first season, though, he stayed on and played another three years at Kentucky. On December 11, 2014, he tore his ACL during practice on an uncontested breakaway layup. He has been out of the game since then.
Read the updates on his condition here.

Shaun Livingston, Duke University

Livingston’s injury wasn’t quite in college either, but the severity of the circumstances beg us to add it to this list. He originally signed with Duke out of high school, but then decided to forego college and enter the draft and was selected by the Clippers as the fourth pick. in 2007, Livingston went up for a layup, landed awkwardly, and suffered one of the most cringe-worthy knee injuries in basketball. injured almost every part of his knee, tearing the ACL, the PCL, and the lateral meniscus, badly spraining his MCL. He also dislocated his patella and his tibio-fibular joint.

His left leg snapped and medical professionals later told him he narrowly missed having to have it amputated. Livingston went through months of rehabilitation just to be able to walk again, but over a year later, he was cleared to return to basketball. Unfortunately, after his injury, no teams seemed to want to keep him, and he has bounced around almost every year since. Livingston is currently playing with the Golden State Warriors.

Whether it’s the knee, the leg, the elbow, or any other severe injury, many basketball players are lucky if they make it back to the court, let alone advance to the NBA. Here’s to hoping we won’t see any knee injuries this year!

If you can’t get enough of sports injuries, check out our post, The Worst Knee Injuries in Football.

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