When Louisville guard Kevin Ware jumped in an attempt to block or alter a 3-point shot by Duke’s Tyler Thornton, he had no sense of what would happen.
Ware came down awkwardly on the floor without making any contact with Thornton, but there was a sickening sound as his leg snapped in two places right in front of Louisville’s bench.
Part of the tibia broke through the skin and was so gruesome, CBS officials decided not to keep showing the accident. They have now banned any other outlet from showing it.
How bad was it?
Louisville-based columnist Rick Bozich texted me, saying: “Worst I’ve ever seen in basketball. Several inches of bone were sticking out of his leg.’’
Bozich has seen as much basketball as anyone this side of Dick “Hoops’’ Weiss with the New York Daily News.
It was reminiscent of Joe Theismann’s injury, when his leg snapped after being hit by Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor during a 1985 Monday Night Football game. But that injury was caused by the hit Theisman sustained. Ware touched no one.
Theismann was watching the game Sunday at his Virginia home. He had a unpleasant flashback.
“My world came to a complete stop,’’ Theismann told USA Today. “It was just a horrible, horrible thing to see happen. I hate to see anybody have an injury that is anywhere near anything I went through.’’
Ware underwent two hours of surgery at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis to re-set the bone and prevent possible infection. Doctors inserted a steel rod in his tibia to aid in recovery.
Louisville Coach Rick Pitino said it was similar to the injury former Louisville running back Michael Bush sustained and noted that Bush is now playing in the NFL. Bush did have to sit out his senior year at UL, as well as his rookie year with the Raiders before he could return.
Like Theismann, Bush was watching the game on TV. Like everyone else, Bush was sickened by what he saw.
“Oohhh (crap). I just cried. I feel so bad. Flashback of myself. Anyone, if he needs anything please let me know,’’ Bush tweeted.
“I can’t even get myself together. I don’t even wanna watch the rest of this game.’’
So while there is hope that Ware’s basketball future will resume in time, there will be months of healing and rehab ahead.
Theismann never played again. There are no guarantees Ware will, although he has youth on his side.
It cast a morbid pall over Lucas Oil Stadium. From fans of both Duke and Louisville, to Pitino and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and their players, it caused everyone to pause and grieve for Ware.
Some Louisville players collapsed on the floor, sobbing with their hands covering their faces. Pitino wiped away tears, as did Krzyzewski.
During every timeout after the accident, the Louisville players chanted, “Bring Kevin Home.’’ They held themselves together long enough to secure the 85-63 win and punch their ticket to Atlanta.
Atlanta is Kevin Ware’s hometown. If he can travel, Ware will join Louisville at the Final Four. He played at Rockdale County High School and originally signed with Tennessee. But with the coaching change to Cuonzo Martin, Ware asked for, and was granted a release from the Vols. He then signed with Louisville.
Fate changed Ware’s life with no warning – a lesson for all.