For better or worse, Jason Kendall – a three-time All-Star who played 15 years in the big leagues – is remembered most for breaking his ankle while trying to beat out a bunt on the Fourth of July in 1999. It was a gruesome injury – one that is difficult to watch and one that his Pittsburgh Pirates teammates could not discuss at length because they were so emotionally distraught.
Kendall, then 25, was told his career was likely over.
He wound up playing 10 more seasons.
Kendall and countless others are hoping for a similar fate for Paul George, who suffered a compound fracture during a Team USA scrimmage last Friday. George, 24, will miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season, and there are serious doubts as to whether he’ll ever be the same player again.
“You now what?” Kendall said on The Damon Amendolara Show. “As soon as I saw (his injury), I called my (former) agent and I asked him (if) George (was) one of (his clients) – because I do want to call him. And I’ll get his number eventually and I’ll get in touch with him. I remember when I (had) mine, I had certain people call me. Robin Ventura, Moises Alou – guys that went through certain similar injuries. And I say similar because no injury is (exactly) the same. They’re disgusting. I’m known for (being) the guy that snapped his ankle and got in a lot of fights. That’s not the way I wanted to be remembered.”
Kendall doesn’t want George to be remembered for his injury, but that may be unavoidable.
“It’s one of the most disgusting injuries I’ve seen,” Kendall said. “I can look at mine a million times over and over and over again, but I cannot look at stuff like that. I saw it the other day, and I saw it probably just like half the United States did. But it brought back so many memories.”
It probably also brought back memories for Joe Theismann, Willis McGahee and other athletes who are part of the horrific-injury fraternity.
“There’s been about four or five (injuries like this) that have happened, whether it be in baseball, football or certain sports where I’ve gotten a chance to speak to those people,” Kendall said. “I hope I have the opportunity to talk to Paul because it is a long recovery if you make it be a long recovery. He’s still a young guy. He still has everything in front of him. He’s got a lot of will. I know that for a fact. You got to keep going.”
Yes, you do – even in the face of naysayers.
“People are going to say he’s never going to be the same player,” Kendall said. “I guarantee you this guy comes back ten times better. It’s just one of those freak things. That’s what he’s going to be known for – not for the fact that he’s one of the top NBA players that there is. I mean, when you’re going out and playing for the USA Olympic team, you’re pretty damn good. Hopefully I can eventually talk to him because I went through it. I did it. I had doctors tell me, ‘You ain’t coming back. You’re done.’ But you know what? It was just incentive to get better and better and better.”