Kevin Ware undoubtedly owns the most gruesome injury in sports history.
Joe Theismann's broken leg was pretty nasty, and Clint Malarchuk's throat getting slashed was enough to make a grown man hurl.
But no one, and I mean no one, suffered a grosser in-game injury than former University of Louisville college basketball player Kevin Ware. Ten years ago in an Elite Eight game against the Duke Blue Devils, Ware jumped up and landed on his right leg and made every social media user's stomach churn.
It's been a decade since the injury rocked the sports world, but it didn't stop him from furthering his career.
Kevin Ware's Gruesome Leg Injury
Born to Lisa Junior and Kevin Ware Sr., Kevin was a four-star recruit out of Rockale County High School in Conyers, Georgia. He originally signed his Letter of Intent to play for Bruce Pearl at Tennessee but changed his mind when Pearl was fired.
Kevin Ware became a bench player for head coach Rick Pitino's Louisville Cardinals from 2011-14. The Bronx, New York, native averaged just 3.1 points per game and started only two in his UL career.
Louisville went on a magical run in the 2013 NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 seed. Wins over North Carolina A&T and Colorado State sent them to the Sweet 16, where Ware scored a career-high 11 points against the Oregon Ducks.
The following game, tragedy struck.
On March 31, 2013, in the first half of Louisville's Elite Eight matchup against Duke, Ware came down awkwardly on his right leg after trying to block a shot. The Louisville guard suffered an open fracture, and the bone literally came out of skin near his shin.
"It was one of those things where I couldn't believe it. I honestly didn't feel the pain. It was more a shock," said Ware, who then described Pitino's reaction.
"He went to help me up, he glanced at my leg and his eyes got huge," Ware said. "I looked down at my leg and it was just automatic shock."
Ware's teammates were visibly distraught. One of them, Russ Smith, was crying. Peyton Siva collapsed on the ground in sadness. Many on the sideline couldn't bare to look at Ware's leg. The 20-year-old was rushed to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, where doctors successfully repaired his right tibia.
Afterward, Ware received well wishes on Twitter from NBA players like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. Former NFL players Michael Bush and Joe Theismann, who suffered a broken leg, sent condolences as well.
Louisville basketball went on to win the NCAA Tournament, beating Wichita State in the Final Four and Michigan in the National Championship Game. Ware traveled to Atlanta and watched his team from the sideline win the national title.
Ware's career was far from over, though.
Ware Returned to the NCAA Tournament & Played Professionally
The resilient Ware returned from his horrific injury for the first time the following season and scored his first bucket back more than seven months later during the 2013-14 season.
He transferred to Georgia State after using a redshirt and blossomed into a Sun Belt Conference star during his two years there. He averaged 7.6 points per game in his first season at GSU and 11.6 points per game his second year. Across two seasons, he averaged 9.4 points, 1.5 steals, 3.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
He even won MVP of the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Men's Basketball Tournament, returned to the NCAA Tournament and upset third-seeded Baylor.
Ware never made it to the NBA, but he did play professionally.
Ware signed to play overseas for Czech team BC Brno and Finnish team Kauhajoen Karhu in 2016. He then played in the Greek Basket League for the Faros Larissas in 2017-18 and averaged 12.4 points per game.
— London Lions (@LondonLions) December 29, 2020
"I liked Greece because they gave us cars," Ware told The Citizens. "In the Czech Republic, the gym was literally right across from the condos that we had, so we didn't really need cars for anything. In Finland, we didn't get cars, either. Just the scenery of Greece, too, It was a really nice place. The different towns and traveling for these games, it was easy to get caught up being a tourist with all of the nice scenery."
Ware would later join a team in Chihuahua, Mexico. He reportedly signed with the London Lightning of the National Basketball League of Canada in 2018.
He played for the London Lions in England's British Basketball League, and the 30-year-old was last playing for Al Naft Baghdad in the Iraqi Basketball League in 2022. He also has owned his own line of apparel named "Way Up Ware."
Kevin Ware's injury will always be the grossest to ever take place on a basketball court, but he never let it stop him doing what he loved.
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