With roughly 6.5 minutes remaining in the first half of the NCAA Midwest Region final between the Louisville Cardinals and the Duke Blue Devils, the unthinkable happened.
As Louisville guard Kevin Ware jumped up to defend a three-point shot launched by Duke’s Tyler Thornton near the Cardinals’ bench, Ware’s body twisted in the air. When he landed with all his weight on his right leg, the impact shattered both bones in his lower leg.
The injury wasn’t shown live as I recall. CBS cameras initially followed Thornton (he made the shot) and I saw the young man cover his face as he backpedaled. The cameras then panned to four Lousville players collapsed on the hardwood, seemingly in pain. Having not realized what had happened, I continued to watch hoping to catch a reply of what appeared, to me at least, to be a multi-player collision.
It was only then when I saw what had actually taken place – undeniably, the most grotesque and heart wrenching injury I have ever seen. CBS made the smart decision to halt replays of the incident as Ware was tended to by medical staff and eventually wheeled off the court. I will also not post any photos or videos of the injured leg because it is too much for my stomach to handle.
I wrote the following in Time for March Madness, moms: College-aged boys are still boys. These players are entering one of the biggest arenas (figuratively and literally) of their lives. Instead of idolizing these players, realize they are someone’s son, grandchild, brother, and friend … and imagine how much pride they are feeling knowing they’ve made it to the big dance.
When I wrote that statement, I assumed the worst tragedy that could befall these young athletes would be a last-second buzzer beater that ends a season and, for some, a career.
I never imagined witnessing a group of athletes having to console one another after seeing their brother – the same guy who ran laps with them, road tripped with them, and gave maximum effort for them all year – literally crumple to the floor in agony.
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Trainers check on Louisville guard Kevin Ware after an injury during the first half of the Midwest Regional final against Duke in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Louisville players talk to Ware after his injury during the first half. (AP Photo / Darron Cummings).
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When I wrote that statement, I figured the most amazing feat I would witness would be the eventual victors holding up their national trophy with crowds hoisting the champions onto their shoulders.
I never imagined two opposing coaches coming together in mutual concern for a player in an act that serves as a reminder that basketball is just a game. Or a group of young men (old boys, really) having the strength to carry on through unbelievable adversity. Louisville went on to defeat Duke 85-63.
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Duke Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski (R) talks to Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino (L) after Ware broke his leg. (REUTERS/John Sommers II.)
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Louisville players celebrate following their 85-63 win over Duke in the Midwest Regional final in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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I would imagine, coming into this game, Kevin Ware wanted to make a difference and help lead his team to victory. After what he’s had to endure, I’d say he’s succeeded in the most unpredictable way possible.
Heidi Woodard is married with three children. Read her Thursdays on momaha.com
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