Anthony Davis is among the most uniquely skilled and talented big men in the NBA today. When healthy, he is virtually unstoppable – able to score from all areas of the floor while anchoring the defense with his length and uncanny shot-blocking abilities.
However, staying on the court has been a constant struggle for Davis throughout his 10 seasons in the league. Injuries have caused him to miss a staggering 196 games in his career.
In this comprehensive post, we’ll analyze Davis’ extensive injury history year-by-year, tally up the missed games, and examine how it impacts his legacy and the Lakers’ future outlook.
Anthony Davis Promise Out of Kentucky
Anthony Davis entered the league in 2012 as the #1 overall draft pick after a dominant freshman season at Kentucky. He averaged 14.2 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.7 blocks per game en route to a National Championship and being named NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
Davis’ rare combination of size, athleticism, and skill at both ends of the floor had scouts salivating over his superstar potential. His unicorn-like qualities drew lofty comparisons to legendary big men like Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The New Orleans Pelicans, then called the Hornets, eagerly drafted Davis 1st overall in 2012 to be the face of their rebuilding franchise. He excelled from the start, making the All-Rookie First Team by averaging 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
However, it didn’t take long for Davis’ first major injury to strike.
Rookie Season Cut Short (2012-13)
Davis’ NBA career got off to a promising start in his rookie year, as he averaged 13.5 points on 52% shooting, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in 64 games.
Unfortunately, a left knee injury forced Davis to miss the final 15 games of the season.
Games Missed: 15
While missing nearly a quarter of the season could have been better, it was hoped that Davis would bounce back stronger than ever in year two.
Back Injury Slows Sophomore Season (2013-14)
Davis elevated his game in 2013-14, averaging 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, and a league-leading 2.8 blocks per game. He played in 67 of the Pelican’s first 73 games until back spasms flared up in March, causing him to miss 4 straight games.
Davis returned after about two weeks but was still limited, averaging just 11 points on 11 shots in his first game back.
Games Missed: 4
Total Games Missed: 19
First of Many Shoulder Injuries (2014-15)
The 2014-15 season was Davis’ first All-Star campaign and the start of his chronic shoulder troubles. In December, he suffered a chest contusion that kept him out of 3 games.
Davis’ shoulder woes first surfaced in February when he was sidelined for 4 games with a right shoulder sprain. After missing another 5 games late in the year with a left knee injury, Davis was shut down for the final 9 games of the season due to his ailing shoulder.
Games Missed: 21
Total Games Missed: 40
The recurring shoulder injuries were an ominous sign for the young star.
Knee and Shoulder Issues Resurface (2015-16)
The following season was eerily similar, as Davis battled through right knee and left shoulder problems again. He missed 14 games between November and December, recovering from knee surgery, then the shoulder flared up in March, forcing him to sit for 7 more rounds.
Games Missed: 21
Total Games Missed: 61
Davis played a career-low 61 games in his 4th season, which is concerning for a 23-year-old player. The Brow was proving very difficult to keep healthy.
Minor Injuries Plague Davis (2016-17)
Compared to past seasons, Davis stayed relatively healthy in 2016-17. He did miss 4 games in December with a thigh bruise but managed to play 75 games, his highest total since his rookie campaign.
Davis finally earned his first All-NBA First Team selection while averaging a career-high 28 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks.
Games Missed: 4
Total Games Missed: 65
Pelicans fans hoped Davis had moved past his injury woes. But there was more frustration ahead.
Elbow Injury Caps Disappointing Year (2017-18)
Coming off his best individual season, expectations were high entering 2017-18. But the Pelicans underwhelmed as a team, partly due to another Davis injury.
After playing 75 games in the previous campaign, Davis was limited to 75 games again. He suffered an elbow sprain in a late February win over the Mavericks, forcing him to miss the final 16 games.
Without Davis down the stretch, the Pelicans stumbled to a 9-7 record and finished 6th in the West with 48 wins. The Warriors promptly swept them in the second round of the playoffs.
Games Missed: 16
Total Games Missed: 81
Davis was still searching for his first playoff series victory in New Orleans.
Freak Finger Injury Deals Blow to MVP Bid (2018-19)
Anthony Davis was playing like an MVP frontrunner in the first half of 2018-19, averaging 29.3 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks through 46 games. He seemed poised to lead the Pelicans on a deep playoff run.
That changed when Davis suffered a volar plate avulsion fracture to his left index finger in January. He collided with Julius Randle in a game against the Trail Blazers and missed extended time after requiring surgery.
Davis ultimately sat out 25 games until being shut down in late March, with the team well out of playoff contention.
Games Missed: 25
Total Games Missed: 106
This was the first major injury not related to his shoulders or knees. The Pelicans lost all hope with their star sidelined again.
Final Season in New Orleans Cut Short (2019-20)
After months of trade rumors, Davis finally got his desired departure from New Orleans in July 2019. He was traded to the Lakers to team up with LeBron James and form an elite duo.
Davis played 27 of the Lakers’ first 29 games until suffering a nasty fall against the Timberwolves in December. He landed hard on his backside, suffering a sacral contusion that sidelined him for 5 rounds.
After returning from his tailbone bruise, Davis missed extended time again in January and February with calf and shoulder ailments. Calf tightness kept him out of 5 games, followed by 15 more with shoulder soreness.
He returned and stayed healthy in March, just before the NBA’s pandemic suspension. During the lockdown, Davis continued playing well in the Orlando bubble on the way to his first championship.
Games Missed: 30
Total Games Missed: 136
Despite major injuries cropping up again, Davis raised his game when it mattered most in the playoffs.
Injuries Crush Davis and the Lakers (2020-21 Season)
After proving his elite two-way talent in the Lakers 2020 playoff run, Davis entered the following season with MVP expectations. However, multiple leg injuries severely limited his availability.
Davis first suffered a calf strain in February that kept him out for 2 months and 30 games. He returned for 17 days before injuring his groin and sitting for the next 19 games.
Davis played only 36 games for the defending champs between the calf and groin issues. His absence was a major factor in the Lakers falling to a 7th seed and losing in the first round.
Games Missed: 36
Total Games Missed: 172
It was a nightmare season for Davis, who failed to play even half the shortened 72-game schedule.
Ongoing Knee Problems in Year 10 (2021-22 Season)
Davis has missed even more this season due to his troublesome left knee. He sat out 16 straight games between December and January after an awkward fall against the Timberwolves resulted in an MCL sprain.
After returning for about a month, Davis aggravated the knee again in late February. He missed 18 more games before coming back in late March.
As the Lakers desperately fight to make the play-in tournament, they’ve been without their All-Star big man for long stretches.
Games Missed: 24 so far
Total Games Missed: 196
Davis’ inability to stay healthy has plagued the Lakers, as they miss the playoffs entirely.
How Davis Injuries Compare to Other Stars
- Davis has now missed 196 games due to injury
- Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo has never missed more than 15 games in a season.
- Warriors’ Steph Curry has missed just 100 games in his 13-year career.
- Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard has only missed 143 games total over 11 seasons
- Joel Embiid missed his first 164 games and has since played 60% of games in 6 seasons
While all NBA players deal with injuries, Davis has proven far more susceptible than other stars. Two major reasons are his slight frame for a big man and his history of knee and shoulder injuries.
Davis will likely keep missing chunks of seasons unless something changes throughout his career.
How Injuries Have Impacted Davis’ Legacy
When Anthony Davis is at his peak, few players in NBA history have possessed his rare mix of game-changing talents. He’s a true unicorn who can dominate on both ends as a walking 20-10 player.
However, Davis’s inability to stay on the floor has limited his greatness. He has a solitary playoff series win through 10 seasons. Between the Pelicans and Lakers, his teams have won just 2 playoff series total, with him leading the way.
Compare that to Giannis winning a title last season in his 8th year or Steph Curry winning 3 rings and making 5 Finals appearances through his first 10 seasons.
Had Davis matched their durability, it’s easy to imagine him winning an MVP and vying for championships yearly. He may still reach those heights, but his missed games and lack of team success have hurt his case as a generational great.
Davis is on track to make the Hall of Fame, yet he should have achieved much more, given his talent. His legacy has no doubt suffered from constantly battling injuries.
What Does the Future Hold for Anthony Davis and the Lakers?
As Davis enters year 10, it’s fair to wonder if he will ever overcome his career-long injury issues. He turns 29 this March and should be in his athletic prime.
For Davis, improving his conditioning and strength training discipline is paramount. Preventative maintenance programs through the Lakers training staff could help as well. Though unlikely to ever be completely injury-free, little tweaks could make a big difference in Davis sitting 5-10 games a year versus 20 or more.
The Lakers organization may need contingency plans if Davis’ health problems persist. That could mean transitioning Davis to more power-forward minutes and acquiring a dominant center to fill minutes when he’s out.
The bottom line is that the Lakers’ championship window depends on Anthony Davis being available. If he suffers another injury-plagued season in 2022-23, LA will have some very difficult decisions on maximizing the remainder of LeBron James’ high-level years.
Anthony Davis’ immense talent and game-changing impact when healthy is undeniable. He’s a once-in-a-generation big man who can take over playoff games at both ends of the floor.
However, Davis’ inability to string together healthy seasons in his 10-year career is highly concerning. The numbers show he has already missed a staggering 196 games due to various injuries.
For Davis to solidify his legacy as an all-time great and bring more banners to Los Angeles, he must find ways to keep himself on the court. Conditioning and prioritizing injury prevention should be his main focus moving forward.
Though he will likely never be completely injury-free, even marginal improvements in Davis’ availability could pay huge dividends for his numbers and the Lakers’ title hopes. But if the injuries persist at this rate, his disappointing trend of missed games will only continue haunting his career from reaching its full potential.
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