Last night I saw 34-year-old Kobe Bryant go down with a season-ending/career-threatening Achilles injury.
On January 28th of 1992, when TBS just showed local Atlanta Hawks games, I saw 32-year-old Dominique Wilkins go down with a season-ending/career-threatening Achilles injury. Earlier that day, Nique was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Going into the game, he only needed 25 points to becomes the 17th player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points. NBA players, fans and media were in shock at the thought of one of the league's all-time greats having their career end on a note like this.
"I'll be back," Wilkins said after the game. "When I heard it pop, I knew what it was. First thing on my mind was my season was over and I started thinking about next year.
Nique had surgery and then went through what he called his "depression stages." Then a couple of weeks after his injury, another life-changing moment happened.
He spotted a 22-year-old model turned student named Nicole Berry at a charity function in Atlanta. "I walked...I mean I crutched right on over to her," says Wilkins, "and, I'm telling you, I knew she was the one. It was that quick." It was not quite that quick for Berry—"Love at second or third sight," she says—but she and Wilkins were married on Sept. 26, seven months after they first met.
With a new outlook on life and Nicole by his side, Nique pushed himself harder during rehab and in the gym than he has ever before. The results would show the following season.
Nique would come back the next year and become the unanimous Comeback Player of the Year, averaging 30 points a game -- second to only Michael Jordan. It didn't take him long to get back into the groove either as he started the season off with a 30-point game against the Knicks and 33 the next night against MJ and the Bulls. Two weeks later, he blew up for 41 points and 16 rebounds against the Celtics. During that season, he also broke Bob Petit's franchise record for points and was named to the NBA All-Second Team.
Nique would go on to play six more seasons in the NBA and even left for a brief stint in the Euroleague where he averaged 20 points a game and won a championship.
He never did win a Championship in the NBA but he's a Champion Athlete and an NBA great that overcame odds and reminded the sports world for years after his injury why he's a Champion.
I expect another Champion to do the same.
THE HUMAN HIGHLIGHT FILM