Duke Blue Devils freshman Zion Williamson has been a deity-like figure in his first season of college basketball. Considered by most to be a generational talent, he’ll likely be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Unfortunately, Williamson suffered a scary-looking injury on a freak play during Duke’s game against North Carolina on Wednesday. It’s not yet known how serious the knee injury is.
But it did get us thinking. What other college stars saw their careers end after suffering an injury. Sure we’re assuming this isn’t the case with Williamson.
Even then, there’s a history of amateur athletes destined for stardom seeing their careers come to an end prematurely.
Marcus Lattimore, college football
Lattimore was a five-star recruit of the South Carolina Gamecocks earlier this decade. Considered a likely first-round pick in the NFL Draft, the running back starred for South Carolina from 2010-12 — finishing as the program’s leader in career rushing touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Lattimore’s college career was plagued by knee injury after knee injury. He suffered torn knee ligament as a sophomore in 2011, missing all but seven games in the process. Then, the following season, Lattimore dislocated his right knee and tore every ligament. Said injury also resulted in severe nerve damage. While Lattimore would eventually be drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, he never played a snap in the NFL before retiring from the game.
Derrick Roland, college basketball
This former Texas A&M star was well on his way to being selected in the NBA Draft before suffering a gruesome leg injury as a senior during the 2009-10 season. Said injury resulted in a broken tibia and fibula. It’s still hard to watch to this day. Prior to said injury, Roland was averaging 10.5 points and shooting at a robust 50 percent from the field for the Aggies. Roland would never play professionally.
Tyrone Prothro, college football
On the smallish side at 5-foot-9, Prothro was not your prototypical wide receiver prospect during his days with Alabama. Even then, he was a dynamic performer for the Crimson Tide from 2003-05. He put up over 1,000 scrimmage yards and was one of the nation’s best special teams performers. In fact, Prothro won the 2006 ESPY for best play.
Sadly, the talented receiver suffered a gruesome injury against Florida back in October of 2005. He went up to catch a pass from quarterback Brock Coyle. Once landing, Prothro’s leg snapped completely in half. He’d never recover from the injury as doctors could not fully repair the leg.
Kevin Ware, college basketball
A former star at Louisville, Ware suffered one of the most gruesome injuries we’ve ever seen on a basketball court. In an NCAA Tournament game against Duke back in 2013, Ware suffered an open fracture to his right leg. Those on the scene were visibly shaken as his right leg protruded several inches out of his right shin.
Ware would not play another game for Louisville before ultimately transferring to Georgia State. He went undrafted and has since been seen playing professionally overseas. Said injury likely cost the NCAA champion a shot at stardom in the NBA.
Burt Reynolds, college football
We’ll end on a good note. If it weren’t for knee ailments and a freak car accident during his Florida State days, we might never have been privy to Burt Reynolds the actor. A heartthrob during his on-screen days, Reynolds was also a borderline All-American running back with the Seminoles. How good was he? Well, most projected the recently-diseased Reynolds as a top-10 pick.
It didn’t work out that way. Reynolds suffered a knee injury in the first game of his sophomore season. While he attempted to come back, other injuries to his knee and spleen during a car accident the following year ended Reynolds’ football career.