They may be a part of the game, but injuries are the worst, plain and simple. When they happen, they can derail games, careers and championship windows for certain players and teams.
When they happen in the playoffs, the stakes are even higher, and the 2021 NBA postseason has been marred by key players going down with untimely injuries. Anthony Davis, James Harden and Kyrie Irving all had their team's seasons end because of their respective injuries, and now the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks are trying to escape the conference finals with both of their star players dealing with injuries.
This unfortunately isn't the first time we've seen this sort of thing. In just the last 10 years alone, several title runs have been altered by a star player going down at the worst time.
2012: Derrick Rose tears ACL
One of the darkest days in Bulls history came in the first round of the playoffs in 2012, when MVP point guard Derrick Rose tore his ACL against the eighth-seeded Sixers. Rose was never the same, the Bulls lost the series in six games and it was the last time Chicago got close to competing for a championship.
2015: John Wall fractures wrist/hand
Wall fracturing his hand and wrist against the Hawks in the second round of the East playoffs in 2015 is perhaps one of the biggest what-ifs in franchise history. The 2015 squad was arguably the best of the Wall era, had the 60-win Hawks on their heels and were in a great position to get to the conference finals for the first time since the 70s.
But then Wall went down and the series shifted back toward the Hawks. The point guard tried to come back later in the series to play with one hand in Games 5 and 6, though that's never going to produce great results.
2015: Kyrie Irving fractures kneecap
LeBron James' first year back with the Cavaliers may have ended with a championship if it weren't for Kyrie Irving suffering a significant knee injury in Game 1 of the Finals. The Cavs then had to rely entirely on James for their offense, which wasn't exactly a great winning formula against Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in their primes.
Cleveland doesn't have terrible feelings about this series, though, as the Cavs turned around and won a title the following season.
2018: Chris Paul strains hamstring
The Rockets had a 3-2 series lead over the juggernaut Warriors in 2018 and looked poised to down one of the greatest teams ever en route to a championship. However, Paul injured his hamstring toward the end of Game 5 and was forced to miss the final two games of the series.
With James Harden leading the way by himself, the Rockets had to rely on hitting a bunch of 3-pointers. They blew two leads in Game 6 and 7 and fell to the Warriors on their home floor. Houston never got out of the second round after that.
2019: Kevin Durant injures Achilles
In pursuit of a three-peat, the Warriors found themselves down 3-1 to the Raptors due in large part to Kevin Durant's absence. He had been nursing a calf strain since the second round of the playoffs that year but decided to give it a go with his team's season on the brink.
Durant dominated the action right away and the Warriors looked like they had a chance to come back in the series, but Durant's calf injury turned into an Achilles injury that knocked him out for the next year-and-a-half. The Raptors ultimately won the title and Durant moved on to the Nets. The Warriors have missed the playoffs the last two seasons with Klay Thompson sidelined with various leg injuries.