The highlight crossovers, the jaw-dropping plays, the swagger of a winner, and most of all, the presence of a veteran – these are the things that many people think of when it comes to two-time NBA All-Star Baron Davis.
And who can blame them? He was dunking on big men long before Russel Westbrook. He was dishing out dazzling passes long before Chris Paul. He was stunning defenders with his crossovers long before Kyrie Irving. He was dropping threes and clutch shots long before Stephen Curry. Despite the younger generation not being all too familiar with his name – it is undeniable that Davis dominated the NBA in his prime.
However, as part of the New York Knicks in 2011, Davis tore his ACL, MCL, and patellar tendon in a layup gone horribly wrong in an intense playoff game against the Miami Heat. The damage was so severe that doctors feared he would need extensive therapy and rehab after healing up if he ever hoped to walk normally again. As he was wheeled out of the arena on a stretcher, most people thought he was done.
Earlier this year, Davis shocked the world as he signed a contract to play in the NBA’s Developmental League. When many thought that his name had already been relegated to nostalgia, Davis was determined to prove them wrong, getting himself in the shape to compete in the NBA once more.
“I was laughing,” said former teammate Ryan Hollins when Davis first heard about his comeback plan. “I thought, ‘He’s not serious about this.’ That first day in the gym, I was blown away. He was in better shape than when I played with him in Cleveland.”
Davis has worked out with numerous basketball figures to gauge his current capabilities and track his improvements, including the likes of Matt Barnes, Chris Paul, and James Wright, a point guard from LA who has had a decade-long career between the NBA D-League and teams overseas.
“When I saw him when we first started working out and he said he was coming back, it was like, ‘Uhhh, it’s going to be tough.’,” recalled Wright. “But every day he’d say to me, ‘I’m getting closer.’ Then I heard about all the extra stuff he was doing, I was like, ‘You’re going overboard.’ In his position, you have to go overboard. I’ve got a whole different respect for his game.”
What many might have forgotten, or perhaps, not known, is that Davis once tore his ACL on his left knee as a freshman in UCLA. He bounced back to become the third pick in the 1999 NBA draft and became a star that many valued for his leadership and motivational skills. However, for Davis, his return is not about being back in the spotlight – it’s about his never-ending passion for the game.
“I don’t have to start or save the world, be the guy I had to be before,” said Davis. “I can just come in and be a key component. How many teams have a true point guard, a real playmaker coming off the bench?”
No one knows when we will see Davis back on the hardwood courts or if will we ever see him dominate games like he did in the past. However, one thing is for sure – if and when that time comes, we will witness the return of one of the game’s greatest players.