I am a big fan of tough athletes. One of my favorites of all time was the Hall of Fame safety with the football Cardinals, Larry Wilson. He once played a game with two broken hands. We love toughness in sports. We love Willis Reed limping out for Game 7 of the 1970 NBA FINALS. He hit two jumpers and the Knicks won. Who could ever forget Michael Jordan playing with the flu and winning Game 5 in 1997 against the Utah Jazz. Jack Youngblood played a playoff game with a broken leg. Hockey players always play hurt.
Then we have the Michael Porter, Jr. story. Reports are that the doctors in Columbia told him he could avoid surgery and eventually play this season. The family said no. The family took him to Dallas. The family took over. The fan base is devastated. It does change a lot of things. Do fans travel to Columbia now to watch the Tigers without Porter on the floor? How good could can they be? They almost got beat by Emporia State.They got blown off the floor by Utah. The interest in the Bragg’ Rights game has decreased here and so will the SEC Tourney which is scheduled for the Scott Trade. With that surgery, they have gone from an NCAA tourney team to a NIT team. That’s the way it appears at least for now.
I do think the parents did the right thing. If your child wakes up with a pain in his back which is now filtering to his legs, what are you supposed to do? Should you be concerned about Mizzou beating Emporia State or about your son’s health? There really was only one thing to do here. Take care of your family. That’s what this family has done their entire lives. They are close knit and loving. If Porter were a professional and he needed to delay the surgery and gut it out so his team could make the playoffs, then do it. This is a 19-year-old kid who hasn’t made a penny. He stands to make tens of millions of dollars. The only thing that can really prevent this 6-foot-10 inch specimen from stardom is bad health. They have to protect it.
I honestly believe if he didn’t get hurt, there was about a 1 percent chance of him coming back to Mizzou. I would put it up to 10 percent now. If he has an idea that he could be slipping in the draft because the NBA has some questions about his health, well, maybe there’s a slight chance he would return and show he’s healthy and be the number one pick next year. However, even with the injury, I don’t think he will slide that much. There’s also a slight chance that he could play this year. The release said four to six months recovery. I had a doctor tell me that three months is a reasonable recovery time. A doctor never goes public with a short recovery period for an athlete after surgery. Never. It makes him look better if the comes back sooner than speculated. I would not be shocked if he came back in March. It’s a long shot, but not impossible.
The kid may only have a two-minute career, but what an impact he had. The recruits followed him, so did the season tickets, and I don’t think Bill Self would have played Mizzou if it were not for the presence of Michael. There was an energy for the program. There still is, just not as much. Porter has talked in the past about leaving a legacy. The best way to ensure that would be to actually contribute on the court. Maybe it will be just five games this year, maybe it will be a full season next year or maybe he will never put on a Mizzou jersey again. I wish I could say it was quite a ride. Actually it could end up like one of those rides at Disney World-- a lot of anticipation, but it didn’t last long enough.