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How I Tore My Achilles: Part I

A week ago today I tore my left Achilles tendon. Let’s take a look at how it happened, how I got it fixed, and what my outlook is moving forward. Read Part II: How I Got It Fixed here. Read Part II: My Mindset here.

How I Tore My Achilles Part I: How it Happened

Sunday, February 25, 2018, 10:45 a.m., Weddington, NC. Yeah, first things first: I’m never in Weddington. Like, ever. It might as well be the Florida panhandle for all I know. So what was I doing so many miles from my NoDa home?

I was invited to play hoops with my good friend David. David and I have been friends for several years now, but because he lives in Weddington, we rarely get to kick it. On this Sunday morning, however, I decided to take the 35-ish minute drive to play some hoops with him, something we’d been talking about for quite a while. It’s part of my effort to make sure that the relationships I have in my life are at their healthiest, something that I decided to make a focal point after I got back from my trip to Asia in November.

After the drive down 77 and then 485 that always takes longer than I ever imagine it does in my head, I turned into the upscale suburban subdivision where David and a few friends were playing ball. The basketball court was all the way in the back, by the tennis courts and the clubhouse (like I said, upscale).

The court was pretty nice. Painted concrete (which now that I look back at it…), adjustable goals with clear plexiglass backboards and breakaway rims, the kind with a tight and firm bounce that gives your missed shots a chance for you to earn their rebounds.

The first game was definitely a warm up. I moved well, got my shots, just couldn’t get them to fall. Even layups were just slightly off their timing. Second game, I was warmed up. Jump shots coming off screens, up and unders, drop steps and layups off a quick first step all dropped. Everything’s in rhythm now.

Just before the third game, a little bit of rain begins to fall. Not a full downpour, but stronger than a little mist too. It made the already slick courts noticeably slicker. We decided to play though it anyway, all six of us making an unwritten pact to not go 100% for our own sakes.

I’ll give you one guess as to who was the one who broke the pact.

After scoring consecutive buckets (the second one coming off a tough contested running teardrop in the lane), I got the ball on the left wing. I knew I had my defender on his heels, and my quick first step is something I can always count on to get past an opponent. I take one dribble to size him up. I take a second faking like I’m going right. I cross over to my left. Ah ha! He’s shifted his weight, I’ve got him beat! I explode to the hoop to my left. I push off my left foot as I anticipate an easy run to the hoop.

I would describe the sound of what I heard next like taking a big empty cardboard box and hitting it with a baseball bat. It’s that deep and punchy bass note that I was most surprised with.

When I heard the sound, and felt the pop, my first thought was that someone threw a basketball full strength at the back of my left ankle. My initial reaction was to look behind me and see who the prankster was that was trying to mess with my drive. There was only one problem:

All six of us were on the court. No one was on the sideline. No one threw a ball at me.

As I went tumbling to the ground, and the realization hit me that no one was playing strike zone with my ankle, it hit me.

I just tore my Achilles. No doubt about it.

I laid flat on my back for a few moments, expecting a searing pain to come tearing through my leg. That pain never came, maybe because of shock, but it did nothing to assuage my fear.

Now, I’ve watched enough sports and played enough basketball to know what happened. I’ve seen the same injury take down Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Rudy Gay, Brandon Jennings and countless others. I knew the injury would take 6-9 months of rehab to get back to where I could ruthlessly cross somebody up again assuming my rehab will allow me to even get back to that level at all. All of these thoughts ran through my head in the five seconds since I heard that pop, a sound that will probably haunt me for the rest of my life.

But I couldn’t worry about any of that at that moment. My first challenge in this long and arduous process: stand up.

Stand the fuck up.

David helped me to my feet. I dapped him up and told him not to sweat it, I wouldn’t change a thing (more on this mentality later). I was able to balance on my left foot, but I could tell it was unstable. The next step was to gingerly walk back to my car, toss the basketball I wouldn’t be using for a few months in the passenger seat, and sit down.

Now. Now is where my recovery begins.

First step?

Call a damn doctor!

Read Part II: How I Got It Fixed here. Read Part III: My Mindset here.

My injured left ankle, just hours after my Achilles tore. I was quite surprised there wasn't more swelling and bruising.

My injured left ankle, just hours after my Achilles tore. I was quite surprised there wasn’t more swelling and bruising.