Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving was injured in the Cavaliers' NBA Finals Game 1 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Thursday when his left knee "seized up on him" with two minutes to play in the game. It is the third time this postseason that his balky knee has given him trouble.
But Irving can take hope if he studies previous NBA Finals, because there have been several notable occasions when a player has overcome an injury or illness to give a great performance or spur his team to victory. A look:
1949 BAA Finals, Minneapolis vs. Washington, Games 5-6. Minneapolis Lakers center George Mikan broke his wrist late in Game 4, a victory by the Washington Capitols, and was expected to be out the rest of the BAA (the precursor to the NBA) championship series. Instead, he had a doctor fit him with a cast that allowed him to play and scored 22 points in a Game 5 loss, then followed it up with 40 points in Game 6, giving the Lakers what is now considered their first NBA title.
1970 NBA Finals, New York vs. Lakers, Game 7. Knicks center Willis Reed tore a muscle in his right leg in Game 5 and did not play in Game 6 as the Lakers tied the series. Reed was not expected to play in Game 7, a psychological blow to the Knicks. But minutes before the began, Reed hobbled onto the court to the amazement and delight of the Madison Square Garden fans and took his place in the starting lineup. Reed scored the first two baskets of the game and then came out, but his effort seemed to rattle the Lakers. The Knicks won, 113-99.
1988 NBA Finals, Detroit vs. Lakers, Game 6. Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas badly sprained his right ankle in the third quarter. Unable to put weight on his foot, he came out of the game, but he soon returned and set an NBA Finals record for points in one quarter by scoring 25 points in the third, turning a Pistons deficit into a Pistons lead. The Lakers went on to win the game (and eventually the series), but Thomas' performance has stood the test of time.
1997 NBA Finals, Chicago vs. Utah, Game 5. The "Flu Game." Bulls guard Michael Jordan had to be treated in his Utah hotel room before the game for what was either a stomach virus or food poisoning and was told there was no way he could play. Instead, Jordan showed up an hour before tipoff and put on an incredible display, scoring 17 points in the third quarter and leading the Bulls on a fourth-quarter comeback for a 90-88 victory that put Chicago on top in the series, 3-2, over the Jazz. Jordan finished with 38 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.