Sunday was the latest example of Anthony Davis trying to shed a label attached to him rather unfairly. Despite being very visibly hobbled and favoring his foot, Davis gritted through to try and lead the Lakers past the Nuggets in a must-win game.
Davis’ reputation as an always-injured player is one that’s a bit harder to dispute given his multiple injuries this season — more on that later — but his reputation as a player unwilling to play through injury is far less fair. Even if Davis has experienced more than his fair share of injuries, he’s done his best to play through them as often as possible.
In a piece with Dan Woike of the LA Times, Davis opened up about his attempts to play through injuries, and the fickle nature of fan and media reactions to them.
“This is what I’ve learned about injuries: Last year when I wasn’t playing, people were saying ‘AD’s giving up on his team. It’s the playoffs. AD has to play. He’s got to play.’ And when I went out there to play, got hurt again, they said, ‘Who was his trainer? Who let him play?’
“So, what the [expletive] do you want me to do? When I play, it’s a problem. It’s a problem when I don’t play. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and how my body feels. And we go from there. I’m not worried about who’s saying what or who thinks this about me because none of them have stepped on the floor and played. And the ones that did play, they should understand.
“These aren’t little ticky-tack injuries.”
Davis attempting to play through his groin injury in last year’s playoffs is both a glowing example of him attempting to play through the pain and how wrongly fans and media treat players with injuries. As Davis was doing everything he could to get on the court in a huge game for the Lakers, Charles Barkley was helping coin tired and pathetic narratives and nicknames referencing Davis being unavailable last season.
Perhaps partly because of the “Street Clothes” nickname/narrative attached to him by Barkley and some fans, Davis attempted to play in that playoff game and did it again on Sunday to a lesser degree against the Nuggets.
It’s a sort of culmination of two frustrating seasons for Davis. After a virtually injury-free 2019-20 season that ended in a title, Davis has had a number of injuries sideline him the last two condensed seasons, but the most frustrating aspect this season has been the nature of the injuries and how unpreventable they feel.
In December, Davis sprained his MCL when a Timberwolves player fell into him on the court. A handful of months later upon his return, Davis came down on Rudy Gobert’s foot and suffered a foot sprain that sidelined him six more weeks. Those are freak, unpreventable accidents, no matter what shoes or where or positions he plays:
“The real basketball guys know that there’s nothing I could’ve done in these situations,” Davis said. “What? Move out the way? I keep that attitude because, one, my wife makes me, and two, it’s knowing that these really weren’t my fault. How can I be down or upset or care what people are saying? It could’ve been anybody. I could wear shoes that come up to my knees.
“There’s not one player in the world who could step on somebody’s foot from the air and not roll your ankle. It doesn’t matter the shoe. You step on somebody’s foot, you’re going to roll your ankle.”
If anything, Davis has actually had less serious injuries than he could have because of the work he’s put in on his body to prevent himself from sustaining more serious injuries this season. Unfortunately, narratives are much easier to create than to disprove and shed, regardless if they’re true or not. Given all the recent examples, though, it’s clear Davis is doing everything he can to help the Lakers win when possible this season, so it’s hard to fault him for freak situations he can’t control.