Russell Westbrook, John Wall
Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) dribbles against Washington Wizards guard John Wall, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Washington. The Wizards won 120-98. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NBA Finals are underway, the Conference Semi-Finals just started this week and soon we’ll see who’s going to be fighting for the Championship title. Khris Middleton’s injury has already raised questions about the Milwaukee Buck’s chances.

No matter how good a team looks, an injury to a star player can have serious repercussions. A midseason injury can derail a team and completely crush their playoff chances. When that happens, long-term bets can be ruined too.

Betting on any sport has an element of risk, especially a sport where the athletes are pivoting, jumping and jostling as much as they are in basketball. That inherent risk is part of the excitement of sports betting. 

No matter how new you are to sports betting, it should be obvious that watching the injury lists is important. A good sports betting guide will keep you up to date on all the team news as well as the odds. 

Of course, sometimes the loss of a star player just pushes the rest of the team to play even harder and find the hidden depths of their talents. More often, though, a serious injury has a massive negative impact on the team. Here are some prime examples of NBA injuries that have cost their teams the win.

Bill Russell – Boston Celtics, 1958

Bill Russell was central to the Celtics team that won 11 NBA Championships. He is still considered one of the best basketball players in history. He might not have had a reputation for being friendly — on or off the court — but Russell was an absolute powerhouse.

Early on during the 1958 finals against the St Louis Hawks, Russell hurt his ankle and had to sit out two games. Those two games sealed the loss for the Celtics. Lucky for them, by next season, Russell was back in action and led them to eight consecutive Championship wins.

Bill Walton – Portland Trail Blazers, 1978

In 1977, Bill Walton had won the NBA Finals MVP Award for his performance with the Portland Trail Blazers. He had made important contributions to his team throughout the playoffs that led to them winning the Championship. He had done it all despite a series of injuries throughout the season.

The next season, these injuries proved too much. During game two in the first round against the Seattle SuperSonics, he broke his ankle. The Trail Blazers lost the series and while they’ve come close since then, they have never won another Championship.

Patrick Ewing – New York Knicks, 1999

Patrick Ewing is recognized as one of the greatest NBA players in history and was twice inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame — once for his own career and again for being a member of the 1992 Olympic “Dream Team”. While he played until 2002, an injury derailed both the Knicks 1999 season and his career.

Ewing and the Knicks had battled their way through to the Eastern Conference Finals. While warming up for game two, Ewing’s Achilles tendon popped, but he masked his pain and played on. As soon as the extent of the injury was discovered, his season was over. 

The Knicks made it to the Finals against the San Antonio Spurs but couldn’t win without Ewing. He would play one more season for the Knicks before brief stints with the Seattle SuperSonics and the Orlando Magic.

Dirk Nowitzki – Dallas Mavericks, 2003

Dirk Nowitzki was only a few years into his professional career when he suffered what could have been a career-ending knee injury. While playing against the San Antonio Spurs in game three of the Conference Semi-Finals, he twisted his knee and the image of him laying on the gym floor haunted fans.

The Dallas Mavericks ended up losing in six and the Spurs went on to win the Championship. While the Mavericks made it to the playoffs every year that decade, it wouldn’t be until 2011 that Nowitzki and his team would finally win the Championship.

Yao Ming – Houston Rockets, 2009

Yao Ming isn’t just an important figure for his actions on the court, he has also played a major role in encouraging kids around the world to pursue sports and attempting to bridge the culture gap between the USA and China. It was possibly working too hard to please everyone that ended his career.

During the Conference Semi-Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, Ming suffered a genuinely devastating foot injury – without him, the Houston Rockets couldn’t hold out against the Lakers. After years of not getting enough time to recover and heal, this injury finally ended the career of this talented player.

Russell Westbrook – Oklahoma City Thunder, 2013

While Russell Westbrooks’ time with the LA Lakers hasn’t been a great showcase of his abilities, he is a former NBA MVP with an excellent record. During his time with the Oklahoma City Thunder, there were only a few seasons where he didn’t lead the league in one area or another.

He was such an important presence on the team that when he tore his meniscus during game two of the first round in 2013, it was the end of the Thunder’s playoff dreams. While they still managed to beat the Houston Rockets and make it to the Conference Semi-Finals, they couldn’t get past the Memphis Grizzlies.

It’s always more fun to watch teams playing with all their key players, hopefully we won’t see any more serious injuries during this year’s playoffs – although the intense competition of these games makes injury more likely.