Tha Sports Junkies 101

Paul George’s Rise to Redemption

Paul George Rodrigo Diez Vignola/ via Flickr


Paul George

Paul George is familiar with the role of underdog. He didn’t come from a basketball factory like Duke or Kentucky. He wasn’t a one and done college player slated to be one of the top picks in the NBA Lottery.

Paul went to Fresno State, a small college in California, the antithesis of a basketball powerhouse. Attending Fresno for two years, he failed to lead the team to the NCAA Tournament in either season. Despite his great individual play, the team enjoyed little collective success. His final year in California he would average 17 points and 7 boards.

He went #10 in the 2010 NBA Draft to Indiana, after being projected as a late lottery pick.

His rookie year started slow, as he would only be a rotation player in year one. He went on to average just over 7 a game as a rookie and would earn 2nd team All-Rookie honors.

Within a few seasons, Paul’s skill and stats were on a meteoric rise. He was becoming the franchise player on a contending team in the East, locking horns with LeBron and the Miami Heat on more than one occasion. Although the Pacers were never able to conquer the Miami Heat or the Eastern Conference, Paul’s star was quickly ascending.

The 2013-14 season was the culmination of then 23-year-old George’s young career. Posting gaudy stats of 22 points, 8 boards, 4 dimes, and 2 steals a night, Paul would lead the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, once again facing LeBron and the Heat. Paul earned All-NBA First Team Defense and 3rd Team All-NBA honors, quite an incredible accomplishment for a 23-year-old relatively unheralded player in just his fourth NBA season.

All of the trappings of success for the start of Paul’s career manifested itself into a spot on the 2014 Team USA World Championship squad. Preparations for the 2014 World’s began that summer, and George seemed poised to make a vital contribution to Team USA.

On August 1, Paul’s career took a drastic turn. During a scrimmage Paul was fouled by James Harden and landed awkwardly on the basketball stanchion on the baseline under the basket. It was a gruesome injury that was difficult to watch. The injury caused a social media stir, compelling fellow athletes and fans to use the hashtag #PrayForPaul. It was a near certainty that George would miss the entire 2014-15 season. 

Paul went on to embrace his rehabilitation process with a fervor, accelerating his return from an injury that in its initial stages appeared to be potentially career ending. He would return late in the 2014-15 season and appear in six games. The quality of his play took a back seat to the fact that George was able to return just nine months after such a horrifying injury.

Fast forward to the 2015-16 season and Paul George seemed to return to his original form. He appeared in 81 games, posting averages of 23 points, 7 boards and 4 dimes.

The Pacer front office underwent somewhat of a rebuild prior to the 2015-16 season. They would lose David West and Roy Hibbert from the team that appeared in the East Finals just two seasons prior. This meant that the Pacers were solely Paul’s team, and he rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion.

Following the best season of George’s career he was once again selected to represent Team USA, this time at the Olympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

George has had more than his share of adversity. He has risen to the occasion time and again to fight whatever obstacles stand in his way.

The struggles and inconsistent play of Team USA qualify as small obstacles in Paul’s book.

Should the boys from the US go on to win gold, it would be the perfect punctuation on George’s Team USA experience.

Given how hard he has worked, and all he’s overcome, I’d say he’s due.