Gordon Hayward’s dream season came to a quick halt on Tuesday night.
What happened: Hayward, the former Utah Jazz star who signed with the Boston Celtics this summer, dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia during the Celtics' opening 102-99 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night, ESPN reported. The team announced that he suffered a fractured left ankle.
Just a few minutes into the game, Hayward went up for an alley-oop pass, but came down awkwardly on his left foot. The game stopped immediately as trainers and medical personnel tended to Hayward.
Recovery: Hayward was flown back to Boston on Tuesday night, where he was immediately sent to the New England Baptist Hospital.
ESPN reported that Hayward will have surgery Wednesday. But the star small foward’s agent said “Hayward would evaluate a course of action for surgical scenarios Wednesday after undergoing MRI and CT exams in the morning.”
The Celtics expressed “cautious optimism” about the injury.
Reactions: Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens said he’s hoping for a quick recovery.
"You hurt for him. He's put in a lot of great work. And I thought he had his most comfortable week as far as feeling like he was going to play really well," Stevens said. "But now we'll hopefully get a full recovery, right? And so it's a tough deal, but I guess that's part of it, the risk of injury. I really feel for him."
Players reacted immediately. Celtics guard Kyrie Irving called it one of the worst injuries he’s ever seen. LeBron James immediately visited with Hayward in the locker room after the first quarter ended.
Plenty of people in the NBA community tweeted about the injury, offering their thoughts and prayers for Hayward.
Even NBA legend Kobe Bryant shared an Instagram post about it.
Utah Jazz players and staff offered their reactions, too. Jazz fans were split on their reactions.
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr commented on Hayward’s injury, saying “it was terrifying,” according to the San Jose Mercury News.
“You put yourself in the best position to succeed and win and you go for it but there are so many things that can happen,” he said.
Sacrifices: Kerr’s comments fit well with what SB Nation writer Tim Cato said about Hayward’s injury, calling it a reminder “of the sacrifices NBA players make.”
Cato wrote that Tuesday night “was not how his night was supposed to go. This was not how any of it was supposed to go.”
Indeed, Hayward entered this season excited for the future, playing for a legendary franchise with his old college coach in Stevens. The former Jazz player said in his goodbye letter to Utah on The Players Tribune that having the chance to compete for a championship was a dream come true.
But once again, his injury shows the sacrifice Hayward, a father of two, makes to live out his dream.
Cato said Hayward’s injury should be a reminder that all of these NBA players put their bodies on the line to compete and to entertain.
“Don’t think that he’ll escape this moment without scars, whether physical or mental,” Cato wrote of Hayward. “That’s the sacrifice he makes for all of this. Every professional athlete, and even those beyond the professional spectrum, has made sacrifices, whether it’s for their body, or for their careers, or for their families. Not that any of these players would do anything differently. But we shouldn’t blow past their sacrifices in pursuit of a bigger, impersonal picture.”
A change for the league: As The Ringer explained, the injury will largely reshape the Celtics' season. The injury will give Boston's younger talent a chance to rise, but it does open up the Eastern Conference for other teams, like the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors, to make a playoff push.
"It’s not easy discussing the basketball implications on a night when we witnessed a star’s season placed in jeopardy before it even began," according to The Ringer. "Hayward was ready to take a leap under Stevens while starting the next chapter of his life in a new city. Now it will likely be a full season of rehab and pain management. It’s crushing, but injuries are part of the game."