By, Katherine Loose
Less than six minutes into the opening game of the 2017-18 NBA season and Gordon Hayward’s Celtics debut, disaster struck the court. The Celtics were playing the Cleveland Cavaliers when Hayward got tangled with Cavaliers player LeBron James in the air. His leg collapsed under his weight when he landed, and everyone present at the game immediately turned away when they saw his clearly dislocated ankle. The medical staff rushed onto the court to reset Hayward’s ankle while his teammates formed a huddle and prayed for him. After leaving the court in a stretcher, Hayward flew back to Boston. His doctors have announced that he fractured his left tibia, but that there did not appear to be ligament or blood vessel damage. There is a possibility of Hayward returning to the NBA late this season, but more likely, he will only be fully recovered by next season. The injury is heartbreaking for both Hayward and fans, because everyone had been excited to see the player’s contributions to the Celtics this year.
After the loss of a valuable player, Celtics coach Brad Stevens is deciding how to move forward. Hayward had recently signed a $128 million contract with the Celtics, and Stevens will probably only be able to collect $11 million on insurance of the $29.7 million that the Celtics owes Hayward this season. The Celtics recently applied for the NBA Disabled Player Extension, which would give them $8.4 million to replace Hayward. However, an NBA-approved doctor must determine the likelihood of Hayward returning before the application is accepted. The new player can only sign a one-year contract, and if the Celtics use the extension to trade for a player, his contract must be expiring. Hayward’s injury aso puts pressure on Celtics players that are newer to the NBA, like Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who will now receive much more playing time. Caitlin B. ’20, a Celtics fan, explains that “this is not an ideal scenario for the Celtics because Jaylen Brown is in his second year in the league, and Jason Tatum is just a rookie, and it’s difficult for a team to have inexperienced players getting significant minutes.”
Although the overwhelming emotion evoked by Hayward’s injury was pure shock, many NBA fans were impressed by TNT’s coverage of the story. Sports broadcasting networks have historically focused on the gory details of injuries, but TNT’s coverage was more emotional and demonstrated sensitivity to both the viewers and Hayward. Instead of constant replays of the accident, the footage consisted mainly of the heartbroken faces of the players and the crowd. The only words spoken by TNT commentator Kevin Harlan were “Hayward has broken his leg,” followed by silence. TNT’s respectful approach to a gruesome situation has prompted many fans to comment on how sports broadcasting has evolved over time. For proof of this evolution, we can turn to the coverage of Cincinatti Bengals player Tim Krumrie’s injury during Super Bowl XXIII. The incident was replayed constantly during the broadcast while commentator Merlin Olson analyzed the injury in a way that many viewers considered excessive and insensitive. TNT handled Hayward’s injury with much more professionalism and compassion. Caitlin ’20 adds that “The press’s emphasis on LeBron James’ visit to Hayward in the locker room was extremely powerful because it reminded people that although basketball is an extremely competitive game, players still support and want the best for each other.” Although Hayward’s injury may mean uncertainty for the Celtics, it has offered insight into how injuries are treated by the media this season.