Broken and showing
By Jeff Haynes
I was on the court when Louisville basketball player Kevin Ware went to block the three-point shot of Duke’s Tyler Thornton and landed wrong on his right leg suffering a compound fracture with the shin bone protruding through the skin, with about 3 inches showing.
It is being called one of the most gruesome sports injuries ever to be seen on live TV and then replayed again.
I guess I was one of the lucky ones to have not seen it on TV and didn’t actually see the bone exposed from my view from the court, but I knew right away something was wrong from the reaction of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino.
Coach Pitino was yelling for the officials to stop the game as Ware was lying at his feet with his shin bone exposed. I wasn’t sure what had happened at first, because as people gathered around Ware other players who had heard and seen what had happened were now falling on the court holding their head and rolling around in the center of the floor out by the foul line.
At first I and other photographers around me thought the players might have hit heads, but one of my fellow photographers got a text saying his leg was broken and exposed. I knew then why coach Pitino had reacted as he did. Pitino would say “I went over and I was going to help him up and then all of a sudden, I saw what it was and I almost literally threw up.” This was the same reaction many of the Louisville and Duke players would have and this is why we had some many players rolling around the floor and holding their heads in disbelief in what they had seen from their fallen teammate.
As you can see in my photograph the Louisville Cardinals’ mascot covered his eyes with his wings as did many of the fans in the background, as they could see firsthand what had happened. Players gathered with each other hugging, crying and consoling each other.
At this point the medical personnel took over and worked to stabilize his leg and get him onto a stretcher to take him off the court. His teammates would come to gather around him and he wanted them all to know he was going to be okay and to go win the game, beat Duke and go to the final four in Atlanta.
Louisville could have folded their tent and given up, but they went on to win the game beating Duke 85-63 and celebrated by wearing Ware’s jersey onto the court and then holding it up while they received the trophy for winning the Midwest region.
The break of the leg is something that people will talk about for years to come, just as they do about former Redskins quarterback Joe Thiesmann’s similar injury, but what I will remember most is how this team rallied around their wounded teammate to win the game.