Zach LaVine is most likely not your synonym for the NBA, but the man who overcame a torn ACL only to play his best season yet is getting the recognition he deserves with a career first selection for the All Star game.

Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Growing up in a suburb outside of Seattle, it is unlikely that Zach ever expected to become an true inspiration, as he overcame the kind of injury people simply don’t recover from. Especially not in professional sport.

Zachary LaVine was born into an athletic family. With his dad a pro-football player and mom playing softball, it was only a matter of time when young Zach would pick a sport. Spoiler alert, he decided on basketball. Having played a significant role on his High School team, he was recruited to the prestigious UCLA in 2012. This is where he pushed himself to the 14th place at the NBA draft only two years later. Signing his first pro-contract for the Timberwolves, his rookie season culminated as he played in the prestigious Rising Stars match.

Even as a rookie, he became known as a dunker, which meant that winning the Dunking contest in 2015 and 2016 was just a natural progression. The expectations were growing. He wasn’t seen as the next LeBron, but so far, so good.

The turning point

The positive trajectory was about to change. LaVine’s knee issues fully began in 2017. Initially suffering from some tendinitis that was supposed to take him out for only a month, things became worse. A lot worse. February 4th 2017 marks a turning point in LaVine’s career. His ACL tore ending his season and leaving a giant question mark above his head: What was going to happen next?

Many players went through knee injuries and successfully returned to the court. Names such as: Danilo Gallinari, Jason Kidd, Ricky Rubio, Baron Davis, Derrick Rose, Kristaps Porzingis… However, they weren’t a guarantee LaVine would ever play again, let alone better than he used to.

That particular Saturday could have been the day Zach’s career ended. However, it didn’t thanks to his determination and the magic of modern surgery. He had undergone a successful knee reconstruction and signed for the Bulls in the Great Chicago trade package.

By September of the same year, LaVine had one on one trainings, gaining a lot of muscle alongside the agility. Recovering ahead of schedule, his team stated he was now in better shape than pre-injury.

“My three-quarter sprint is faster than what it was. My first 10-meter sprint is faster. My standing vertical is higher. My one-step vertical is higher off two feet. It’s been coming along really well. I was pretty surprised a couple times, like ‘Oh wow, it’s higher than what it was.’ As long as I can keep progressing at this rate, you know, I’m going to be back doing better than I was before.” -said LaVine for ABC and he was right.

Coming back the following season, despite being limited to to only 24 games for the Bulls, he averaged 16,7 points. The shooting guard was showing he wasn’t about to give up on his body nor his sport.

I was always taught hard work doesn’t fail

LaVine took his potential career-ender and turned into an incentive to work even harder. Paired with a sound physio team, the soon to be 26 year-old has left his injury long in the past. Zach LaVine is playing his best run, averaging a 35,5 points per match in February. The current season represents a current career-high with yearly 28,7 points per game, and a 43,3% success rate from the three-point range.

And then there are the all famous post-op dunks. The way he jumps can be compared to what male ballet dancers do. The quick leaps seemingly leave LaVine meters away from the ground, only to have him land in an effortless manner… Usually granting the Bulls another 2 points. He can dunk in a way that almost makes him look airborne. Flying on a “bad” knee.

Not only that, but he slowly emerged as a team leader in Chicago during this year. With fast passes and precision he became the Bulls clutch man. Doubts are being replaced by recognition as LaVine will play his first ever All Star match. A busy schedule that will also feature the 3-point contest, a fan and Zach favorite.

Despite often being referred to as “injury prone”, taking a break due to his ankle and most recently his quad, that doesn’t stop him from playing the best basketball of his life. And he is yet to turn 26, on March 10th. One could say this half-season is one of the best birthday gifts an athlete can get. And after overcoming all of his challenges, Zachary absolutely deserves it.

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