It had been 220 days.
220 days since a Nation was captivated by a Louisville Basketball player.
220 days since Kevin Ware left a Midwest Regional Final game against Duke with one of the most incomprehensible, gruesome injuries that these eyes have ever witnessed on a basketball court.
I’d spent much of the minutes following the injury waning. I was as shocked as anyone. I was breathless. I couldn’t speak. Ware, however, was on another end of the spectrum and had plenty to say.
“Win the game,” he screamed as a limb of his right leg rested gruesomely out of it’s skin.
“Win the game.”
Tears had fallen, his teammates had shifted to the ground in disbelief at what they had just witnessed. His legendary, Hall of Fame coach who has witnessed it all on a basketball court wiped tears away from his brow.
Those days are over.
Kevin Ware is back on the basketball court. 220 days later and appearing carefree as ever. Bouncing up and down with vibrant steps, an infectious smile, making shots, jumping with ease. Hollywood couldn’t depict a better film.
“I was a little nervous,” Kevin Ware said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for 220 days.”
At 13:49 mark of the second half in the University of Louisville’s exhibition game against Pikeville University, Kevin Ware made his triumphant return to College Basketball.
The KFC Yum Center lost it. They were in a frenzy. How could you blame them? A fanbase that watched that game together. Cried together. Prayed together. Even doubted that together. Finally got to rejoice today together.
He hadn’t missed a beat.
It was the same Ware we saw before he made his tragic exit versus Duke.. Ball-hawking defensive skills, tenacious, attacking to the basket, and one who loved to get on the glass.
At the 9:19 mark he made his first note in the stat sheet with a rebound.
At the 8:48 mark, he attempted a three — his first shot. He buried it. The crowd again responded with an infectious roar.
“It’s a storybook,” Head Coach Rick Pitino said. “He takes his first shot and it doesn’t even hit iron.”
Kevin Ware agreed.
“I honestly thought I would airball my first shot,” Kevin Ware noted. “When it went in though, everything went back to normal. I just started playing basketball.”
The next drive down the court, Ware fall to the ground. A collective gasp came across the KFC YUM! Center. Ware bounced up sternly. A quick reminder, a subtle reminder that everything is back to normal. He’s not fragile anymore.
“I don’t know if they will ever get back to normal with that,” He explained.
It may take the fans some time to wear of the sights and shutter in fear each time he falls to floor, but for Ware – things have started to feel normal again. In fact so normal, that he’s now doing 245 pound leg presses on the same leg he injured. That’s 20 pounds more than he could do prior to the injury.
He played ten minutes. He finished with 6 points and 4 rebounds.
Nothing special. Statistically.
He’s played 1,000 of games where he’s done more on the court than what he did Tuesday night. Yet never has he had a moment where he’s created such universal jubilation. Kevin Ware is back. For that, I am thankful. Witnessing what I witnessed tonight, I’ll be sure to laugh off the next injury that I occur.
“It’s great to just be able to play basketball again,” He said. “A lot of people doubted that I would ever be back on the court again. So it feels good.”
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