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Sam Bowie Encounters Another Bad Break on Comeback Trail

October 25, 1987|BOB BAUM | Associated Press

OREGON CITY, Ore. — Still insisting that he's not injury prone, Portland Trail Blazer center Sam Bowie has left Willamette Falls Hospital refusing to rule out a return to professional basketball.

"I can honestly tell you that when I get this cast off, I'm going to have to find out for myself if this was meant to be," he said at a news conference just before he left the hospital Wednesday.

"If I go out and try and find out I'm having a lot of complications and swelling and other things, that will be the time I gather you all and tell you I'm finished with the game of basketball.

"But until I go out and try once again, I really can't tell you that it's quitting time for Sam Bowie."

The 7-foot-1 former Kentucky star said he and his wife would sit down and analyze his situation in the coming months and make a decision on another comeback attempt.

But, he added, "I feel it would be cheating the organization and cheating myself not to give it another try."

Bowie, who has suffered a broken leg four of the last six years and twice in the past 12 months, said he and his wife would sit down and talk about his situation in the coming months.

He said he dreaded a return to grueling rehabilitation, but, "If I know myself, I'll be back."

Bowie spoke from a wheelchair with his lower right leg in a cast, the result of a broken right tibia suffered during warmups Saturday night before the Blazers' exhibition opener. It was his fourth broken leg in six years.

Bowie had said Sunday that chances were 50-50 that he'd retire rather than face more grueling rehabilitation. He first broke his left leg in college, then broke it again in his second pro season.

He suffered a broken right tibia in the fifth game of last season, in the same spot where Saturday night's break occurred.

"But two or three days have gone by and I feel much differently," he said Wednesday. "I feel I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to play in the NBA, sign a lucrative contract and be financially secure as far as my family is concerned, but there are so many goals and accomplishments I need to reach before I can call my career complete and finished."

Bowie, who said it could be two or three years before any comeback attempt would be launched, wanted to quiet criticism from Blazer fans still upset at the team for making him the No. 2 selection, ahead of Michael Jordan, in the 1984 draft.

"I really felt I had this thing beat coming into training camp this year," Bowie said. "I was really willing to go out and prove to myself and the public that I was a worthy draft pick. I really felt if I was healthy, I would live up to all the expectations."

But, instead, as he turned to shoot a jump-hook during warmups, he felt the pain and knew immediately that the leg was broken for the second time in less than a year.

"I just kind of stood there for two or three minutes, gathered my teammates together and let them know I was standing there with a broken leg," Bowie said. "I didn't want to be remembered as a guy who was carried off the (Memorial) Coliseum floor on a stretcher once again.

"If I could have walked off the floor without anyone knowing I was injured, I would have done so. But being that the leg was fractured, I asked my teammates to carry me off."

Bowie said his first concern was to gain enough strength in the leg to lead a normal life away from pro basketball, "then we'll talk about basketball."

But, repeatedly, he turned the talk to a possible return to the game.

"There comes a time when you probably just want to take your shoes and hang them up and say you gave it your best shot and it wasn't meant to be," he said. "But as each day goes by, you find out that it's a brighter and brighter future."

"Who knows," he said, "maybe a year or two from now, I'll be getting interviewed receiving the MVP in the All-Star Game."

Bowie said his faith in Portland team physician Robert Cook remains unshaken.

"He's been like a father to me," he said.

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