Athletes face adversity all of the time. Denver Nuggets bubble breakout sensation Michael Porter Jr. has endured more than his fair share. It was just three years ago in college when Porter suffered a back injury, had surgery, and made his return. That was tough enough to overcome. But then, prior to the 2018 NBA draft, a doctor for the LA Clippers evaluated him and wrote in a medical assessment that Porter might never play basketball again because of the injury.
That report made the rounds to other NBA teams and Porter’s draft stock plummeted. Instead of being a top pick, he fell to 14th and it cost him millions. Now, Porter gets a chance to prove all those who doubted him wrong when his Denver Nuggets face off against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers in the second round of the playoffs. It’s going to be a story within a story.
Michael Porter Jr. destined for greatness
In Michael Porter’s junior season in high school, he established himself as a star leading his team to the 2A state championship in Washington. During his senior season, after he transferred to a larger school, Porter averaged 36.2 points and 13.6 rebounds as he led his team to a perfect 29–0 record and the 3A state title.
Multiple recruiting outlets designated him a five-star recruit and ranked him one of the top overall recruits in his class. He originally committed to play at the University of Washington, but after head coach Lorenzo Romar was fired, Porter explored his options. His father made his decision easy when he accepted a position as an assistant coach at the University of Missouri.
At Missouri, Michael Porter’s career was short-lived. He injured his back in the first half of the season opener and had to have what many thought was season-ending surgery. Porter, however, recovered in time to play in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments. Despite the injury and limited action, he declared himself eligible for the 2018 NBA draft at the season’s conclusion.
LA Clippers’ medical report questions Porter’s health
Michael Porter Jr. had high hopes heading into the draft. Some experts thought he might be the No. 1 overall pick. That’s before teams started closely examining him, his background, and, most notably, his injury. When the LA Clippers examined him, the doctor compiled a report. Porter vividly remembers it.
“Their doctor was the one that wrote the report on me,” Porter told reporters before the start of the second-round series against the Clippers. “(He) wrote some stuff like he thought I would never play basketball again. So I didn’t think they’d pick me.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said it was “brutal for us” to pass on Porter because the team recognized his talent. They just couldn’t get past the back injury. “We had on our board, just the medical report, the red flag was so hot,” Rivers told ESPN.
Unfortunately for Porter, the Clippers’ medical report was circulated to other teams.
Michael Porter falls to Nuggets at 14th
On 2018 NBA draft night, Michael Porter Jr. watched as his draft stock plummeted. And along with that, so did millions of dollars. The Clippers had the No. 12 and 13 selections. As expected, they passed on him. With the No. 14 pick, the Nuggets grabbed him. And now, a couple of years later, they’re glad they did.
A month after his selection, Porter underwent a second back surgery. He missed the entire 2018-19 season. He made his NBA debut in October 2019 when he came off the bench and scored 15 points and hauled in four rebounds. In December, he made his first start. Prior to the pandemic-induced hiatus, his best offensive performance was 25 points.
Since the NBA restarted in the bubble in Orlando, Porter has taken his game to the next level. He’s had four games over his previous season-high, including a 37-point performance in early August.
Michael Porter is a true professional. He doesn’t hold any grudges against the Clippers. He understands the team made a business decision. It’s a decision that resulted in him playing a more prominent role in Denver. He relishes that role. He will relish it even more if he can help the Nuggets pull off the upset against the team that once doubted if he would ever play basketball again.