Less than 24 hours after his gruesome broken leg became national news, Kevin Ware was up on crutches in an Indianapolis hospital and life began to settle into a recovery phase.
Still, it was anything but routine. He had a slew of tweets from sports stars (Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo) and celebrities (Lil Wayne, Common, Brad Paisley, Holly Robinson Peete). NCAA President Mark Emmert paid him a visit. His coach, Rick Pitino, stayed behind rather than return to Louisville with his team to prepare for the Cardinals’ Final Four game Saturday.
And Ware was hoping to join his teammates in Atlanta, near his hometown, this weekend for the Final Four.
His mother arrived from Conyers, Ga., where she, like the rest of a national TV audience, had watched in stunned horror as Ware suffered an open fracture in Louisville’s victory over Duke. On Sunday evening, he had undergone two hours of surgery in which a rod was inserted in his leg and the open wound was closed. His father, Kevin Ware Sr., told Adam Himmelsbach of the Louisville Courier-Journal that he’d heard from his son shortly before 5:30 a.m. Monday morning:
Kevin Sr. said he tried to calm his son, tried to make sure he didn’t go too far, too fast. But later on Monday, there was Kevin Jr., standing with the help of crutches, taking some gentle steps.
“It really brought my spirits up,” Kevin Jr. said by phone from his hospital bed Monday night, his voice groggy. “And it’s kind of hard to keep your spirits up in a situation like this.”
After his leg snapped on a routine play, Ware was concerned with his teammates. As they looked on in horror, he exhorted them to win the game. Speaking for so many who watched, Kevin Ware Sr. said, “That probably was the moment that really broke me. Like, ‘Wow, my kid is my hero.'”
Ware told the Courier-Journal that he initially thought he had sprained his ankle. “I jumped and my leg felt kind of funny,” he told ESPN. “When Coach P tried to help me up, he gave me a funny kind of look. I’m looking at him and then I look down and I see my bone sticking out. It wasn’t a hurt feeling. I just went into shock. In the moment, you don’t know what’s wrong with you. You’re just looking, thinking, ‘How did this happen?’ I never watched the replay. I never want to.”
He told ESPN that he was, just before surgery, overcome by emotion, particularly when he saw his teammates celebrating and Chase Behanan holding up his No. 5 jersey. “Once I was by myself, I let the tears out,” he said. “Those are my brothers. I love them to death.”
Rehab will begin soon, although there’s no timeframe for when he might play again. At the moment, Ware is just overwhelmed by how everyone is pulling for him. “I’ve never had this much support in my life,” Ware told Himmelsbach. “Like, I’m just so grateful for it, you know?”
For now, the focus is on this weekend and trying to make it to the Final Four himself. “It’s 50-50 right now that I’ll go,” Ware said, “but I’d say more on the good side of 50-50.”
Here’s a look at what Ware was reading in his Indianapolis hospital room Monday: