NBA players relive their own injuries after Hayward's devastating ankle fracture

Oct 18 (Reuters) - After suffering a devastating ankle fracture just five minutes into his debut as a Boston Celtic on Tuesday, forward Gordon Hayward received encouragement from NBA players who overcame gruesome injuries of their own before returning to the league.

Hayward, who signed a blockbuster four-year, $128 million contract with the Celtics during the offseason, snapped the left ankle during the team's season opener in Cleveland after landing awkwardly while trying to catch a pass at the rim.

SEE ALSO: Skip Bayless's tweet about Gordon Hayward's injury stirs outrage

"It brought me back to Vegas and when it happened to me," Oklahoma City forward Paul George, who suffered a compound leg fracture in 2014 while playing in a scrimmage for Team USA in Las Vegas, told reporters on Wednesday.

"Immediately I felt devastated and nauseous. It took me back to that place."

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Athletes react, offer support after Gordon Hayward injury
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Athletes react, offer support after Gordon Hayward injury
God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! 🙏🏾 help him thru this god!
Can't even put into words. Gordon Hayward. Feeling for you man. Absolutely gut wrenching.
Prayers up for Gordon Hayward !!! 🙏🏽
Lord , Carry Him Now 🙏🏾@gordonhayward https://t.co/jEnvghETW1
Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
Prayers to my brother @gordonhayward 🙏 https://t.co/WigEE3BFPP
Wow smh prayers up to @gordonhayward may God give you strength during this time.
Praying for GH.... omg.... nasty look
🙏🏽
Wow...thats horrific...feel awful for Hayward
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George, who returned to lead the Indiana Pacers to the playoffs during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, said he spoke to Hayward by phone on Tuesday night.

"I tried to give him words of encouragement and tried to be there for him," he said.

George said the injury forced him to take a new approach to the game after it robbed him of some of his explosiveness and bounce.

"I have a bump on my leg for the rest of my life now so I'll always think about it. It's always there," he said.

"It's something I've got to live with now."

Hayward also received support from Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, who as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers in 2007 broke his leg and dislocated his left knee cap in what is regarded as one of the most horrific injuries in NBA history.

Doctors even considered amputating the leg of the then 21-year-old but ultimately decided against it.

"Only God has ALL the answers," Livingston wrote in a Twitter message to Hayward that included three prayer emojis.

Livingston, who had to relearn to walk as part of his recovery, ultimately returned to the league and has since won two championships as a key reserve for the Warriors.

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Celtics' Gordon Hayward suffers horrific injury during season opener
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Celtics' Gordon Hayward suffers horrific injury during season opener
Oct 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) sits on the court after injuring his ankle during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics is sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts to his teammate Gordon Hayward #20 being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts to his teammate Gordon Hayward #20 being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Gordon Hayward #20 of the Boston Celtics is sits on the floor after being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Oct 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) lays on the court after injuring his ankle during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) lays on the court after injuring his ankle during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Dwyane Wade (9) prays after Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward injured his ankle during the first half at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics consoles Gordon Hayward #20 after Hayward was injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 17: Kyrie Irving #11 of the Boston Celtics reacts to his teammate Gordon Hayward #20 being injured while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on October 17, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Five-time NBA champion Kobe Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon in 2013 only to return to the hardcourt before retiring in 2016, also gave Hayward a pep talk on Wednesday in the form of an Instagram post.

"It's a long journey but if you focus on the mini milestones along the way you will find beauty in the struggle of doing simple things that prior to this injury were taken for granted," Bryant said.

"You will be so appreciative of being able to stand, walk, run that you will train harder than you ever have. You see the belief within you grow with each mini milestone and you will come back a better player for it."

"Best of luck to you on this journey my brother," he said.

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