Kevin Ware hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when the biggest moment of his life turned to tragedy.
His pain and anguish was seen and heard around the world as he suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history aged just 20.
Playing for the University of Louisville in the NCAA’s famous March Madness tournament, Ware jumped to block a routine three-point attempt.
But as the ball hit the net, Ware hit the court at an awkward angle.
His right leg buckled horrifically underneath him and the reaction of team-mates on the bench just metres away said it all as his tibia pierced through his shin.
In the era of social media, the lowest point of Ware’s life went viral and provided him with a remarkable level of support from high-profile stars such as LeBron James and Kobe Bryant reaching out.
But, when the noise died down, Ware was left battling to save his career and come back to the sport he loves.
After transferring from Louisville to Georgia State, he left college in 2016 and went undrafted as his NBA dream failed to materialise.
Now, he has touched down in London still looking to carve out his on-court legacy rather than being remembered for his injury horror seven years ago.
“Now it’s got a lot easier, because I’m starting to prove I’m a basketball player and not just the guy that got injured,” Ware says.
“At the same time, it’s a challenge for me because I just want people to know me as Kevin Ware the basketball player.
“I know that if I got out there and score, get rebounds, assists, that’s the basketball player talking and not the guy who got hurt.
“My main goal is just trying to fill up the stat sheet, win as many games as possible and just keep going from there.
“People are going to talk and have their opinions, but numbers don’t lie and ultimately I just want to be playing basketball and winning.”
Ware could have stayed in the US and battled for a shot at the NBA via their developmental leagues.
Instead, he headed to Europe in search of competitive action and a chance to make his name.
Still only 27, he is focused on achieving big things with the London Lions and remains relaxed that his NBA dream could still come to fruition if it is meant to be.
“I knew if I wasn’t getting drafted then my first opportunity wasn’t going to be the G-League,” he explains.
“I didn’t want to be behind somebody, playing great and then whoever their guard is has to come down and play X amount of games and it sends me to the bench.
“I always just wanted to play basketball and establish my name, that was the main reason for coming overseas.
“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I’m still young and if god wants me to then I’ll be back playing in the NBA one day, but for now I’m just focused on winning.
“It is what it is, I kind of feel like everything happens for a reason. I can’t change what’s happened in the past, I’ve just got to focus on being the best I can be and see where it takes me.
“Of course I want to play in the NBA, who doesn’t? But there’s just as much talent over here in Europe, there are a lot of great opportunities and I’m just making the most of them.”
Landing in London, Ware has walked into a perfect opportunity to leave a lasting legacy just as he desires.
He is one of several big-name signings made by the Lions as they prepare for their first crack at Champions League basketball.
The BBL side will look to become the first British team in almost two decades to win in Europe as they head to Bulgaria to face a final four tournament to try and reach the group stage later this month.
Ware said: “I’m definitely looking forward to it. We’ve got a big, big, big statement to make and some massive challenges.
“We’ve got the Champions League, which everyone is watching, and it’ll be big for the city of London if we can go out there in the first two games, get into the group stages and just go on from there.
“We’re definitely trying to win every game in the BBL this year, and we feel like we’ve got the talent to play with anybody in Europe on any given night.
“We’re just trying to be as good as possible when our season does start.
“I think as long as we play together and be strong defensively then we can make it hard for teams to really get going.
“Once we get in that half-court setting, everyone is talking and really active. We’re one team and we’re all real athletic so I kind of feel like we just need to play to our strengths and play as a team.
“To help put London on the map would be huge, especially playing in the Champions League.
“I know teams from the UK that have played out there in the past haven’t done too well, but I feel like with the talent we’ve got we can play with any of those teams.
“We’ve got the height, we’ve got the athleticism, we’ve got the skill, we’ve just got to gel, keep going and try to get better every day.”
The Lions are hopeful fans will be able to soon return to the Copper Box Arena when the BBL eventually gets underway in November.
So, what can fans expect from Kevin Ware?
“Oh they’re going to get a show!” He exclaims.
“From the defensive end to passing, scoring, getting in the lane and making plays for my team-mates, I like to do everything.
“I really don’t want to be one-dimensional. I try to play the right way at all times and always try to have fun and bring that energy.
“I try to get my guys in the game as much as possible, because the better they’re playing then the more I feel like I’m doing my job.
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“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can right now from Justin (Robinson). He’s a great mentor for me right now and I’m just trying to follow in his footsteps really.”
Another question is – what will Kevin Ware get from London?
After limited opportunities to see the sights, he’s excited to soon find out.
“We did a two-week quarantine when we arrived, and apart from training we really can’t go out and do much,” he says.
“We’re in a really dope spot. I go out for food and things like that, but I haven’t really been able to do the whole sight seeing thing yet.
“But the first chance we get I’ll probably book a nice hotel for the weekend, go to some of the tourist spots, and I want to go a bit further out of London, down south to the seaside as well.
“It’s a great city to be living in so I’m excited to get to know it a bit better when I can.”