The Markelle Fultz saga took yet another turn this week. Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, announced that his client has been diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, which, according to Brothers, “affects nerves between the neck and shoulder resulting in abnormal functional movement and range of motion, thus severely limiting Markelle’s ability to shoot a basketball”. As was already discussed here at PFO, this disorder is typically found in baseball pitchers. However, there is one case in NBA history that could help us to understand what Markelle Fultz is going through physically.
Landry Fields was drafted by the Knicks in the second round of the 2010 draft. He surprised during his rookie year, shooting nearly 40% from deep and becoming a good defender at the wing. Fields was named to the All-Rookie 1st Team, and it appeared that he had a bright career ahead of him. He became a restricted free agent in the summer of 2012 after two seasons in New York, and he signed a big contract with the Toronto Raptors (ironically, Bryan Colangelo signed him to the deal).
Before his first season in Toronto, Fields suffered an injury to a nerve in his right arm. His form wasn’t the same. He couldn’t shoot threes. Fields was signed to be a three-point specialist, but he made just two threes during his first year in Toronto. Things would only get worse from there for Fields. In 2013-14, he played just 30 games due to having multiple surgeries in an attempt to fix his nerve issues. He didn’t make a three the entire season, just four years after shooting 39% from deep. A year later, his contract expired in Toronto and he was out of the league, never to return. The nerve issue robbed Fields of a very long NBA career.
How does this relate to Markelle Fultz?
Well, the difference in the shooting form of Landry Fields before and after the nerve issue is jarring. He went from a sharpshooter to being unable to shoot the ball, basically.
This is from Fields’ rookie year. His form is fluid, it’s clear why he was so successful from deep.
This is from his second season. The same form, pre-nerve injury. Now, let’s take a look at his form after the nerve injury.
A closer look:
That was Fields’ only made 3 of the 2014-15 season, his final year in the NBA. Does that form look familiar?
Both of those examples are from Fultz’s first four games of his career last October before he was shut down. The form is strikingly similar to Fields. Now, compare to Fultz’s form at Washington:
I know how tough it is to watch.
Like Fields, Fultz went from having a beautiful form to one of the ugliest in the league very quickly. While people are rightfully skeptical about Fultz’s camp and how this injury was discovered, the case of Landry Fields is very similar and helps to support the diagnosis that Fultz is dealing with a nerve issue. Even Fields himself commented on the situation and admitted that he sees the similarities.
Nerve issues are very difficult to treat, and athletes who suffer from them are often never the same. For Fields, he was never able to overcome his injury and he was out of the league after just five seasons. Hopefully, if Fultz is dealing with nerve issues, he is able to overcome it and have a long career in the NBA.