Marvin Bagley Explains How Mental Toughness Helped Him To Overcome First Injury As An NBA Rookie

After suffering his first injury in the NBA, Sacramento Kings rookie forward in December, Marvin Bagley takes us through his recovery process, both mentally and physically, as he battled his way back to the court from a bone bruise.

Rookie year, for any NBA athlete, is a slew of firsts — a first bucket, first dunk, first big statement game. But, no rookie enjoys the thought of their potential first injury in the pros. How do rookies deal with an injury in the spotlight for the first time, both mentally and physically? How do these guys silence the outside noise of critics and the media as a young player? These are the questions that are rarely given much attention to, despite the new candid discussions about mental health in the league.

Sacramento Kings forward, Marvin Bagley, 20, was one of the few rookies who faced an injury that could have derailed his debut year in the league, when he took a hard fall at the end of last year. On December 14, Bagley suffered a bone bruise in his left knee after going up for a rebound during the second quarter of the Kings’ close loss to the Golden State Warriors. — An injury that marked the Duke alum’s first since he was drafted by the Kings last June. The Kings took on Bagley, a big forward, to play a pivotal role in their continued rebuild, alongside second-year rookie point guard DeAaron Fox, 21.

Bagley would go on to miss 11 games, while his teammates battled on the floor without him. But, he had a battle of his own. He needed to get healthy. “It definitely was [tough] mentally,” he told HollywoodLife about his first injury as a rookie during an exclusive interview at the PUMA Palace in mid-February. “But, during that time I tried not to check out, I tried to stay locked in. Even when my knee was hurting and I couldn’t walk, I had crutches — I was still in the gym shooting, sitting on a chair and still shooting.”

“I wanted to stay in it. I was still at practice, still listening to the plays, asking questions — I didn’t check out,” Bagley admitted, which is a major key to success as a rookie. “And, I think that’s what helped me a lot when I came back. I knew everything when I got back, so when I got back I got right into it and kept it moving. I just tried to stay locked in and it helped me stay focused.”

When we spoke with Bagley, he admitted he was feeling great. “The knee was a little set back… But, I wanted to make sure that I was 100 percent before I got back out there. It hasn’t been bothering me and my body is doing great,” he said.

Bagley made his return to the court in early January after a significant absence from the young Sacramento squad. Since he was selected by the Kings, they’ve relied heavily on his big man build, defensive abilities, and his willingness to attack the rim to help rebuild the team. — And, that’s exactly what he showed improvement on when he returned. Bagley even put up a career-high 32 points in a matchup against the Phoenix Suns on February 10, a team that passed on him in the NBA Draft for teh No. 1 pick, DeAndre Ayton, 20.

But, he suffered another setback on February 28, when he had to be helped off the court during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Near the end of the third quarter, Bagley suffered a second knee injury in a collision with Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon on a screen… the same knee he injured back in December. However, we’re sure he’s kept this same blueprint in his battle back to the court this time around. [This interview was conducted before Bagley’s second knee injury.] 

We spoke with Bagley fresh off his stellar NBA All-Star performance in the event’s annual Rising Stars Game. The rookie put up 14 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals on 7-of-11 shooting in just 17 minutes on the floor. Bagley was also in Charlotte that weekend with his PUMA family, which hosted its very own PUMA Palace activation to promote the brand’s newest basketball shoe — the PUMA Uproar.

Athletes such as Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton, renowned basketball trainer Chris Brickley and French professional football coach of Ligue 1 club Monaco Thierry Henry shot hoops with fans while rappers Yo Gotti, Nipsey Hussle, Rapsody and more took to the stage for special performances.  

Marvin Bagley participates in the PUMA Palace activation at NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina to promote the brand’s newest basketball shoe — the PUMA Uproar on Saturday, February 16, 2019. (Photo credit: Courtesy of Ryan Millier)

More from our interview with Marvin Bagley: 

Bagley on how far he’s come since he was drafted: “There’s been a lot of ups and downs so far, dealing with injuries, having good games and bad games, and dealing with stuff throughout the year that I’m just seeing for the first time. But, it’s been great. I’ve been learning a lot every day on the fly. We’re getting better as a team and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team out and get us to where we want to be. We’re doing a great job!”

On his defensive improvement: “That’s something I’ve really been working on. I’ve always loved playing defense, but now, I lock in more. It’s fun when you get stops and get on a run the way we do an the pace we run at and play at — it all starts on the defensive end.I think with everybody, not just me, everybody is taking it upon themselves to lock in and get it done.”

On DeAaron Fox: “I see what he’s doing for the team and how he’s helping the team and with his athleticism and his ability to make plays, it’s fun to watch and be a part of. It’s really fun to play with him. I’m having fun and enjoying it all.”

On his season thus far: “A rollercoaster. I’m playing well right now and so is the team, but to get to where I’m at right now it’s been a lot with the injury. It’s definitely been a rollercoaster but I think right now we’re on the up and up. It happens. We’re ready for anything.”

On his rap career: “It’s going good. It’s something I love to do. When I have off days I try to make music and express myself. I love doing it. It’s helped me on the court too. It’s a way for me to get everything I want to say out, anything I’m feeling. It helps me not only on the court, but in my life, that’s why I love it. It gets my mind off certain things and I’m able to tell my story.”

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