Victor Oladipo knows something about adversity.
Late last January, in a game against the Toronto Raptors at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Oladipo crumpled to the ground. Oladipo later learned he ruptured his right quadricep tendon. As a result, he was sidelined for more than a year.
Now healthy, Oladipo shared a message about enduring adversity to recent Hoosier graduates from the IU Bloomington Twitter account on Friday.
Like Oladipo, graduates have been faced with obstacles of their own. A packed celebration was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 9 at Memorial Stadium. It never happened for the 2020 class. The special moments that graduates are able to enjoy, like a commencement ceremony, were canceled.
After four years of hard work to earn a degree, the job market is unstable. Nothing is guaranteed, and Oladipo wanted to provide some motivation.
“Know that I am proud of you, and so is everyone else,” Oladipo said in the video.
Much like recent graduates, Oladipo has been challenged by his share of hardships. Specifically, on that January night in Indianapolis.
Toronto guard Kyle Lowry initiated a fastbreak by firing the ball down the court to his teammate Pascal Siakam, who was streaking down the floor. Oladipo was the only Pacer in the vicinity and was in pursuit to break up the pass.
At full speed, Oladipo's right leg gave out as he stumbled to the hardwood and undercut Siakam in the process. It looked like Oladipo may have just tripped or lost his footing. Soon, it became apparent that it was much more.
With his left leg bent under his right, Oladipo hollered in pain. His four teammates on the court waved to the bench for immediate medical attention.
“I’m looking at his knee cap,” the announcer said. “You can see it. Yeah, you can see it.”
The medical staff covered his knee with a Gatorade towel as Oladipo clenched his teeth and stuck out his bottom lip.
Eventually, the Pacer’s All-Star was hoisted onto a stretcher and wheeled off of the court. He raised his arms in the air to show appreciation for the crowd.
After his injury, Oladipo rehabbed for months. The tear was labeled as “disabling.” But Oladipo pushed aside the anxiety of reinjuring his leg and transformed his body back into the elite athlete form that it was before.
In the video, Oladipo urged IU graduates to push through this difficult time. He knows from experience.
“Your work will not go unnoticed, and you will forever be a part of the IU family just as I am," Oladipo said in the video.
Oladipo had a prized three years in Bloomington on the IU basketball team.
His breakout season came during his junior year in 2012-13. He averaged 13.6 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting almost 60%. He set the IU single-season record for steals with 78. Those statistics don't illustrate his high-flying, thunderous dunks.
Oladipo’s efforts earned him first team All-Big Ten, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and first team All-American. With it, he became a household name in the state of Indiana.
After stints with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder to start his professional career after leaving IU, Oladipo made his return to the area in 2017 and joined the Pacers. In 2019, his injury hit.
“No matter how many great days you have, no matter how many successful days you have, I promise you life will get tough,” Oladipo said.
In his return to the court in January, he hit a game-tying 3-pointer against the Chicago Bulls with less than 10 seconds left. He shimmied down the sideline in delight.
Oladipo was back. And standing in front of his screen with a smile on Friday, he knows IU graduates can do the same.
“I can promise you one thing, that tough times won’t last,” Oladipo said. “But, tough people do. So, when you’re going through those times, remember this speech. Remember that, and apply it everyday, even when times get tough.”