Dealt a hand of adversity throughout life, Glen "Big Baby" Davis has thought of himself as pretty indestructible off and on the court.
His mother was a drug addict. He never knew his father. He survived growing up in Louisiana through the kindness of relatives and strangers and coaches.
Basketball saved Big Baby from the streets, steered him to college and made him an NBA millionaire.
- Bio | E-mail | Recent columns
- Watch: Glen Davis talks about his recovery
- Pictures:Orlando Magic 2013-14 basketball season
- Get the latest Magic news, scores and more with our FREE iPhone and Android app
- Behind the Scenes: 2013 Orlando Magic Media Day
- Portraits: 2013 Orlando Magic Media Day
- Watch: The latest Orlando Magic videos
It was, at times, the only thing that gave him a sense of purpose and identity.
So you can imagine the fear he felt this summer – the fear he still feels, frankly – that the game could be taken from him in a flash.
Two surgeries on his left foot in a six-month span have changed his world. He had an operation in February and then another in July to replace a screw.
"You have a sense of the end," he said.
Davis, 27, is recovering slowly and could be back to practice in a few weeks. But then comes the great unknown when he takes those thunderous steps, always worrisome for a man of his size.
"Will it hold up?" he said.
Privately, Davis is angry and upset. He felt the first surgery didn't address the problem correctly and the setback cost him time.
"It will never be the same," he said glumly, glancing down at his foot.
Davis will test the second surgeon's handiwork, along with the new screw and additional bone graft that was inserted.
At 6 feet 9, he currently weighs around 300 pounds, but figures he needs to diet like a mad man to decrease the stress on his feet.
He talks about losing 20 pounds, but laughs that he hasn't weighed 280 "since I was in sixth grade."
Then he turns serious.
"I have to play as light as possible if it helps," he said.
He said the injury will make him play differently, but he isn't exactly sure how.
Built more like a nose tackle, Davis is light on his feet, oddly enough. He can play with finesse and force, part bullish and part ballet-like. He can use delicate footwork to spring open for a soft jump shot and barrel recklessly into the paint for a dunk.
"I think there's been one month when I wasn't in a (orthopedic walking) boot," he said. "I've been locked up. This is one of the most difficult things probably I've ever had to do. It's frustrating."
Davis might be delusional, but he believes the Magic can be a playoff team with him in the lineup. He was enjoying a career year last season and the club was 12-13 before he sustained a shoulder injury.
Big Baby admits that his comeback is as much a mental battle as a physical one.
This summer, he even pulled out his 2008 championship ring from his Celtics days to remind him of better times.
"I had to pull it out a couple of times just to feel I've played. You look at old clips and video so you won't lose that edge," he said. "You go through what I've went through … you can get all messed up."
The uncertainty of his health has made him realize how much he loves the game.
After all, Glen Davis has spent much of his life trying to stand up on his own two feet.
"It's made me appreciate the game even more," he said. "If I get an opportunity to get on the floor, I'm not going to leave."