Jonathan Isaac walks his path back through faith, determination

Jonathan Isaac returned from a knee injury better than ever only to have to start over after another devastating injury. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
Jonathan Isaac returned from a knee injury better than ever only to have to start over after another devastating injury. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports /

Jonathan Isaac is walking again and taking it one step at a time to return to the court and be back better than ever for the Orlando Magic.

Jonathan Isaac and the church he attends and ministers at, J.U.M.P. Ministries, are holding a march this Saturday at the Lake Eola Bandshell heading to the Dr. Phillips Center.

The event is meant to shine a light and show that the world’s problems and the negativity surrounding our culture can be healed through prayer and fellowship. It builds off Jonathan Isaac’s belief and prayer he expressed when he decided not to join his team in kneeling for the national anthem during the Orlando Magic’s games inside the Disney Campus.

This is a young man of conviction and faith who sees the good in situations and rarely dwells on the negative. He pushes forward with confidence that things will work out and that nothing is put before him he cannot overcome.

But first things first to running a walk. Actually putting one step in front of the other.

Isaac, after all, tore his ACL in August. The injury is not the devastating career-ending injury it might have been 15 or 20 years ago. But it is still one that takes time and hard work to return from.

It is still an injury that requires a process just to allow a patient to walk again. And since the NBA has been locked away behind closed doors for its offseason — with COVID protocols still in place keeping players from performing even group workouts for the time being — Isaac had been toiling a lot on his own.

But, nevertheless, do not worry. Isaac is walking again. He will be marching at the Hold up the Lights event Saturday at 6 p.m. in Downtown Orlando. He told media members that he has been off crutches for a few weeks and is progressing well with his rehab.

"“I feel great so far,” Isaac said in a teleconference with media Monday. “Everything with me and the trainers have been talking about have been progressing well. Everything is going good. I can’t give you a specific timeline of where I’m at. The doctor says everything is good and we are just continuing on that process.”"

As Jeff Weltman said the day after Jonathan Isaac’s injury, it was just day one of his comeback. Even then, Isaac was lifting everyone else’s spirits and trying to inject his enthusiasm and positivity into a team that still had work to do to make the playoffs and finish their season.

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  • Isaac’s road back though remains a difficult one. And it still has a long way to go.

    Even the positive Isaac said he had moments of doubt and questioning his faith in the moments after the injury. Encouragement from some players — Isaac said on an episode of the Orlando Magic Pod Squad last week that Sacramento Kings forward Jabari Parker spoke to him before leaving the arena after his injury — helped get himself right.

    He spoke to his pastor, Dr. Durone Hepburn of J.U.M.P. Ministries, shortly after the injury and that helped him gain confidence that he has navigated injury before. And that it was merely a challenge that will make him better both on and off the court.

    That helped build Isaac’s resolve and confidence. He did not dwell on the negative and trusted that he would come out better on the other side of this.

    "“They say sports is 90-percent mental and 10-percent physical,” Isaac said Monday. “Whatever percentage you want to give it, but it is more mental than physical. My mind is still there in terms of how I was playing.“My body just has to catch up now with this recent injury. I will be expecting and knowing that I am going to play better than I did when I left because my mind is continuing to get better off of it. That has been my entire career so far. I have been out for quite a bit of time battling these injuries. Every time I have come back, I have come back better not just because my body has gotten better but because my mind has been in a better place.”"

    Isaac has been here before. He dealt with an ankle injury that held him out of 50-plus games his rookie year. He suffered a posterolateral corner injury in January that kept him out until the NBA resumed its season in August.

    Isaac said he believed he was playing the best basketball of his career when he went down with the injury. He is confident that he can continue to get better even as he recovers from the injury. He felt supremely confident then and said he did not believe his previous injury or his return led to his torn ACL.

    This was just another challenge he would have to overcome to achieve his goals. It is one that he has attacked quickly with the same fire and determination that has made him so popular among fans and teammates.

    Isaac said he recovered from the surgery fairly quickly, already regaining a range of motion in the knee to the point where he did not have to learn to walk again once he came off crutches. That still leaves a long road ahead.

    He said on that podcast with the Orlando Magic Pod Squad that he is still rehabbing every day, doing squats using his bodyweight and working in the pool to rebuild strength and rehab the injury. It is still likely a far way away from picking up a basketball again, let alone playing, but there seems to be a comfort and focus in the work.

    After previous injuries to his ankle and his knee, he felt he came back stronger and a better player. But he said he will listen to the training staff for any timetable for a return. He would not close the door for a 2021 return, but he would not put a date on it.

    Isaac said he would not be able to tell how far along he is in his recovery. His focus is on taking things day-by-day and accomplishing the tasks and goals he has in front of him each day. That is how Isaac tries to push himself.

    That positivity and confidence are necessary to come back from such a major injury.

    "“Once I have experienced having an injury and knowing my faith has kept me grounded and kept me pushing and kept my spirits high and mentally locked in and focused on what God has next for me, I have ultimate confidence to know when I have back on the court,” Isaac said Monday. “My body is going to heal. My mind is still in that place of being hungry and knowing that I can be the best and working towards that.”"

    Isaac is confident his best basketball is ahead of him. He is confident that this is a trial he can overcome and defeat.

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    He just has to take it one step at a time.