This year’s NBA Finals have been an instant classic so far with two superstars in LeBron James and Stephen Curry going at. While both teams have great players, there is one in particular I want to talk about. His name is Shaun Livingston and is currently a key player off the bench for the Warriors.
Long before he was on the Warriors, Livingston was a highly recruited point guard from Peoria High School in Illinois. In 2004, Livingston was ranked as the no. 2 player in country and no. 1 ranked point guard according to Rivals.com. Here is a quick list of the top 5 high school players in 2004:
- Dwight Howard, Atlanta, Georgia (C)
- Shaun Livingston, Peoria, Illinois (PG)
- Joshua Smith, Powder Springs, Georgia (PF)
- Al Jefferson, Prentiss, Mississippi (C)
- Rudy Gay, Capital Heights, Maryland (SF)
This is an impressive list. What I found more interesting was that Livingston was ranked higher than current NBA All-Stars Rajon Rondo and Kyle Lowry. He originally committed to play at Duke University but instead opted to go straight to the NBA Draft. He was then selected 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.
I for one think that Livingston should bring back the afro, but that’s besides the point. His rookie year was not anything spectacular, averaging 7.4 points in only 30 games played. His second year was no better, playing in 61 games while averaging 5.8 points per contest. While the Clippers as a team were struggling and Livingston could barely stay on the floor, you knew that when he was on the floor he had something special in his third year when he was averaging 9.1 points, 5.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds. However, things turned around drastically on February 26, 2007 against the Charlotte Bobcats when Livingston landed awkwardly on his left leg while he was attempting a layup.
As he fell down and grabbed his leg, you just knew it was bad. In fact, at times it was not shown on TV due to how gruesome it was. When I first saw it, I cringed as soon as his leg hit the ground. Fair warning that this video will make you want to X out and shut down your laptop.
Still here? Good.
Livingston tore just about everything in his left knee; ACL, LCL, PCL, meniscus, dislocated his kneecap, you name it. As he was carted off you had a feeling that this might have been the last time you’d see him on a basketball court. There was a point where doctors thought that he would possibly have to get his leg amputated. This was a letdown for a guy like Livingston, who gave up a chance to play at Duke and become the future of the program. It took him months to even walk normal again. Even Clippers trainers stated multiple times that this was the worst injury they have ever seen or encountered.
After missing the entire 2007-08 season, Livingston was a restricted free agent, but the Clippers decided not to give him a qualifying offer, so he was able to hit the market. The doctors did clear him for basketball activities and received little interest from some teams. He finally signed with the Miami Heat in hopes of making a comeback into the NBA. His time with the Heat didn’t last that long, only playing 4 games averaging 2.3 points in 10.3 minutes of action before being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies halfway through the season. He was waived by Memphis the same day he was acquired and was signed by the Tulsa 66ers of the D-league.
Livingston played with the 66ers for a couple of weeks until he was signed by their NBA affiliate, the Oklahoma City Thunder. For the rest of the 2008-09 season he seemed to have found his groove, averaging close to 8 points off the bench becoming a solid player for the team. After playing 10 games for the Thunder in the 2009-10 season, he was again waived.
After signing a couple of 10-day contracts, Livingston signed with the Washington Wizards for the remainder of the ’09-’10 season. During that time he again played well, playing in 26 games (starting 18) averaging 9.2 points, 4.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds. After that season he signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Bobcats. After a decent season with the team in which he played 73 games averaging 6.6 points, he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in a three-way deal that involved the Sacramento Kings.
When the season was over he was again traded, from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Houston Rockets, but was waived a day before the 2012-13 season began. He signed with the Washington Wizards for a second time but was waived halfway through the season, then was picked up by the Cleveland Cavaliers, but did not do much with them. When the season ended people figured that this would be the end for Livingston.
In the beginning of the 2013-14 season he signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Most figured that he would be in a bench role and most likely get waived before the season began, or best case scenario in the middle of the season after playing a couple of games, but that was not the case. A couple of months into the season, he started playing well enough to be inserted into the starting lineup, sometimes at the point or as the off guard alongside Deron Williams. He played 76 games (started 54), averaging 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per game which were all career-highs since his major knee injury. Livingston was also a key contributor in the playoffs, averaging close to 10 points and helping the Nets reach the conference semifinals.
You knew that Livingston was going to get paid after his season with Brooklyn, and he did, signing a two-year deal with the Golden State Warriors with an option for a third year. This season he played a valuable role with this Warriors team as they are two wins away from winning the NBA Finals. Whether you are rooting for the Warriors or Cavaliers, you have to cheer on a guy like this who years ago was told he may not even have his leg. After a year and a half of rehabilitation, signed by eight different teams, traded three times, being waived three more times and suiting up for nine different teams (only counting the Wizards once) Shaun Livingston has finally made a name for himself. It may not have been what he planned for coming into the league in 2004, but he never gave up, and for that I salute you, Mr. Livingston. Keep proving the critics wrong as you keep writing what I think is one of the best comeback stories in the NBA or in all levels of sports for that matter.