Shaun Livingston's journey from horrific injury to Warriors NBA champion

Shaun Livingston's journey from horrific injury to Warriors NBA champion

It was just another routine night in the NBA.

Shaun Livingston, then on the backend of his third year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers, was making his 31st start of the season against the Charlotte Bobcats.

After a steal at midcourt, Livingston glided across the floor with ease and rose up for a layup.

What happened next changed the course of his life, and threw a seemingly insurmountable curveball at what was a promising NBA career.

As the stretcher was brought out, many who had seen Livingston’s knee bend so unnaturally wondered if the 21-year-old ever would be able to walk again, much less play in the NBA.

Livingston tore his ACL, PCL, and meniscus, in addition to dislocating his left knee cap and breaking his left leg. It was such a stomach-turning video that ESPNEWS put a warning for viewers on-screen before showing the clip. 

"It's probably the most serious injury you can have to the knee," then-Clippers physician Dr. Tony Daly said to ESPN the day after the injury. "He might miss all of next year."

For Livingston, it was like having a different set of legs.

“The knee was all deformed, bloodied up and leaking with puss,” Livingston told ESPN’s The Undefeated in 2016. “I just couldn’t move it. Stiff. It was like I had a spare leg. All of my quad was skinny. It was like a pole with a pineapple in the middle of it.”

It took 16 months before Livingston was able to resume basketball activities, and the Clippers decided not to re-sign the point guard when his contract expired at the end of the 2007-08 season.

After being a top-five pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the young man who had jumped straight from high school to the NBA suddenly was looking for work. Livingston had a cup of coffee with the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, and even spent time in what is now the NBA G League over the next two years, but was unable to find a long-term home.

Livingston finally earned another contract after a pair of successful stints on 10-day contracts with the Washington Wizards, as the Bobcats inked Livingston to a two-year deal worth $7 million.

However, the transaction carousel continued as Livingston was traded twice and bounced from city to city, spending eight seasons never playing with the same team in consecutive years.

He finally regained a foothold in the league while with the Brooklyn Nets, as he went from being signed for guard depth to starting 10 of the team’s 12 postseason games in 2014.

Livingston signed a three-year deal the following offseason with the Warriors, and the rest of the story is straight out of a movie script. He became a key cog on a team that won three championships in five years -- providing countless memories and cementing victories with his iconic, unblockable turnaround jump shot. He announced his retirement Friday in an emotional Instagram post, closing the book on a remarkable 15-year career.

As he lay on the wood at Staples Center on that fateful night in 2007, writhing in pain as thousands collectively cringed at the sight of his deformed left leg, no one would have told you this NBA story would end not only on his terms, but also come with a trio of dazzling championship rings and a legacy of unbelievable tenacity. 

[RELATED: Shaun Livingston's five most memorable moments in five Warriors seasons]

“I want people to use my story to stand up, be strong-willed and persevere,” Livingston said to ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. "When the chips are down, I want you to understand the type of person I am.”

Livingston has become an inspiration to many who have suffered catastrophic injuries of their own and plans to eventually release a memoir detailing his NBA odyssey.

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Andrew Wiggins-Steph Curry duo's potential shown in Warriors NBA 2K sim

Editor’s note: With the NBA season halted over coronavirus concerns, Warriors fans have unanswered questions about the team and how it’s building toward the future. To provide answers, NBC Sports Bay Area will simulate some previously scheduled Warriors games through NBA 2K, mixing video-game results with real-life insights for our coverage team.

Even amid the NBA season suspension due to the global coronavirus pandemic, Andrew Wiggins enters the spring as the Warriors' biggest question mark.

A former No. 1 overall draft pick, Wiggins' potential drops jaws, while his inconsistency is head-scratching. Upon arrival, the Warriors believed his ability would bode well alongside Steph Curry and the team's culture.

In a simulation of the March 28 game against the Oklahoma City Thunder using NBA 2K20, Wiggins showed promise towards that goal in a 117-110 loss.

In the digital confines, Wiggins finished with 35 points, getting most of his buckets within the flow of the Warriors' motion offense.

"I think he really fits well," Draymond Green said of Wiggins last month. "As seamless as it could possibly be, I think he can fit right in. He can score the basketball, he can run the wings, he's a pretty good defender. So I think he'll definitely fit in with this core for a long time."

Similar performances weren't as consistent during Wiggins' first four seasons in Minnesota. Wiggins didn't live up to the expectations that come with being a franchise player. His offensive inconsistency quickly drew the ire of NBA observers. Worse, Wiggins became one of the worst defenders in the league, even after he signed a five-year, $145 million contract.

Nonetheless, the Warriors saw potential in the 25-year old, trading former All-Star point guard D'Angelo Russell, along with Jacob Evans and Omari Spellman, in part to pair Wiggins with Curry. In the 2K simulation, the pairing worked, as the tandem combined for 62 points on the night.

The performance was consistent with Wiggins' lone real-world game alongside the former MVP. Against the Raptors back on March 5, the duo combined for 44 points in Curry's return from a broken left hand.

Curry's first highlight against the Raptors came with the help of his Canadian teammate, when he took a dribble in the lane, drew a double-team and fired a behind the back pass to Wiggins in the lane, leading to an easy layup, surprising Wiggins in the process.

"I didn't even know it was coming, really," Wiggins admitted after the loss to the Raptors. "I was kind of watching like it may come, but then when he went behind the back I was just trying to catch it. It was a hell of a pass."

"I'm very excited," Wiggins added. "He's an MVP player, one of the greats. He helped transition the game with his 3s and how fast he plays. So, I'm excited."

[RELATED: How Steph perform in Warriors-Hawks sim]

Wiggins' virtual performance Saturday coincided with his strong play during his short stint in the Bay Area. In his last five games, he averaged 20 points on 46 percent shooting from the field. If Wiggins continues to build on his current play, the Warriors will see the potential they've wanted all along, making for an intriguing process Wiggins says he's ready for.

"I feel like I've adjusted well," Wiggins told NBC Sports Bay Area earlier in March. "I've never played with anyone as good as him. By far, he's the best player that I've played with. Just getting a chance to learn from him and feeding off him and just learning."

Watch every Steph Curry 3-pointer with Warriors from 30 feet and beyond

Watch every Steph Curry 3-pointer with Warriors from 30 feet and beyond

Today is the 30th day in March.

Warriors superstar Steph Curry wears No. 30.

Obviously, that means you should watch every single 3-pointer the two-time NBA MVP has made in his career from 30 feet and beyond.

Thank you to our friends at the Warriors for making this possible:

You watched all 87, right? What's your favorite?

Is it the famous 37-footer against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Feb. 27, 2016? What about the 62-footer he swished at the end of the third quarter in Game 6 of the 2015 Western Conference semifinals against the Memphis Grizzlies?

[RELATED: What separates Steph Curry as favorite among all Bay Area MVP athletes]

There just are so many incredible ones to choose from.

Now go spend 10 more minutes watching all 87 again ...

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