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.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 108-100 loss to depleted Pelicans

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in 108-100 loss to depleted Pelicans


Coming into town to face an injury-depleted team on the second night of a back-to-back set, the Warriors appeared to be in reasonably good position win their third game of the season.

Instead, they took their 12th defeat – and seventh in a row.

The Warriors, nearly as diminished by injuries, took a tip-to-buzzer 108-100 loss to the Pelicans on Sunday night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

Four players scored in double figures, led by Eric Paschall’s game-high 30 points, but the Warriors (2-12) were outrebounded and outshot, particularly from the 3-point line by the Pelicans (3-10).

Here are three takeaways from a defeat that saddled the Warriors with their longest losing streak since they dropped eight straight in April 2012:

Defense rests, is burned by triples

The Warriors displayed signs of coming out of their defensive malaise in taking the Celtics down to the wire two nights ago. Outrebounding Boston allowed them to better set up their defense, and the results were encouraging.

That level of defensive aggression and execution didn’t make the trip to New Orleans.

The Warriors were particularly vulnerable defending the 3-point arc.

The Pelicans, who entered as the fifth-best 3-point shooting team the league, took advantage, launching at will. They drained nine triples in the first half, as JJ Redick, one of the more proficient deep shooters in NBA history and undoubtedly on the scouting report, repeatedly got open looks and buried five 3-balls before halftime. He scored a team-high 26 points.

That New Orleans shot 39.1 percent (18-of-46) from deep is clear evidence that any defensive progress displayed by the Warriors two days earlier against a quality opponent went into deep regression against an inferior team.

More points for Paschall

With D’Angelo Russell out of the lineup, the Warriors have an urgent need for scoring. Enter Eric Paschall.

On a night when offense was hard to come by, Paschall kept the Warriors in the game early, with 24 points through the first three quarters, when no other Warrior had more than 11.

Operating both inside and outside, Paschall’s 30 points came on 10-of-17 shooting, including 2-of-4 from beyond the arc. He also was 8-of-10 from the free throw line. Playing 35 minutes, he also grabbed seven rebounds.

Paschall now has two games with at least 30 points, four with at least 20 and nine in which he scored in double figures.

The powerfully built rookie is, at this point, the team’s most effective scorer. In effect, he has become the Warriors’ go-to guy.

[RELATED: Draymond, Bowman to take over while Russell is out]

Waiting for Jordan

The Warriors drafted Jordan Poole in the first round June believing he had the goods to become their next great deep shooter. His work in the preseason did little to argue against that.

But it’s not happening in the regular season, and this night was the latest in an ever-extending line of futile performances.

Coming off the bench for the second consecutive game, Poole was scoreless over 23 minutes, with 0-of-7 shooting from the field, including 0-of-3 from beyond the arc.

If ever there was a game when his scoring touch was desperately needed – and surely would have made a difference – this was it.

Warriors to use Ky Bowman, Draymond Green in D'Angelo Russell's place

Warriors to use Ky Bowman, Draymond Green in D'Angelo Russell's place

The Warriors got some bad news when D'Angelo Russell's MRI confirmed a sprained right thumb that will keep him out of the lineup for at least two weeks, but their coach actually was a bit relieved.

"I was concerned that it was going to be worse," Steve Kerr told the media Saturday, "so a couple weeks, you know, we can handle. If this had been something more severe, we would have been in some real trouble. So, we'll deal with it and I'm glad it's not worse. We look forward to getting him back, but in the meantime, we've got four games on the road. We've got to figure out a way to hold down the fort."

Golden State will play the first of those four consecutive road games Sunday in New Orleans against the short-handed Pelicans, and Kerr has a plan for how the Warriors will fill the point guard spot in Russell's absence.

"Draymond [Green] will play a lot of point, and Ky [Bowman] will have the ball in his hands quite a bit," Kerr said. "We're down to nine players, and really only two real guards I would say, with Jordan [Poole] and Ky. So our wings are going to have to handle the ball quite a bit, and Draymond is really good in a facilitating role anyway, so Draymond will handle the ball quite a bit."

Bowman, who is on a two-way contract, didn't seem phased by the promotion.

"I just go out there and play my role," Bowman said. "That's scoring, that's defense ... just play my role."

The Warriors didn't expect to rely on Bowman as much as they have in the early part of the season, but they've had to out of necessity with the injuries to Russell, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Despite being a consistent member of the rotation, he conceded that people ask him more about his teammates than his own experience.

"What are the players like, really," Bowman replied when questioned as to what fans ask him. "What is Draymond like. That's what everybody wants to know."

[RELATED: Slew of Warriors’ injuries hinders young core’s development]

Perhaps they'll have some different questions for him over the next couple weeks.