Shaun Livingston wasn't supposed to make it to this point.
The 15-year veteran -- who announced his retirement in an Instagram post on Friday -- was supposed to be done 12 years ago when he sat on the Staples Center floor, seconds after simultaneously tearing three of the four major ligaments in his right knee. He was supposed to quit after a trip to the D-League threatened to undermine a bid to return. He wasn't supposed to show up with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013 and change his career path. And he wasn't supposed to see three titles in five seasons for arguably the best team in league history.
But Livingston's perseverance most certainly saved the Warriors dynasty - but most importantly, it might have saved his life.
Growing up in Peoria, Ill., Livingston's career trajectory was much different than its end two decades later. At Peoria Central High school, 166 miles outside of Chicago, he led his team to two straight state titles averaging 18.5 points, six rebounds and six assists in his senior year. The plan was to attend Duke as Chris Duhon's replacement, but a string of team workouts in Chicago changed his mind and he opted to enter the 2004 NBA draft, where he was selected fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Playing for LA's "other" team, Livingston - a 6-foot-7 guard armed with a 6-foot-11 wingspan - Livingston invoked comparisons to Magic Johnson. His future looked bright as he helped the Clippers reach the playoffs for the first time in a decade, averaging 7.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds in the postseason. In Game 5 of the Western Conference first round, he dished out 14 assists, helping the Clippers to their first series win since 1976, solidifying his spot as LA's point guard of the future.
Then it happened.
During a home game against the Charlotte Bobcats in 2007, Livingston landed awkwardly following a layup attempt, causing his knee to contort on itself, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and lateral meniscus, while dislocating his patella. While at an Inglewood hospital, doctors contemplated amputating his leg altogether.
“My leg was deformed. My knee joint was dislocated and out of place. It was painful. Ten seconds felt like an hour,” Livingston told ESPN's The Undefeated in 2016. “It was only like 10-15 seconds. But until they put my knee back into place, it was excruciating for sure.”
"It's probably the most serious injury you can have to the knee," Clippers physician Dr. Tony Daly added in the week following the injury.
A year later, LA didn't tender a qualifying offer, making Livingston a free agent. A brief with the Miami Heat stint gave way to another brief stint in Miami, giving way to stints with the Wizards, Bobcats, Bucks, Thunder and Oklahoma's G-League affiliate, providing a collage of failed reclamation projects. Then, with the Brooklyn Nets, he averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 76 games -- then a career-high.
His performance in Brooklyn set the stage for his final act in Golden State. With the Warriors -- featuring two of the best shooters in NBA history -- Livingston was the perfect throwback complement to a seemingly futuristic team. While Golden State rewrote the three-point record book, Livingston finished a season with more than 12 attempts from behind the arc. Despite the contrast, Livingston was indispensable in the team's biggest moments.
In 2016, with Stephen Curry out with a knee injury, Livingston averaged 13.8 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds over a six-game stretch to keep Golden State's back to back title hopes alive. Weeks later, in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he scored 20 points in a win.
But Livingston's influence with the Warriors was defined by his constant calm in an environment that was anything but. On the right side of the Warriors' locker room at Oracle Arena, Livingston and fellow veteran Andre Iguodala's lockers were side by side, with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant sandwiched on either end of them. While Green and Durant, franchise pillars navigating the rigors of a superstar relationship, the pillars of wisdom made sure the two didn't undermine the team's fabric. All the while, Livingston's knee -- like the Warriors as we knew them -- was on its last run.
Now, both are gone, but Livingston's journey of perseverance -- one that undermined countless negative medical diagnosis -- will live on forever.