Often times patience is necessary in the game of basketball. On offense it could be waiting for a pick and roll to develop. Defensively it may be holding your position in anticipation for the exact moment to jump into a passing lane. But sometimes what the game gives can be taken away in an instant.
For Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala patience and perseverance have been required traits woven into the success of their NBA careers.
After years of being tested they were rewarded with an NBA Championship last season as key reserves for the Golden State Warriors. This season they helped the organization capture the most regular season wins in league history.
Long before winning a title and being part of a 73-win season, Livingston and Iguodola both developed their skills while growing up in Illinois.
Livingston was born and raised in Peoria and won back-to-back IHSA state titles before leaping to the NBA straight out of Peoria Central High School. Iguodala, a Springfield native, sprouted up at Lanphier High School and then headed to Arizona for two seasons under Lute Olson’s tutelage prior to turning pro.
Both players were selected in the 2004 NBA Draft. Livingston went fourth overall to the Los Angeles Clippers, while Iguodala was taken ninth by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Iguodala would spend eight seasons in Philly, eventually becoming an All-Star in 2012 and leading his team to the playoffs five times. A second round exit following a seven game series with the Boston Celtics would be the farthest Iguodala would go in the postseason.
An offseason trade to the Denver Nuggets would offer the first real change Iguodala would experience in his career. In the 2013 playoffs, a first round loss to a talented but inexperienced Warriors team led by Stephen Curry would be the end of Iguodala’s lone season in Denver.
Before the 2013-14 season, he was the centerpiece of a sign-and-trade deal that brought him to the Warriors, where he would start 63 games and be named to the All-NBA Defensive first team. But a Game 7 loss to the Clippers in the first round of the playoffs would bring changes to the organization.
In came new head coach Steve Kerr, whose most notable coaching decision was to start Harrison Barnes over Iguodala. The 30-year-old veteran would be relegated to a sixth man role for the first time in his career. While at the time it wasn’t easy coming off the bench, it did prove to be effective.
The Warriors would catch fire and make it all the way to the NBA Finals. After finding themselves down 2-1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Kerr decided to go with a small lineup and inserted Iguodala as a starter with hopes providing better defense on LeBron James. The change worked. Three straight wins over the Cavs earned the Warriors an NBA title. Iguodala was named Finals MVP averaging 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists after remerging as a starter.
Livingston’s route to championship glory was much different.
A catastrophic knee injury in 2007 altered the Clippers' franchise point guard’s career. Livingston tore his anterior cruciate ligament, posterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus, while also spraining his medial collateral ligament and dislocating his patella and tibo-fibular joint in a late February game against Charlotte. Amputation was a possibility.
Fortunately the worst case scenario would not play out. After a long and painful rehabilitation, Livingston signed with the Miami Heat and returned to the court in October of 2008. He bounced around the league playing for seven different teams over six seasons. He found a little stability and success as a starter with the Brooklyn Nets, before landing with the Warriors as a free agent prior to the 2014-15 season.
Livingston would play in a career-high 78 games, averaging 5.9 points, 3.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds per game as a key reserve along side Iguodola. Although he was only on the court 19 minutes each night, he was a factor on an NBA Championship team. This a fitting reward for a man who had to overcome so much just to be standing on the court, let alone a major contributor off the bench.
Now in his second straight playoffs for the defending champions Livingston is shining even brighter. A team-high 20 points along with four rebounds and three assists was instrumental in a Game 1 victory over the Cavs. Iguodala had 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the win.
All these years later the two Illinois natives are experiencing overwhelming success. Not because it was their right. Not due to good fortune. Instead it’s been their unique abilities to persevere and be patient that is at the root of their basketball giving tree.
And the tree was happy.