Imagine working your entire life towards your biggest dream; putting everything you have, all of your dedication, sweat and hard work toward accomplishing what you most desire for yourself.
Then imagine achieving that dream, having it become reality…and in an instant, it’s all gone.
This literally happened to Shaun Livingston, who at 21-years-old, when most people are first beginning their careers, was dealing with the uncertainty that his was already over.
Google his name and on the first page of results, you’ll see a link to a YouTube clip of the life-altering moment in a game from his third NBA season where his career was nearly derailed before a live audience.
A bad landing resulted in a torn ACL, a torn MCL, a torn PCL, a torn lateral meniscus, and a dislocated kneecap so severe that it impaired circulation to Livingston’s foot, almost resulting in an amputation.
One minute, you are 21-years-old, the highest guard draft choice in league history right out of high school, and the next you are left to ponder life with a prosthesis. He faced months of rehabilitation just to walk again — He missed the entire next season and then was released by the Clippers. He went from a top four of the 2004 NBA Draft, to a point guard of the future, to an unemployed has-been almost instantaneously.
But Livingston had a plan: avoid negativity. All Livingston wanted was another chance at a pro basketball career; one more shot to make sure the memory of his gruesome leg injury wasn’t people’s last.
“Coming back from my rehab, that was really the thought. Play your game, know what you’re good at, know your strengths and weaknesses.” — Shaun Livingston
After he was released by LA, he was bounced around from team to team. He played with the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, the Washington Wizards, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Milwaukie Bucks, the Houston Rockets, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Brooklyn Nets — nine teams in 10 years.
His biggest breakout came last year with Brooklyn. Rookie coach Jason Kidd threw Livingston into the starting lineup. The result? Livingston finished with career highs in games played and points scored. With the Nets, he proved himself. All of that progress from his rebound year led to him signing his highest and most stable stop yet with the Golden State Warriors. Golden State offered him the most money and also provided him with the best opportunity.
With the conclusion of the NBA 2014-2015 season, the Golden State Warriors did the unimaginable as the best team in the league; they beat the best player Lebron James and the highly favored Cleveland Cavaliers. No one is more appreciative of this once-unfathomable opportunity to be a part of the Warriors than Shaun Livingston.
“It’s almost like a boxer past his prime,” Livingston said. “But to me, it happened when I was 21, instead of 35. That’s frustrating. But this is something that I love to do. And when you love what you do, you’ll make sure that you do it. There are really no excuses.”
Livingston’s injury appeared to have ruined his NBA career. He went from a team’s building block to a guy not worth a roster spot. But he kept earning roster spots, kept getting better, and eventually proved that he could not just be replacement level, but a critical contributor for a good team.
“I had two careers. It felt like two lives. To be here as a world champion is the greatest feeling in the world.” — Shaun Livingston
Livingston has shown that no matter how difficult or real the struggle is, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. He showcases to anyone facing abrupt or unimaginable setbacks that every opportunity is a new start, a new year one to learn, adapt, survive, and flourish.
Photo Credit: theplayerstribune.com