Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS
The expected has become a reality.
After 15 NBA seasons, Shaun Livingston announced he was hanging up his sneakers Friday in an emotional Instagram post.
While Livingston never directly says he is retiring, it appears to be pretty clear that he has decided to call it a career. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarwoski confirmed the announcement shortly after the post.
Livingston was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. He suffered a catastrophic knee injury in 2007, where he dislocated his left knee cap and caused his leg to snap laterally, injuring almost every ligament in that knee.
Livingston’s rehab and road back to the NBA took years, but he finally landed with the Nets in 2013 and after playing a season in Brooklyn, he signed with the Warriors and became a key cog in the Dubs’ dynastic run.
In five seasons with the Warriors, Livingston helped them win three titles while averaging 5.4 points per game on 52 percent shooting. The Warriors waived Livingston this offseason as they try to remake their roster after five consecutive runs to the NBA Finals.
Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has said he wants the guard to be a part of the organization after he decided to retire and it appears that time has come.
#RaiseAGlass to a Dubs legend.
Shaun Livingston’s perseverance constant throughout Warriors’ dynastic run
Logan Murdock | NBC SPORTS
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 his four major ligaments. 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.
Shaun Livingston fought back to his dream, but it was time to say goodbye
Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS
Shaun Livingston spent a full year stealing glances at his hazy future, and the last three months he simply stared into it. Not until this week, though, did he have clear visibility.
His heart was whispering, urging him to play another year. In the NBA. Only the NBA.
His mind was doubting, questioning whether he had it in him.
His body? Well, it was barking and shouting, more than 12 years of agony and aches and constant maintenance blistering his ear and begging him to let it go, to devote himself for labors much less demanding than that of another eight or nine months and finally accept the life he knows is waiting.
So, on Friday, one day after his 34th birthday, with family and friends and folks in the media seeking resolution, Livingston took to Instagram to announce he was retiring.
His final season was a slog, as signs of physical decline surfaced. His lateral quickness was diminishing, hurting his defense. His offense came and went, fine one night and absent on another. His pregame routine required extended therapy, and still, he needed additional rest. He was one of the early examples of a load management program.
“It’s getting harder,” Livingston conceded after a shootaround in March in Houston. “The aches linger a little longer, but I’m still enjoying it. Can’t say that my body always does.”
It was after some postseason reflection and listening to his mind and body, and following both, that he was able to put a bow on a career once so dramatically altered there was rational fear it would end at the profoundly unfair age of 21.
Livingston, who spent 14 seasons in the NBA, walks away after the five best years of his career. He was a valuable reserve on a Warriors team that won three championships and made five consecutive trips to The Finals. After an eight-team journey during which he never spent more than three years with one employer, he landed on the free-agent market for the umpteenth time and found the Warriors in July 2014.
He signed a three-year contract and by its conclusion was calling Oakland “home.” After resurrecting and stabilizing his career, he became a free agent in 2017. Not for a moment did he consider shopping for a bigger role or a bigger contract with another team.
Minutes into free agency, Livingston agreed to re-sign with the Warriors. And when I texted him to ask why he didn’t consider going back on the market, his response spoke volumes.
“Can’t put a price on happiness.”
He was thrilled to finally find a successful franchise that understood his physical challenges and used him properly. Playing behind All-Stars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Livingston’s minutes were monitored. It became evident he produced best – and was most durable – when restricted to about 18 minutes per game. He could, in a pinch, go beyond that, but he’d feel it the next day.
His steady leadership was of value. Livingston and fellow Illinois native Andre Iguodala were the twins of wisdom in a locker room that ran the gamut of personalities. Iguodala, with his unflinching wit, could play “bad cop.” Livingston, with his breezy manner and unique perspective, was the “good cop.”
Now both are gone. Iguodala traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, Livingston opting to hang up his jersey.
Ten years earlier, Livingston began his career with hopes of becoming a transformational star. A 6-foot-7 point guard entering the NBA out of Peoria, Ill. at age 18, drafted fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers, his game had elements of Penny Hardaway, Magic Johnson and, in today’s game, midrange scoring ace DeMar DeRozan.
The most dazzling elements of Livingston’s game perished on the Staples Center floor in February 2007 with a devastating injury to his left knee. He sustained tears to his ACL, MCL, PCL and lateral meniscus, along with a dislocated knee cap and a broken tibia and fibula. So demolished was his left leg, there briefly was fear amputation might be necessary.
Livingston fought back and forced his way back into his dream. It was never better than in the last five years, which surely made his decision a little easier.
It was time to go. It just took a few months to say goodbye.