OAKLAND—A tall, slender, 6-foot-7 guard dribbles the ball to the baseline. With Iman Shumpert, a defensive shooting guard of the Cavaliers and one of the premiere defenders in the NBA, defending this silky, smooth ball handler, the unfazed journeyman simply creates an in and out fake, dribbles the ball behind his back, positioning himself in a post-up before faking a reverse pivot to the baseline, and rising up, only to drain a Michael Jordan-esque fade away over the outstretched fingers of Shumpert.
This was two of Shaun Livingston’s 20 points; an effort much needed helping the Golden State Warriors to a 104-89 win, capturing a 1-0 NBA Finals series lead.
Never mind the Warriors lucid bench contributing 45 points, essentially outplaying the Cavs reserves by a landslide. But, the bigger question is, “who is Shaun Livingston?”
Livingston, a Peoria, Illinois native, was a highly coveted basketball player out of Peoria Central High School, where he won two state titles and was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Illinois in 2004. He went on to win the co-MVP in the McDonalds All-American Game.
Rivals.com considered him the irrefutable number one point guard in 2004, and many analysts were comparing his skill-set to one Penny Hardaway, one of the most exciting point guards to ever play this game, before the injury bug.
Livingston signed with Duke—but this quickly fizzled out—and the historic high school player opted to make the jump straight to the NBA, much like some of the current greats: Kevin Garnett and LeBron James.
In 2004, Livingston was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers, playing for a team that in recent history, would stockpile assets, but the end result was still the same: consistent losing. His best year with the Clippers was when he averaged 9.3 points, 5.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds.
But then it happened: In 2007 Livingston went up for a layup, playing the Charlotte Hornets, but came down awkwardly. At the age of 21, Livingston destroyed his knee, tearing the anterior cruiciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments—and last but not least—he dislocated his kneecap. The injury was so bad that Livingston’s thigh and skin bones were out of place.
However, Livingston was far from down-and-out as his doctor at the time, James Andrews, never completely closed the door on his playing career.
Livingston rehabbed rigorously, playing in Miami, Oklahoma City, Washington, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Cleveland. It took this many teams and Miami-based trainer, Manning Sumner, for Livingston to finally trust his knees again.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2013, just before he started playing with the Brooklyn Nets, when Livingston had full confidence. As a Net he averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds.
Playing in Brooklyn resurrected Livingston, and now he is playing great basketball with the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
Livingston, who dislocated his right patella his rookie season, shot 80 percent from the field against the Cavs.
And now, Livingston, a viable bench playing point guard, can enjoy using his acuminated athleticism and continue to shoot one-handed, mid-range floaters over Cleveland.