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“My Purpose…to Inspire People”: Shaun Livingston’s Inspiring Injury Recovery Leads To NBA Title

Sean Livingston injury
Photo by Harry How/GettyImages

By Cheryl Anne Groth

Overcoming Injury Takes Commitment


Never a man to sit on the sidelines and whine, NBA basketball player, Shaun Livingston turned tragedy into triumph when he overcame an injury that would have ended most players’ career to lead the Golden State Warriors to an NBA championship in 2015.


But it didn’t happen overnight. Livingston’s work ethic began way back in grade school. While other kids in his school busied themselves after hours with their GI Joes and Power Rangers, Livingston perfected his basketball skills. He catapulted his school team, Concordia Lutheran, to the Illinois state championship for two years in a row. His high school career was equally stellar, with two state titles, a “Mr. Basketball” title, and a co-MVP in the McDonald’s-sponsored All-American basketball game all under his belt before he graduated.


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Livingston skipped a full ride to Duke for a shot at an early NBA career with the Clippers. For a while, it looked like Livingston’s star could do nothing but rise. During his rookie season and in the following year, the point guard scored an average of 6.3 points each game. In his third season, he improved his average to 9.3. Then it happened.


Basketball aficionados wince as they describe Livingston’s season-ending injury, which occurred when the Clippers played the Charlotte Bobcats late in February 2007. ESPN sports writer Marc Spears, in his May 17, 2016 article in TheUndefeated.com, puts it this way, “[Livingston] came down awkwardly after a missed layup attempt and snapped his twig of a leg in half…[He] yelled in agony and writhed on the floor. Suddenly, a promising career was in jeopardy before it got going.”


His injuries caused his doctors to warn Livingston that his leg might require amputation. A torn ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus, as well as a dislocated patella and tibio-fibular joint caused complications that kept him in physical therapy for months just to be able to walk. But Livingston never gave up, though the Clippers gave up on him. After his contract expired, Livingston walked away a free agent.


The following years turned into a whirlwind of frustration for the talented Livingston. Traded from club to club, he spent time with the Miami Heat, the Washington Wizards, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Charlotte Bobcats, the Milwaukee Bucks, the D-League Tulsa 66ers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and finally, the Brooklyn Nets, before he caught the eye of his current team, the Golden State Warriors.


After scratching his way back to health, Livingston never gave up. He continued to hone his skills until he had a breakthrough. While playing for the Nets, he regained his form, averaging over eight points and three assists per game, starting in 76 games over the 2013-2014 season.


In his interview with Spears, Livingston shared his thoughts. “As I was starting to…[make] a comeback…I felt my purpose was to inspire people to get through hard times and struggle.” That purpose kept Livingston driving for success until the Golden State Warriors signed him for a $16.3 million contract in the summer of 2014.


He didn’t stop there. In the 2014-2015 season, he kept on the path toward the top, averaging more than six points and three assists per game. In the postseason games, Livingston inspired his teammates with his never-say-die courage, playing an average of 18 minutes per game on his way to the Warriors’ NBA championship.


As he looked back on his years of clawing his way back into the NBA, Livingston shared his philosophy of life. “You can look at it [his difficulty finding a long term contract after his injury] as failed opportunity and failures…[but] I was just using that as fuel and encouragement while always having the right perspective.”


That perspective is what can help anyone who struggles, yet fails—to continue to rise. Success, it would seem from Shaun’s story, is in the journey itself. Like Livingston, we, too, can push past our pain–whether it be physical or mental–and rise to triumph. We, too, can fall down seven times, then rise up eight.


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