Shaun Livingston's journey from horrific injury to Warriors NBA champion

Alex Didion
NBC Sports BayArea

It was just another routine night in the NBA.

Shaun Livingston, then on the backend of his third year in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers, was making his 31st start of the season against the Charlotte Bobcats.

After a steal at midcourt, Livingston glided across the floor with ease and rose up for a layup.

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What happened next changed the course of his life, and threw a seemingly insurmountable curveball at what was a promising NBA career.

As the stretcher was brought out, many who had seen Livingston's knee bend so unnaturally wondered if the 21-year-old ever would be able to walk again, much less play in the NBA.

Livingston tore his ACL, PCL, and meniscus, in addition to dislocating his left knee cap and breaking his left leg. It was such a stomach-turning video that ESPNEWS put a warning for viewers on-screen before showing the clip. 

"It's probably the most serious injury you can have to the knee," then-Clippers physician Dr. Tony Daly said to ESPN the day after the injury. "He might miss all of next year."

For Livingston, it was like having a different set of legs.

"The knee was all deformed, bloodied up and leaking with puss," Livingston told ESPN's The Undefeated in 2016. "I just couldn't move it. Stiff. It was like I had a spare leg. All of my quad was skinny. It was like a pole with a pineapple in the middle of it."

It took 16 months before Livingston was able to resume basketball activities, and the Clippers decided not to re-sign the point guard when his contract expired at the end of the 2007-08 season.

After being a top-five pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, the young man who had jumped straight from high school to the NBA suddenly was looking for work. Livingston had a cup of coffee with the Miami Heat, Memphis Grizzlies, and even spent time in what is now the NBA G League over the next two years, but was unable to find a long-term home.

Livingston finally earned another contract after a pair of successful stints on 10-day contracts with the Washington Wizards, as the Bobcats inked Livingston to a two-year deal worth $7 million.

However, the transaction carousel continued as Livingston was traded twice and bounced from city to city, spending eight seasons never playing with the same team in consecutive years.

He finally regained a foothold in the league while with the Brooklyn Nets, as he went from being signed for guard depth to starting 10 of the team's 12 postseason games in 2014.

Livingston signed a three-year deal the following offseason with the Warriors, and the rest of the story is straight out of a movie script. He became a key cog on a team that won three championships in five years -- providing countless memories and cementing victories with his iconic, unblockable turnaround jump shot. He announced his retirement Friday in an emotional Instagram post, closing the book on a remarkable 15-year career.

As he lay on the wood at Staples Center on that fateful night in 2007, writhing in pain as thousands collectively cringed at the sight of his deformed left leg, no one would have told you this NBA story would end not only on his terms, but also come with a trio of dazzling championship rings and a legacy of unbelievable tenacity. 

[RELATED: Shaun Livingston's five most memorable moments in five Warriors seasons]

"I want people to use my story to stand up, be strong-willed and persevere," Livingston said to ESPN's Marc J. Spears. "When the chips are down, I want you to understand the type of person I am."

Livingston has become an inspiration to many who have suffered catastrophic injuries of their own and plans to eventually release a memoir detailing his NBA odyssey.

Shaun Livingston's journey from horrific injury to Warriors NBA champion originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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