Shaun Livingston has forever redefined himself

It looked like Shaun Livingston’s career was doomed to injury until a late career boost reminded us of him for his role on an all-time team.

If you’d asked anyone about Shaun Livingston around 2013, they probably would have flinched and mentioned his gruesome knee injury.

NBA fans know all too well that injuries steal a player’s career, and it looked like we were about to witness another unfortunate situation involving the high school prospect who had once been compared to Magic Johnson.

Today, Livingston is remembered for his role on one of the greatest teams ever assembled, the Golden State Warriors in the mid-2010s.

He redefined his career and became one of my favorite players as a result. Backup point guards always fascinate me because it’s one of the most difficult roles in a basketball game, let alone the best league in the world. It’s like trying to get into the passenger seat of a moving car while trying to drive.

Livingston was special because he could check in, instantly see the flow of the game, and find a way to make an impact. There aren’t many players in the league who could do what he did, and his size and defensive versatility helped him play with and without Steph Curry — something that helped the Golden State Warriors start a dynasty in 2015 .

How did Shaun Livingston get here?

Before his injury, Shaun Livingston was a fourth pick in the 2004 draft and joined the struggling LA Clippers straight out of high school. At this point, he was still trying to establish himself as an elite guard in the league, but had shown potential with his size and athleticism.

The injury I’m alluding to happened during his third year with the Clippers, during which he tore his cruciate ligament, cruciate ligament and meniscus in a nasty fall, in addition to dislocating his left kneecap and dislocating his left leg broke. I would recommend anyone who hasn’t seen the video to leave it at that.

After the knee injuries, Shaun Livingston flew across the country trying to find a permanent home. He had stints in Miami, Oklahoma City, Washington, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Cleveland before signing with the Brooklyn Nets for the 2013-14 season.

He joined the “title-contending” networks, which had future Hall of Famers in Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, alongside All-Stars like Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Andrei Kirilenko. We all know how that story ended… While it may have worked out well for 2K, they only managed to win one series in the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors.

Williams, who was in his 29-year season, began falling away and it opened up time for his new backup, Shaun Livingston. It was something of a silver lining to the season that amidst the failures and aging stars, Shaun was able to play 76 games, including 54 starting games.

He averaged 8.3 points per game and 3.2 assists while shooting 48 percent from the floor, a career high at the time.

At the same time, the Golden State Warriors were thirsty for a backup point guard. And I mean Thirsty with a capital ‘T’.

After riding through underperforming options with Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Toney Douglas and Nemanja Nedovic (remember him?), the Warriors knew that was where they had to start the offseason.

(Side note, I remember when Golden State traded to Crawford before the deadline. At the time, he was averaging 13.7 points in 39 games for the Boston Celtics and looking solid for a tanking team. It didn’t pan out and he has spent the following two seasons in China.)

Livingston was one of Brooklyn’s best players, but with Mikhail Prokhorov paying through the nose for a “title contender,” the Nets were above the salary skirt, meaning that if any team showed up and offered him anything above the mid-level taxpayer exception , Brooklyn couldn’t keep up.

golden state offered him the full mid-level exemptionwhich gave him about $6 million more than Brooklyn could, and the deal was done.

Immediate effect

We know how things turned out for the Warriors, but the first big impact came from Stephen Curry. He was just making his first All-Star appearance at the time, but Mark Jackson’s pick-and-roll-heavy offense forced him to work hard for an entire season and failed in the playoffs.

But whenever he sat, the offense fell apart.

Contrast that to his first MVP and title season, and Steph’s minute load dropped from 36.5 to 32.7 despite barely seeing a drop in production. In fact, he became more effective.

There were several moving parts in this Golden State equation that led to Steph’s rise as one of the league’s elite, there was the move of Andre Iguodala to the bench, the rise of Draymond Green and the addition of Steve Kerr, but Livingston role cannot be overlooked.

The warriors knew that when Steph sat, we didn’t all look at our watches and wait for him to report back—Shaun would hold the fort.

His size for the position made him as an anomaly as Steph’s arsonist. If you were an opposing point guard, you would have to worry about Curry’s 3-point shot once he crosses the half court mark. Even if you were able to cover Steph and keep him calm, Shaun would dive in and put you straight into the low block.

His medium pull-ups (Hesi pull-up jimbo, if you will) were undefensible on halfcourt or in transition, and if you were of average height for your position, Livingston would just station you and do a decent post-fade over you. Only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and Shaun Livingston’s post-fades.

I once played a drinking game where we took a shot every time he did one of his signature middies – I didn’t show up for work on Monday

On the defensive side, he was quick enough to check out opposing guards, but his size suited Kerr’s shifting defense perfectly. It was big and strong enough to hold its own against the big ones, and being larger than some wings meant the Warriors didn’t lose in these duels either. Throw Iguodala and Draymond into the mix, and there are almost no weak links on that end.

This versatility also meant he could play the one alongside Klay Thompson or the two alongside Steph. When either was in trouble or when Kerr wanted to counter a particular matchup, the bank rotations stayed relatively similar.

In the playoffs, Livingston’s role remained the same, and he actually shot better in the playoffs than he did in the regular season. I don’t know anyone who wasn’t thrilled to have won their first NBA championship after everything they’ve been through.

The following season, Steph expanded his game again, becoming the first unanimous MVP and leading the league in over 30 points per game. He played fewer minutes this season and the Warriors often won so far that he almost rested in the fourth quarter.

Shaun Livingston increased his minute tally, his points per game, and his field goal percentage by almost four percentage points, all in his 30-year-old season. His role in Golden State was so well defined that it was perfect.

I love the backup point guard archetype and my favorite team had managed to sign the best backup point guard in the league. S.Dot could chime in, play at the pace of the game, or even exert his own influence by finding his own shot. He did this for a Warriors team that would go on to win the NBA’s best 73 games.

73 isn’t possible without elite talent throughout the squad and Livingston was the best at what he did.

Twilight dubs with David West

Things were about to change after the signing of Kevin Durant in the 2016 offseason, days after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors used to win games with their mantra “strength in numbers,” hitting you with depth and versatility. After signing KD, the Warriors had to sacrifice some of their depth and turn to cheap, ring-chasing veterans to fill out the roster.

Livingston, who was crucial to what they did at both ends, was a holdover from the previous team and had to redefine themselves yet again. It would be a lot easier this time.

Steve Kerr liked to always have two of his superstars on the court. Usually it was Steph and KD or Draymond and Klay. Those four started and finished the halves, but Kerr had to find a combination of role players to fill in the gaps with and without these guys.

That was a lot easier with one of the most versatile backups in the league.

Shaun could play with Steph or Klay and it wasn’t difficult to fit alongside Durant, who could score regardless of who was out there with him. He was also a good fit for Draymond as the two created huge problems for opposing offenses.

As an assistant coach, Luke Walton was always effusive in his praise for the Warriors’ bench unit. There was a time in history when Livingston and Walton actually shared space and made a pretty juicy bench combination of their own.

These atypical bench combinations (which were interesting enough for ESPN’s Zach Lowe to make a segment out of) became a staple of Livingston’s time in the Golden State.

Despite the big names and impressive goalscorers on the squad like KD, Steph and Klay, Shaun still did what he did best and the bench unit was a killer.

The two-man combination of Iguodala and Livingston posted an impressive 10.2 plus in over 700 minutes in 2016-17, while he and David West recorded a 6.1 plus in just under 600 minutes. That same season, the Warriors had the fifth most effective bench in the league, according to Hoops Stats, although only Livingston and Iggy made more than minimum salary.

David West was the ideal match for Livingston in the twilight of her career. Both had played for over a decade and found perfect roles as veterans outsmarting their opponents and overtaking them with featherweight textbook jumpers.

If you wanted to help one of their post ups they knew exactly where to cut to get an open view of the rim. When Shaun drew attention in the post and the cut was obscured, West was one of the league’s top middle-range shooters and provided an easy exit.

Shaun won two more titles while anchoring the dubs bank with D.West, and when he finished he wasn’t the guy with the gruesome knee injury, he was an elite backup on some of the best teams ever . And boy was it fun to watch.

Watch more reflections in our NBA at 75 series and subscribe to The Whiteboard to ensure you stay up-to-date with all of our latest NBA news and analysis. Shaun Livingston has forever redefined himself

John Verrall

John Verrall is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. John Verrall joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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