Shaun Livingston was the almost-Devil. He committed to Duke then decided to go straight to the NBA which high school seniors could then do. Had he signed with Duke, the Blue Devils might have won the 2004 national championship (then again, maybe not: Duke lost because Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams both fouled out trying to guard UConn’s Omeka Okefor. Duke was winning until he fouled out; after that, the game was essentially over).
He would have made a big difference though.
We kept up with him in the NBA anyway because we liked him and thought he would become a good player.
Then it happened.
And by it, well anyone who saw it will never forget it and likely just got a shudder. It was one of the worst injuries imaginable. His leg was nearly amputated.
At that point, his story changed rather dramatically.
It went from being a rising star to someone who made a determined and gritty comeback, who won enduring respect for his refusal to give up, his willingness to do whatever it took to get back.
The injury took place in early 2007; he didn’t fully come back until 2013 when he made an impact for Brooklyn.
The following year he signed with Golden State where he forged a third legacy. After his injury and his steely comeback, Livingston became a key member of the Warriors and helped the team win three titles.
For decades to come when guys are trying to come back from devastating injuries, he’s going to be the guy who is pointed to as the model. No one thought he could do it, much less become a critical player on championship teams.
Well he did. And when he announced his retirement on Friday, Livingston, more than just about any player in NBA history, departs knowing that he could not have worked any harder, that every check he cashed he fully earned and that not just every teammate but every player in the league, past, present and future, every person who loves the game of basketball points to him as an inspirational figure.
Because if he can overcame what he overcame, then no one else can possibly have any excuse for not giving their all every time.
The man is a sports hero and a great American archetype as well and he is not the latter because he is the former. He is an American archetype because of his heart and his unwillingness to give up when it would have been so easy.
That part of Sean Patrick Livingston is something we can all admire and hope that we could match if our circumstances were as dire as his were.
The guy is every inch a champion. We wish him the very best of luck wherever life takes him.