It's not noteworthy if an NBA player averages five points in 20 minutes per game seven years into his career. It is noteworthy if that player had an injury so gruesome, he was told initially by a doctor he might need to have his leg amputated.
The NBA can never have enough comeback stories. In a league filled with polarizing personalities, sometimes the quiet ones are the most compelling. Whether it's about Marquis Daniels' rap career or Tim Duncan opening an auto shop, little stories can speak loudly, especially when contrasted with things like the never-ending Dwight Howard saga.
Jonathan Abrams profiled former Clippers' pick Shaun Livingston, now a backup point guard for the Cavaliers, in Grantland.
Livingston flew to Birmingham to visit two of the foremost experts on knee injuries: Dr. James Andrews and Dr. William Clancy performed the reconstruction. Livingston's range of motion was similar to a 90-year-old the day after the surgery. Doctors flexed his knee that day. One placed a hand on Livingston's thigh. Another lifted the leg forcibly. "It was almost like watching somebody trying to bend steel," Jones said.
Livingston rehabilitated in Alabama for two weeks before returning to Los Angeles. His life became about milestones, ones that would have seemed meager to almost anyone, let alone an NBA player, only a month or two earlier. Walk, then run. "Getting his range back in the beginning of the early stages," said Dr. Judy Seto, now the Lakers' head physical therapist, who worked daily with Livingston. "And just getting him off crutches, getting his kneecap to move again. And then getting his legs to work again, his legs to fire again, to turn on the muscles again, to walk, just do his normal activity. Once that is more normalized, [you then] get him back on a bike, an elliptical, in a pool, so you can actually start to move the leg a little better to get you ready for running."
Since joining the Heat for a brief stint in the 2008-09 season, Livingston bounced around, playing for five different teams (including the Wizards twice) before Cleveland picked him up off waivers. He immediately became an integral veteran bench player on a team desperate for leadership. And there's little doubt Livingston's attitude -- playing with found money -- has had an impact.
As Abrams wrote, "Shaun Livingston is still in search of a permanent NBA home."
But the fact there is still a home for Livingston in the NBA is almost a miracle in and of itself. And while many (including Livingston) may never be able to watch replays of his injury, at the very least Shaun Livingston is again giving us a reason not to look away.