OAKLAND • Shaun Livingston injured his left leg so badly during a 2007 National Basketball Association (NBA) game that there was talk of amputation. He needed months of rehabilitation just to walk again.
So when the defending champions Golden State Warriors needed a spark off the bench to fight off a Cleveland Cavaliers rally in Thursday's Game 1 of the NBA Finals, it was no surprise he had the grit and determination to see them through.
The 30-year-old shooting guard scored 20 points to lead seven double-figure scorers as the Warriors beat the Cavaliers 104-89.
Their reserves outscored the Cavaliers' bench 45-10.
"Obviously the game ball goes to Shaun Livingston," Cavaliers star LeBron James said.
Golden State's Klay Thompson added: "Shaun Livingston played out of his mind."
In a February 2007 game against Charlotte, Livingston - then with the Los Angeles Clippers - dislocated his left kneecap after landing awkwardly following a shot. His leg snapped sideways, tearing ligaments and dislocating his patella.
The horrific injury required 20 months of recovery work before he was able to return to the NBA.
After coming back from that, it is hard to imagine being discouraged by anything rival defenders throw at him in a game.
"Shaun's a guy who has battled through much more than having to step up in a game," said Warriors forward Draymond Green.
"He has been from the top to the bottom and back. And when you go through so much in life and his career, I mean, it makes stepping up in the game easy."
Livingston hit 8-of-10 shots, grabbed four rebounds and dished out three assists. He sparked a 15-0 Warriors run over the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth that broke open a tight game for good.
"Shaun stepping up the way he did was huge for us, along with the rest of the bench," Green said.
Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry finds Livingston especially tough to stop when he defends against him in practice.
"Sometimes there's really nothing you can do about it. You try to just contest his shot, but sometimes he won't even see you," Curry said.
"I'll play the best defence of my life and he'll knock down a shot."