Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston speaks during a news conference after Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

In Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals, the Splash Brothers were not at their best for the Golden State Warriors. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for just 20 points on 8-of-27 shooting (29.6 percent). And yet, the Dubs cruised to a 15-point victory.

The Warriors’ bench — chiefly, backup guard Shaun Livingston — acted as the catalyst.

Livingston finished the game with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting (4-of-4 from the free throw line). It was the first time this season (regular season or playoffs) that Livingston led the Warriors in scoring, and certainly his best performance of the 2016 postseason. It could not possibly have come at a better time.

The veteran was unstoppable from mid-range, using his lanky 6-foot-7 frame to shoot over Cavaliers defenders — completely unfazed by outstretched arms attempting to contest his looks.

He took over down the stretch, milking his hot hand and guiding Golden State to the victory. But you may recall, there was once a time in which it was genuinely unclear whether Livingston would ever walk again — much less play basketball at such a high level.

In a game against the Charlotte Bobcats on Feb. 26, 2007, Livingston crumpled to the floor following a breakaway, suffering a gruesome knee injury.

Warning: The video below may be unsettling to some viewers.


Shaun Livingston – Broken Knee by Stylz

Almost every part of Livingston’s knee was shot. He sustained a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and lateral meniscus. He also dislocated his patella and tibia-femoral joint, per the Associated Press.

Deadspin’s Drew Magary wrote of Livingston, “The guy had a bomb go off inside his leg,” which somehow doesn’t even sound like hyperbole.

Jonathan Abrams penned a feature for Grantland (RIP) about Livingston in 2013 that recalled the aftermath of the injury in haunting detail. The damage to the 21-year-old’s knee was so catastrophic that there was a chance Livingston could have lost his leg to amputation.

Following the injury, Livingston missed the entire 2007-08 season. The Los Angeles Clippers released him on July 10, 2008.

He returned for the 2008-09 season after he signed with the Miami Heat, but played just 12 games split between Miami and the Oklahoma City Thunder. Throughout his first six seasons after being drafted No. 4 overall in 2004, the promising high school product missed 299 of a possible 492 regular season games (60.7 percent).

Thereafter, Livingston finally started to get his legs back under him. He played 73 games for Charlotte in 2010-11, then bounced around with Milwaukee, Washington and Cleveland before landing with the Brooklyn Nets — for whom he played 76 games (54 starts) in 2013-14.

Since joining up with the Warriors, Livingston has been absent for just eight games in two seasons. He’s anchored one of the NBA’s best second units, winning a championship in 2015 and contributing to a record-setting 73-win club this season.

In a true “game recognizing game” moment, LeBron James said after the loss, “Obviously the game ball goes to Shaun Livingston,” per NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper. Regardless of how the series plays out, we’ll undoubtedly remember this as the “Livingston Game.”

It was the high point of Livingston’s career — a career that nearly ended before his 22nd birthday. Nobody is more deserving of such a shining moment, given everything the 30-year-old had to go through just to get back to playing the game he loves.