As a nomad bouncing about the NBA for eight years while trying to overcome a knee injury so severe it nearly ended his career at age 21, Shaun Livingston yearned for a place where he could drop his suitcase, slip out of his shoes, pour a glass of wine and settle into a chair to call his own.
Livingston found a “home” in the Bay Area, specifically in Oakland, with the Warriors. He is the only player in the modern era of the NBA to reach the Finals in each of the last five seasons of his career.
It was not until his experience Oakland that Livingston achieved the symmetry that comes with immense gratification on the court but off.
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Now four years into retirement, Livingston in a phone conversation with NBC Sports Bay Area delivered a message for Oakland, with his permission to be shared with the rest of the Bay:
This simple expression of appreciation runs counter to the headlines threatening to smother Oakland. The magnification of crime issues not uncommon in America. The Warriors leaving in 2019. The town’s NFL team, the Raiders, packing up and moving out in 2020. The MLB A’s continue to prioritize inventing and reinventing efforts to move over investing in the product.
Livingston had an entirely different experience. Oakland is where his life came into focus. He had a consistent role with the Warriors, winning three championships, making new friends and starting a family. Memories of The Town always will warm his heart.
Golden State Warriors
“The Bay!” Livingston said, raising his voice. “Being in Oakland, the fans, seeing the passion that the Bay had. The diversity. All of it was attractive. And they accepted me as one of their own. It was good.
“The first thought that comes to mind is, ‘Thank you!’ The fans, and I’m talking about the real ones, the people that were there before there was the Splash Brothers, before all the nicknames and brands. To the real fans and the people that supported the team and the players, investing their time and energy and money, I just want to say: ‘Thank you.’”
Living in Oakland and being affiliated with the Warriors as a player and a member of the front office since 2014, Livingston – who spent nearly two years commuting between Oakland and Las Vegas – in June moved full-time to Vegas, joining his wife and their two young daughters.
Shaun and his wife Joanna, who grew up in Vegas, were visible in the East Bay community, whether making appearances at various civic functions or sipping and buying at their favorite wine bar, Bay Grape, on Grand Avenue in Oakland.
“It was the timing,” Livingston, 37, said of his decision to leave Golden State’s front office. “It was more about home and family, watching my kids grow up. Being there for the kids. They’re at the age where I want to be more involved. I don’t want to miss out on those moments.
“This was about doing what’s important. I don’t want to look back and regret this. I’d rather regret not working with the Warriors than not being there with my kids.”
Consider this another decision based on stability. Having played for eight different franchises before becoming a free agent and signing with Golden State, Livingston came to value presence and permanence during his time with the Warriors.
Eligible for free agency in the summer of 2015-16 season, after the Warriors posted a league-record 73 wins but lost a seven-game NBA Finals, Livingston agreed to re-sign minutes after the negotiation period opened.
“Can’t put a price on happiness,” he texted at the time.
The first two seasons were a launchpad for three more. General manager Bob Myers exhaled. Head coach Steve Kerr and his assistants rejoiced, as did the Livingston’s teammates.
The man referred to as “Dot” heard it all and was compelled to answer the call of Oakland, the whispers of Oracle Arena.
“My life changed within those first two years,” he said. “Just because of the visibility and what we were able to do, playing on the highest level, on the biggest stage. It’s hard to replace that. But the people are what made it special. We had a great group of guys, and we were able to do some amazing things. We came up short (in the Finals) and that was heartbreaking.
“The main three components with the decision to come back were the people: Bob, Steve and the players, the friendships that were created. We had something special. There was the family element, and then wanting to come back better than before.”
A few days after Livingston agreed to return, the Warriors persuaded free agent Kevin Durant to come to the Bay. The reconstructed roster raced to back-to-back championship seasons.
After Golden State’s pursuit of a three-peat ended with devastating injuries to Klay Thompson and Durant in the 2019 Finals, Livingston spent the first two months of summer pondering retirement before making it official in September, his departure coinciding with the team leaving Oracle.
“I was grateful that we got a lot of love in the Bay,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong; I know everybody loves a winner. That comes with the territory. However, this goes back that organic authenticity. We felt a lot of that love in the Bay. We felt it specifically in the East Bay and Oakland. They support you and they want to see you win.
“I’m just grateful that I could be a part of a team like that in a location like the Bay Area.”
Even now, Livingston considers Oakland his second home, after Peoria, Ill., where he was born.
Vegas? It’s a place to live. It’s where he embraces the life of a husband and father. For now, nothing could be more gratifying.