ATLANTA: As the Cavaliers prepared to take the floor to face the New Orleans Hornets on Sunday night, Louisville’s NCAA Tournament game against Duke was playing on one of the televisions in the locker room. Cavs coach Byron Scott was watching live when Kevin Ware’s leg buckled under him and quickly his mind flashed back to Cavs guard Shaun Livingston.
“I thought Shaun’s was worse,” Scott said. “That kind of tells you how bad Shaun’s was.”
While Ware lay crumpled on the court Sunday with part of his tibia exposed through the skin, his horrific injury was immediately labeled the most gruesome and graphic in sports. Teammates held Ware’s arms and hands as the training staff attended to him, players from both teams wiped away tears and Louisville coach Rick Pitino conceded that he almost vomited when he discovered the severity of the injury.
If anyone can understand the type of pain Ware was in at that moment, it’s likely Livingston, who suffered his own gruesome knee injury six years ago while playing for the Los Angeles Clippers.
Livingston was going up for a layup when his knee — and all the ligaments inside it — essentially exploded. He tore three major ligaments in his knee and damaged his kneecap, tibia and femur.
Livingston didn’t see Ware’s injury live Sunday and has no interest in watching a replay. He has never seen a replay of his own injury.
Livingston doesn’t pretend to be a medical expert, but he’s fairly well-versed in these types of injuries given what he has endured. Livingston believes Ware’s recovery will actually be easier than his own.
“It’s a fracture, not a ligament,” Livingston said. “From what I know, usually structural damage is a lot better than joint damage. It’s an easier rehab process. I think it was probably the shock effect of what happened, from what I heard. It’s a lot better than joints — knees, hips, ankles, shoulder.”
Livingston estimates it took him nearly three years to deem himself fully healthy, but his game has never been the same. Some reports have estimated Ware’s recovery time at six months.
Livingston hasn’t reached out to Ware yet but hasn’t ruled out doing it in the future. Right now he said he wants to leave the kid alone because he has enough to worry about. Shortly after his injury, Livingston turned off his cellphone and changed all of his numbers.
“You’ve got to focus on the positive. That’s something I would tell him,” he said. “Obviously it’s big with the media, it’s big with the fans. Hey, if they feed off that stuff, it’s great. But you have to feed on the positive. That’s what’s going to bring you back. A lot of the process is mental.”
When the attention dissipated and the media turned to the next big story, Livingston said his family, his faith and his positive energy carried him through the dark days of recovery.
“People close to you keep you going every day, make you laugh, make you smile, so you’re not just constantly focusing on the injury situation,” he said. “Right now that’s what everybody wants to talk about, but after a couple months, after a year, it’s not going to be talked about. It’s fresh in everybody’s mind. He just has to focus on his road ahead and he’ll be fine.”
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