Growing Up ... Shaun Livingston

April 2, 2013
Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston was one of the Cavaliers key additions – signing with the Wine and Gold on Christmas Day and solidifying the backcourt while the Cavaliers continue to get healthy. In his 11 starts with the Cavaliers, Livingston has tallied double-figures in every game but one.

In today’s installment of Growing Up, the angular point guard – who was still growing up when the L.A. Clippers made him the 4th overall pick of the 2004 NBA Draft – talks about his AAU days in Peoria, his first dunk in high school and what it was like as a wide-eyed teenager in Tinseltown ...

I come from an athletic …family. My dad was athletic, he played football. But my mom was the hoopster. I get the basketball stuff from my mom’s side.

Her brothers all … played ball. One of them played overseas, actually, in Germany for a couple years. He played at the University of Reno-Nevada. So, they’re like 6-4, 6-7, 6-9. That’s where I get my size.

I have three …sisters – all younger.

The middle two girls … don’t play ball, but my youngest sister does. She’s going to Illinois on a basketball scholarship.

My dad was … very influential – from the early, early, early stages. He was on me, just with sports in general. He just wanted me to do something, be active. And he saw I had a knack.

He was very instrumental … in the early stages – just getting me into the game. And then, from there, my godfather – (he and my dad went to school together) – was a big influence. And he was very instrumental as well. He had his own basketball academy.

I’ve had all kinds of good coaches, but … constantly, it was my family. My dad and my godfather, they really played a vital role in developing me.

I started thinking …hoops could be something in probably sixth, seventh grade. That’s when I started focusing on just basketball.

Up until then …I had played all sports – football, basketball, baseball, soccer, track. (I still did track in seventh and eighth grade, just because it didn’t interfere with the season.) But at that point, football was over. Baseball was over.

I didn’t have a huge …growth spurt. I grew steady. I was always tall for my age. I was always skinny, the skinniest kid in the class, always.

The biggest jump was …between ninth and tenth grade. I went from about 5-10, 5-11 to 6-3. That’s a lot in one summer. I grew that much, but I didn’t put on any weight with it. So I was even skinnier.

I wear the same … size shoes (size 14) as I did in eighth grade.

Yeah, my metabolism …is through the roof. But it’s a good thing to have now that I’m getting older.

At 6-3, I played … varsity my freshman year. And we had a big squad. Our big guys were 6-7, 6-8. We had legit bigs.

And I was so … so rail-thin that, even though I was tall, I was the skinniest one out there. Guards were weighing way more than me.

I was doing very well … in seventh, eighth grade, but when I got to varsity, I really struggled. Guys were just too big, too fast and too strong.

That’s a big physical difference … when you’re that young – from age 14 to age 18. Some of these guys were in their prime. Some of these guys have been built the same way since ninth grade.

I was really …struggling. It wasn’t until my junior year, when my body really caught up to the growth sport.

There was interest … from the NBA, but it probably got serious in August before my senior year. We had the Las Vegas Big-Time Tournament – that was the biggest AAU tournament there was, put on by Sonny Vaccaro.

I had a pretty good …showing in that. After that, it was rumored that I’d get drafted all the way through.

Getting drafted by L.A. that young …was definitely a deer-in-the-headlights experience. It was totally surreal.

At the time …I don’t think I realized how big it was. It was more like, ‘I’m just going to put my head down and play and not get caught up in all the things going on around me; just focus on being the best I could be and do what I’m supposed to do.’

But looking back … it really was a big deal. And rightfully so. They kind of gave me the reigns. ‘The ball is yours; we want you to be our guy.’

Being that young … with that much money, that much popularity, on that scene in that city. It’s a lot coming at you at 18. Hell, there are guys going into college that are just learning to wash their own drawers.

Luckily, I had … some really great people around me. I had a great supporting cast that helped hold me together. And luckily, I was somewhat mature for my age anyway.

Naturally, I remember my …my first dunk. I had just turned 16. It was my sophomore year, only a couple years before I was in the league.

I remember because …I was in P.E. class when I did it. It wasn’t practice. We were just messing around. I jumped off two feet. I jumped and I barely threw it down, just my fingertips.

But I got it down … and it went through. It was like an epiphany, like the choir of angels! It was like: “I have arrived!”

And I definitely remember …my first one in a game. It was my sophomore year – I think it was against the Champagne Centennial team. I was at Peoria Richwood, my first high school.

I dunked again off …two legs. But it was my first game dunk, so I was super excited! I had dunked in practice, so people had seen it. But having the crowd see it – the rush of it! We could’ve lost that game by 30, but back then, 16-year-old me was thinking: “I dunked, everybody! Appreciate me! Witness greatness!!”