Over 100 lucky young Londoners from CBL teams across the capital participated in a special LSB skills development clinic featuring yet another NBA star, in what seems to be a growing trend over at the Regal basketball court near central London.
Thanks to Barclays, the NBA and the Brooklyn Nets, star point guard Shaun Livingston was the guest of honour and joined up with LSB’s top coach Jay Williams in delivering a skills and drills masterclass with plenty of advice and ‘tips from the top’ to help the next generation of London basketballs future stars.
Livingston is a silky-smooth 6’7 point guard who plays for the Brooklyn Nets, who are in London for their clash against the Atlanta Hawks for the NBA Global Game at the O2 Arena. Originally selected by the LA Clippers as the 4th pick overall in the 2004 NBA draft, he was one of a small number of players to have been talented enough to make it to the NBA straight out of high school (ultimately opting not to go to Duke University). As a rookie, Livingston was a key part of the Clippers’ second best season in franchise history in the 2005-06 season, and was tipped by many to be the next great superstar at the point guard position. His combination of height, vision, passing ability, handle and an always ‘cool in the clutch’ temperament is seldom seen in the NBA.
Williams and Livingston took turns in demonstrating some of the moves and footwork from current NBA stars. “On the euro step watch how Manu (Ginobili) and D Wade push the ball out a little first, before they execute the euro step making the defender shift” Williams instructed.
Meanwhile, Livingston explained the importance for big players, such as the Kennington Generals 6’6″ youngster Joel Ufele, to play lower to the ground to increase agility, speed and quickness – all of which are essential in the NBA.
Livingston even took time out to join the young players in a set of push ups, demonstrating that NBA players also get down and do push ups as they represent an easy access exercise to help develop upper body and core strength without the need for equipment.
After the workout Livingston sat down with the whole group for a memorable Q&A session where he detailed his experiences in the NBA, including the horrific injury he suffered in a game against the Bobcats in 2007. In a freak accident, he dislocated and tore every ligament in his left knee, with many commentators, coaches and onlookers saying it was the worst basketball injury they had ever seen. Once in hospital, doctors even went as far to say that there was a very real possibility his leg would have to be amputated. Nobody expected him to be able to play basketball again, let alone return to the NBA. However, though faith, hard work and a love for the game that fueled his lengthy recovery, Livingston eventually made it back to the NBA against the odds, proving his will is even stronger than his excellent skills. As he explained:
“My strength of character and love for the game of basketball helped me to work my way back to where I am today”
– Shaun Livingston
During the session, Livingston also gave the fascinated young players insights into the real life of a NBA player. Fresh off of a transatlantic flight from Toronto (where the Nets had just played their last game against the Raptors), he explained how rigourous the schedule really is in the NBA. Between all of the team and individual practices, gym work, games and travelling – there really isn’t much time for anything else. Livingston also stressed how important it was for players to take care of their bodies as they didn’t get much sleep in the NBA, alongside the schedule it is a very physically and mentally demanding job. However he was quick to add “I wouldn’t have it any other way! I get to play the game I love night in and night out…and they (Nets/NBA) pay us a little too!”
After going on a roller-coaster career journey through the NBA so far, Livingston is now playing some of his best basketball of his career, backing up Derron Williams for the Nets and currently starting whist Williams recovers from an ankle injury.
Livingston recorded 19 points 11rebounds and 5 dimes against the defending NBA champions, Miami Heat, in one of his best showings of the season so far – displaying his full repertoire of skills. “They are our rivals because they are the champs and any time you can knock off the champs it feel good” said Livingston.
The Q&A ended with a rapturous applause followed by pictures with all the teams that attended, with Livingston going the ‘extra mile’ to make sure all LSB ballers got an opportunity to take pictures and ask any questions they had.
LSB’s top coach and Technical Director Jay Williams was certainly impressed: “We’ve been fortunate to host a number of NBA players here at The Regal and I always look out for those who are sincere and genuine with really wanting to give something back to the next generation. I was really impressed with Shaun and learnt some things myself today about his journey. He’s a great guy – very down to earth and was so humble and happy to spend time with the players, very inspirational!”
On behalf of the entire LSB – we wish Shaun every success for the rest of the season and beyond and hope he and his teammates have a great stay in London!
Follow Shaun on twitter @ShaunLivingston
*All pictures appear courtesy of Abigail Otoide