BY: KEITH RYAN CARTWRIGHT
JONESVILLE, La. - Chris Shivers' career could be defined by the two world titles he won.
His toughness could be illustrated by the time a bull reared up in the chute and slammed his face into a metal rail. He broke his jaw, cracked a facial bone, and shattered his eye socket, but missed only three months of competition. He would have been back sooner but for an eye infection.
His ability might be best proven by the ninety-two 90-point rides he's earned in a career in which he became the first PBR rider to earn $1 million, $2 million and $3 million.
But what truly set the Louisiana native apart was an unyielding desire to win.
'The PBR is way better off because Chris Shivers was part of it and is part of it.'
Ending months of speculation, Shivers recently said, "As far as being done, this is it for me. It's my last year."
In October, when his illustrious career comes to a close at the Thomas & Mack Center in what will be a PBR-record 15th World Finals appearance, Shivers is as much a shoo-in for the PBR Ring of Honor as any rider in history.
"He's the most hot-[stuff] thing the PBR has ever seen," said fellow two-time World Champion Justin McBride.
"I'm proud of him and for him," said PBR co-founder Cody Lambert. "The PBR is way better off because Chris Shivers was part of it and is part of it.
Chris Shivers won his first World Championship in 2000.
"He's done a lot for the PBR just from leading by example - by being a great bull rider and not being a diva and crybaby athlete. He's a great bull rider, a quiet cowboy, treats people with respect, and he will kick your [butt] if you mess with him. That is Chris Shivers. That's not something you see on the big screen. Those guys who are heroes in movies - quiet, nice, shy people, who if you mess with them they'll kick your [butt] - Chris Shivers is really that guy."
Shivers was born and raised in Jonesville, La. He lives there today.
At 13, he got on his first bull at one of several local practice pens, and a year later he "made a pretty decent living." Unlike other teens who traveled together, he drove to events with his parents, and returned home at night.
"I went for one reason, and one reason only," he recalled. "I didn't go to play and go out at night. I was there to win, and I won more than a lot of people at a young age."
At 15, he won a brand-new truck. By the time he was 16, he was winning money at every event he entered. "I was riding against the big boys," Shivers said. "I was young, but I went to all the bigger bull ridings and I was paying my own way."
'He did his entire career as a professional bull rider in the PBR. What that means is his entire career was going up against the best bulls in the world - getting on the rank ones.'
Since turning pro at age 18, every event he's ridden in has been a PBR-sanctioned event. Not once has he ever competed for any other association, organization or league.
"I'll always be involved with the PBR as long as they'll allow me to," he said. "I'm one of the guys that have been faithful to the PBR the entire time that I've been here. For how many ever years I've been riding, that's all I've ever done."
"In a way, he is a pioneer," Lambert said. "He did his entire career as a professional bull rider in the PBR. What that means is his entire career was going up against the best bulls in the world - getting on the rank ones."
THE ROAD TO GREATNESS
"Everyone who remembers Chris coming around as an 18-year-old remembers knowing that he was going to be the World Champion," Lambert recalled. "I know for me personally, I didn't have to watch him ride five bulls or 10 bulls or half the season before I decided this kid is good. I had to see him ride one bull."
His fundamentals were nearly flawless.
Whatever the reason - skill, size, strength - Chris Shivers can dress up a bull ride like no one else.
He's small and strong, a winning combination.
"He's so tiny, and he rides like he's huge," McBride said. "He went at them."
It didn't take long for Shivers to prove just how fearless he was. Lambert said the newcomer was 18 or 19 years old when a bull hit him in the head. "It just hammered him," Lambert said. "He came back and rode just as good. He was fearless."
Early in his career he traveled with Bubba Dunn and Norman Curry. Lambert said both are great riders who aren't remembered nearly as much as they should be, and that Shivers learned how to ride, compete and become a champion by traveling with them.
Shivers, Lambert said, took the best parts from each of them "and then raised that to a better level than they were."
Later in his career he traveled with PRCA World Champion Mike White.
In 1997, he was the Touring Pro Division Champion. In 1999, he won the Lane Frost/Brent Thurman Award for the first time (he would do it again in 2001). In 2000, he claimed the TPD title for a second time, and won his first PBR World Championship.
In 2003, he became the second two-time World Champion in PBR history.
"Chris Shivers never had to learn how to take defeat," Lambert explained. "He showed up and he could win."
'Chris Shivers never had to learn how to take defeat. He showed up and he could win.'
In three of his first five years in the PBR, he set single-season earnings records. He was the first rider to reach $1 million, $2 million and $3 million. He currently ranks second in all-time career earnings with $3.8 million, and he's third on the all-time list of event wins with 21. He's won as many as five in a single season; three times he won three.
Shivers has always been known for being flashy and quick, and even today he's still able to get the most out of every bull.
He not only has nearly double the total number of 90-point rides (92) than any other rider (Guilherme Marchi comes closest with 52), but he also has more than 60 rides marked between 88 and 89.75 points.
It's unknown how many of those 150-plus rides resulted in round wins, or, as Lambert asked, how many times he might have bucked off at 7.8 or 7.9 "when he was fixing to be 90 points."
"That's one judge being a point different on a bull," said McBride. "Chris Shivers was built to be 90. I think he really thrived on it.
"There's no telling how long if ever somebody will beat that. That's not one or two good years to get to that, that's a career of greatness."
Chris Shivers collected his second World Championship buckle in 2003.
He has five scores among the 50 highest in PBR history, including two of the four highest scores of all time at 96.5 points.
In 2000, Shivers was in Tampa, Fla., when he rode Jim Jam for 96.5 points to tie Dunn's mark, which was set a year earlier. A year later, he matched it when he covered Dillinger at the World Finals.
"Everything that I do, I go to the extreme with it," Shivers said.
"He got the most out of every bull," Lambert said.
Speculation about Shivers' retirement began in earnest at the end of the 2008 season, when McBride retired. It reached a high point in 2010 with the retirement of Shivers' best friend White.
"People can speculate," said McBride, whose own decision to retire at the age of 30 was second-guessed, "but nobody can make that decision for him. He has to make it for himself, and he knows that better than anybody."
Shivers admitted it's been hard listening to others talk about his future.
"It's kind of like getting your teeth knocked out," he explained. "You get reminded of that one thing every day. That's just what they're going to talk about. They're not going to talk about the time you were 90 and you this or that. They're going to talk about all the wrecks or all the negative things. That bothers me.
"I'm going out the way I want to. Nobody is forcing me to do anything. I have too many doubts now that this isn't where I need to be. … I still think I can beat these guys if I dedicate my heart and soul into it, but I don't think I can."
While sitting on planes, he thinks about the things he could be doing at home. In the locker room, he thinks about things he would rather be doing.
Speaking only from his own experience, McBride said it's a strange feeling to no longer want to do something one has done for so many years. "It was also a huge relief that I didn't have to do it anymore," McBride said.
'You knew there was a chance of something monumental and exciting about to happen every time he came out of the chute.'
Lambert said while others might be sad to see Shivers walk away from the sport, he's happy for him. "He gets to go on to the next phase of his life with something," Lambert said. "He earned everything he has."
Shivers and his wife Kylie, who married following the 2001 season, have two sons, Brand and Blayne.
Lambert remembers a BFTS event shortly after Brand was born, when a profile of Shivers was shown on a big screen in the arena.
Shivers was in the chute.
"It showed a picture of his son on the screen, at the back of the arena, and you could see Chris look up to watch it and smiling," Lambert said. "He was so focused on watching that baby, but then he went back to business and you just knew he was going to ride that bull, because he was riding for a different reason than just himself."
Lambert later added, "What's so cool about it is that we got to see Chris Shivers grow up. He was a kid when he came, and then he was a champion, and then he got married and started a family."
The Shivers family lives on a ranch where they raise cattle, and hunt and fish together. He built a covered arena and has hosted bull riding schools, calf roping events and, most recently, a junior bull riding event featuring mini bulls.
Shivers said he's happy to have created so many opportunities at home with his family, and that he no longer thinks about bull riding nonstop.
Even late in his career, Chris Shivers' rides are positively electric.
"If you're not willing to do that, then winning a World Championship is pretty farfetched," said Shivers, who only sees one reason to ride bulls-winning.
"It's going to suck that he's not there to bring you that level of excitement," said McBride, who credits Shivers with pushing him throughout his own 10-year career.
"It's that way in any sport. Before Brett Favre went crazy that's the way he was. He made it so exciting to watch, and you knew that something special could happen any time the ball was snapped. That's the way Chris Shivers' whole career has been. You knew there was a chance of something monumental and exciting about to happen every time he came out of the chute.
"I think there's going to be a void there right now," McBride continued. "Maybe someday, 50 years from now, somebody like him will come along, but it'll be a long time."
UP NEXT: Shivers will compete at the Atlanta Invitational this weekend. Action from the Georgia Dome will be broadcast Saturday on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus - same number, new name) at 9 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. CT, 7 p.m. MT, and 6 p.m. PT.
© PBR Canada, Inc. 2013