Sundiata Gaines is a bit of an NBA cult hero for his game winning shot in Utah. He’s one of those guys who has fought hard (and won fans) the past few seasons as he tried to find stable footing in the NBA. He was last with the Nets and the team may pick up his option whenever the lockout ends, but Gaines has free agency staring him in the face. Again.
But that is nothing like the fight he had as a child just to survive.
In a freak accident Gains was shot in the neck on a Brooklyn street at the age of four. It’s a powerful story he retold to the New York Daily News.
He’s 4 years old, decades from becoming a point guard on the Nets. He’s standing in front of a photocopy store, looking in the window while waiting for his brother to return from the supermarket. The family needs groceries, or maybe something else. Gaines can’t remember. A man with a suitcase walks up to the store. He’s an off duty police officer, an NYPD detective, but that’s not understood until later.
The suitcase drops.
“I knew something was wrong. I knew I was bleeding,” Gaines says. “I didn’t want to touch it, but my mother was over there panicking. It kind of felt like a quick sting. I was kind of alert at the moment. I was calm. And then my mother started panicking, then I’m in a state of panic – what’s going on, what’s going on.”
Gaines was shot in the neck. The bullet went through the right side and out the back under his hairline. One inch in another direction and it would have ripped through his jugular vein, killing the toddler. Somehow the impact between the sidewalk and the suitcase triggered the gun inside, and apparently Gaines was standing in the wrong place.
Gaines obviously survived and just won a lot more fans around the NBA, I think. Let’s hope he stick with the Nets — the Brooklyn native getting to help the team open the new Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn in 2012 seems the ultimate poetic reward.