His NBA dreams squashed time and again, former Georgia basketball star Sundiata Gaines displays the basketball lives of a cat.
Sundiata Gaines basketball career reflects his life – a life of second chances.
At four years old, Gaines waited outside a Brooklyn photocopy store while his mom shopped. In a freak accident, a suitcase carried by an undercover New York Police Department detective dropped to the sidewalk, discharging a gun secured within – the bullet piercing Gaines’ neck.
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“It kind of felt like a quick sting, Gaines told Stefan Bondy of nydailynews.com “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.”
An ambulance arrived and the medics cut off Gaines’ clothes. “I remember details like it was yesterday.”
The bullet passed through Gaines’ neck. Had it passed an inch in another of several different directions, the toddler’s life would have ended.
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Gaines told Bondy the incident continues to affect him. “It reminds me, you got a second chance at life, so you’re here for a reason.”
Gaines life continues to reflect his second chance opportunity more than two decades later.
A star at Georgia, Gaines suffered though the four darkest of years of Georgia basketball, finally reborn as a senior during the Bulldogs miracle run through the 2008 SEC Tournament.
Undrafted and uninvited to NBA training camp, Gaines trudged off to Europe for the 2008-2009 season. While there, he earned a chance in the NBA D-League for the 2009-2010 season and received a late Christmas present in January of 2010, a ten-day contract with the Utah Jazz. Gaines played immediately, averaging seven minutes a night and hitting a game winner to offset a furious twenty point LeBron James fourth quarter in day eight of his ten-day contract.
Gaines finished the season playing in 32 games. In 2010-2011, he played in 48 games spread out between the Raptors, Timberwolves, Jazz, and Nets.
Sticking with the Nets for the 2011-2012 season, the NBA lockout in 2011 provided Gaines with another setback and another chance at a basketball rebirth. Gaines bided his time playing in the Republic of Georgia and eventually played in 59 games with the Nets in the shortened 2011-2012 season.
But at age 26, that was the end of Gaines NBA career, so far. Securing a spot in the summer league with Detroit, the Bulldog is fighting back again.
In the NBA summer league at the age of 29, Gaines is giving his best shot, again, this time with the Detroit Pistons. And while things looked bleak on Saturday for the former Jazz, Raptor, Timberwolve and Net, on Sunday he pulled extensive minutes for the Pistons. While collecting no points, the question is, does Gaines have enough value as a court general, defensive specialist and practice player to claim a roster spot and another second chance?