Sundiata Gaines Was Shot in the Neck at the Age of 4

by November 11, 2011

Sundiata Gaines, a point guard for the New Jersey Nets (best known for having played a dramatic role in one random game as a Utah Jazz member), tells the NY Daily News about a harrowing experience when he was a toddler: “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. An ambulance arrived and the medics cut off his clothes. ‘I remember details like it was yesterday,’ he says. To the average person, a vivid preschool memory might be as innocuous as a climb up the monkey bars, or as special as the first time setting eyes on a sibling. For Gaines, it’s getting accidentally shot by a police officer blocks away from what would become the Barclays Center. It’s sitting in a hospital for two weeks, sometimes alone. It’s carrying around shock and silence for years, allowing it to ‘kind of become me as a person.’ Then it’s transforming the experience into inspiration. ‘It reminds me, you got a second chance at life, so you’re here for a reason,’ he says.”