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Sundiata Gaines reflects on a frightening near-death experience from his childhood

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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New Jersey Nets guard Sundiata Gaines has bounced in and out of the NBA since making his debut with the Utah Jazz a year and a half ago, and though he's officially a free agent when and if the NBA ever begins its offseason, the Nets are likely to pick up the Brooklyn native's team option. Better yet, he'll serve as the lone Brooklynite on the team as the Nets attempt to move from New Jersey to Brooklyn in 2012.

With that symmetry in place, the New York Daily News decided to ask Gaines (via SLAM) about an incident from his childhood in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, that he's been hesitant to share until now.

Stefan Bondy has the report:

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.

Harrowing, to say the absolute least.

Gaines obviously survived, and has done quite well for himself, and a past like his makes NBA-related matters (say, the lockout; or Gaines' own fractured hip suffered last season) appear awfully trivial.

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