One game, one viral video. If it keeps up that way, viral videos might be part of the stat line for Eric Gaines and other members of the UAB basketball team.
The video came from Tuesday’s exhibition game win over Mississippi College. On the play, Gaines, a 6-foot-2, 165-pound transfer from LSU, playing in his first game for UAB, began his drive to the basket near midcourt, split a pair of defenders and was well over the rim as he finishes with a dunk. He then runs quickly to the other end, hangs in the air while a Choctaw player begins to shoot and then blocks the shot. He is up so high on the block, it appears he could have blocked it with his chest on a player listed at 6-foot-9.
The play was featured as one of the Top 10 plays on ESPN SportsCenter. The UAB men’s basketball Twitter site posted a video of the play. As of early Wednesday evening, less than 24 hours from when it happened, there were more than 870,000 views. ESPN posted the video on its Instagram site and it had been played more than 2.5 million times in less than 24 hours. That was just part of the social media impact of the video.
This from an exhibition game during a college basketball season that has yet to officially start.
“I think it’s pretty phenomenal that in an exhibition game, in a season where you got the World Series going on, you’re getting to the crux of the NFL, you’re in the grind of college football and we’re still a week away from starting college basketball and, yet, this is something that has captured the attention of the nation,” said UAB head coach Andy Kennedy.
During the summer, Gaines talked about viral videos he had been part of while playing basketball during high school in Lithonia, Georgia and at LSU.
“I’m not going to say every day but it’s kind of getting normal to me,” Gaines said at the time in an 1819 News story. “I don’t try to do stuff to go viral, but my game is a high-risk, high-reward player. If I do something, and it goes good, more than likely it’s going to go up somewhere. I don’t try to go viral. I’m just out there playing.”
Kennedy and the rest of the UAB basketball program certainly have seen it before.
“We knew what his potential was,” Kennedy said. “The reality is what he did in the exhibition game, which people were able to see, we see that, I don’t want to say daily but every three or four days, he’ll do something and you’re like ‘Wow, that’s pretty special.’ He had that video this summer, where we were able to split defenders and went in and dunked the ball. I just think it speaks to his potential, as a player. He’s an electric guy.”
It's become so common that Kennedy didn’t react to the dunk but, in a way, he wasn’t that surprised by the national reaction.
“Now, everything is social, everything is immediate, everything is, if you do something that is spectacular, like EG did, which is spectacular, it immediately gravitates toward a viral movement,” Kennedy said. “That’s the day and age which we live. What’s crazy is a lot of these social platforms, and people have certainly used it to their good, it’s all planned, it’s preordained. This is something in an exhibition game, he decides to jump from 10 feet out and go dunk on a couple players and go to the other end, kind of levitate in the air and block a shot. It is a natural ability for him. You could tell, even after he dunked the ball and our bench goes nuts, and I was excited for that, because I want our guys to be excited about their teammates. I didn’t even typically react. Then, the thing on the other end, it’s like, OK, that’s just Eric being Eric. We see it all the time and for it to get this traction on a national scale, it shows you the day and age which we live.”
This type of attention could also put more people in the Bartow Arena seats, which has been needed for years. The Blazers also appear to have a roster full of entertaining players, including Jelly Walker, who captured national attention last season, had his share of viral moments and Kennedy calls, “must-see TV because of his ability to create and make shots.”
Jelly Walker picks up where he left off pic.twitter.com/vAjTBr5wtn— UAB Men's Basketball (@UAB_MBB) November 1, 2022
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