If you know who Aron Baynes is, give yourself a pat on the back. The truth is, only some basketball fans recognize who the guy is, much less give you all five teams he played for. But if you care about what happened to Aron Baynes, this article will surely pique your interest. After all, the guy fought back from the jaws of a horrific spinal cord injury in 2020. Just the story about Baynes’ grit and fight deserved to be heard.
Who is Aron Baynes?
Before diving head-first into that horror story, here’s a look back at the NBA career of Aron Baynes. He was not a star by any means, but he was a superstar in his role– a bruising big man who could defend, rebound, and knock down the occasional long ball.
Overview of His NBA Career
The Australian-born Aron Baynes played college ball at Washington State for four years. His college numbers weren’t anything special, so he went undrafted in 2009 and played for three years in Lithuania.
After a stint in Europe, the NBA came calling. It was the San Antonio Spurs, and they were interested in having Baynes in the fold. Call it good luck or just plain old hard work, the Spurs coincidentally went to the NBA Finals in Baynes’ first two seasons. They lost in seven games to the Heat in heartbreaking fashion in 2013 but returned the favor next year by demolishing Miami in five games.
At this point, it was clear that Baynes’ role would be a backup or third-string big who could be a part of a championship team. He didn’t get much playing time behind Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, and Tiago Splitter. Still, Baynes was able to fulfill his limited role, and even got a bit of playing time in Games 3 to 5 of the NBA Finals.
Life after San Antonio was bittersweet. He couldn’t replicate the Spurs’ success elsewhere, but his role expanded. He played the primary backup big role in Detroit for two seasons and was solid. Baynes showed the same numbers for another two seasons in Boston– solid but not eye-popping.
It wasn’t until he got to Phoenix via trade that Baynes was able to unlock his all-around game. The Aussie big man averaged 11.5 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 1.6 APG while shooting 35% from deep in four attempts. His last NBA team was the Toronto Raptors, but he was waived before the season ended.
Baynes’ last NBA game was on May 16, 2021, against the Indiana Pacers, when he tallied 14 points, 10 rebounds, and two blocks.
Is Aron Baynes Still Playing in the NBA?
What really happened to Aron Baynes in his NBA career? As a 36-year-old playing a young man’s game, his days are already numbered. A team may choose a prospect to fill a third-string center role, hitting two birds with one stone: save money and develop a young guy. Apparently, no NBA team is convinced Baynes can help at this point, although the door has not been permanently closed yet.
But here’s the thing. If not for the aforementioned spinal injury he suffered in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, teams may have taken a flier on Baynes. The recovery period was more extended than any injury he sustained, which led many to ask, “Is Aron Baynes paralyzed?” Fortunately, he dodged that bullet, but it was a legitimate possibility! How did Baynes sustain such a gruesome fate in the middle of an Olympic game?
Aron Baynes’ Life After the NBA
Baynes had estimated earnings of over $36 million through nine seasons, so it’s not like he’s going homeless if he could not make an NBA return. He probably had contingency plans if things didn’t pan out stateside. But whatever he had in mind fell awfully short of what happened to him in the 2020 Olympic games, in the middle of an important match, no less!
As reported by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the Australian Boomers were in the middle of a high-stakes game against Italy. The Italians were no slouch, boasting NBA talents such as Danilo Galinari and Niccolo Melli. If Australia wins, they’ll advance to the medal rounds.
Aron Baynes also played well, totaling 14 points in 14 minutes, courtesy of two three-pointers. Baynes went off to use the bathroom at the Saitama Super Arena between the third and fourth quarters. When Brian Goorjian looked at his bench to insert Baynes in the game, he wasn’t there. One of the staff members went to look for him, and the next scene was straight out of House M.D.
Baynes was found sprawled on the floor, with blood on his jersey and two puncture wounds in his upper left arm. An MRI indicated that he had internal bleeding, which was exerting pressure on his spinal cord and limiting his mobility altogether. He revealed he was in and out of consciousness, fearing the worst.
Fast forward two years later, and Baynes successfully conquered the setback. He even participated in NBA Summer League workouts but ultimately signed with the Brisbane Bullets of the National Basketball League. It was Baynes’ first foray into the NBL but had familiar faces all around him. He was on the team with co-Boomer Nathan Sobey and Tyler Johnson, who’s one of many former NBA players in NBL teams.
Stats-wise, it’s encouraging to see that Baynes largely remained the player he was pre-injury. He is averaging almost 12 points and over 7 rebounds for Brisbane while shooting 40% from deep. Aron Baynes’ comeback in the NBA may not happen anytime soon, but seeing him on a basketball court is a win in itself.
Wrapping Things Up: What Happened to Aron Baynes?
Aron Baynes is far from a household name, but he has carved himself a nice career through nine NBA seasons. He came out of Washington State undrafted in 2009, played three years in Lithuania, and landed a contract with the Spurs in 2013. He was a part of the 2014 champion Spurs as a third-string big man behind Tim Duncan, Tiago Splitter, and Boris Diaw.
After playing with the Spurs, Baynes essentially became a journeyman playing for four teams in six seasons. He last played with the Toronto Raptors in 2020-21 and never returned to the NBA, mainly due to a lack of interest.
While that hardly matters for someone who was in the league for almost a decade making millions, Baynes almost never made out of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in one piece. What really happened to Aron Baynes there? As he rushed to the comfort room in the middle of the game, Baynes looked like he had lost his balance, had internal bleeding, and punctured his spine.
It took two years of Baynes’ life to re-learn how to control his limbs and body. He may never play in the NBA again, but Aron Baynes’ comeback was nothing short of remarkable. He is currently playing for the Brisbane Bullets in the NBL, averaging decent numbers.
If somebody ever asked, “What happened to Aron Baynes, and why is he not in the NBA anymore,” maybe it’s the wrong question. The right question goes something like, “How in the world did he recover from that debacle and come back as if nothing happened?” Maybe it’s the warrior spirit, or maybe he loved his life so much that it just felt natural fighting for it.
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