Former New Jersey Nets forward (1997-99) and Elizabeth, N.J. native Chris Gatling faces several criminal charges after police said he squatted in a Paradise Valley, AZ home for over a year and then tried to list the house for rent on Craigslist.
According to the Arizona Republic:
"Chris Gatling is accused of breaking into a key box and living in the home from July 2010 to August 2011. A police report says the homeowners lived in California but had left the power on.
A local TV station reports that he later listed the four-bedroom house for rent for $800 and called it an “Ex-NBA” home online.
Court records say that Gatling got a down payment from one potential renter but that another got suspicious and contacted police.
Gatling’s attorney, Michael Alarid, said the case is a “misunderstanding.”
The 45-year-old Jersey native does have serious head injury in his history; as a junior in high school in 1985, Gatling fell from the hood of a van he was washing for his father's office-maintenance company. The fall left him with a subdural hematoma - a blood clot in the brain - and put him in a coma for 2 weeks. Lingering cognitive problems led to the implantation of a steel plate in 1989 to help with the difficulties. Unlike the mother from Nickelodeon's "The Adventures of Pete and Pete," Gatling's steel plate does not receive radio frequencies.
The head injury led to the persistent myth that Gatling's signature headbands were used to cover up his scars. In fact, Gatling started wearing them four years into his NBA career with the Golden State Warriors in 1995 as a gag. After playing against the Blazers' (and future ex-Net) headband-clad Cliff Robinson, Gatling slipped one on and started to play so well that his teammates convinced him to keep it. The rest is NBA head-accessory history.
Gatling liked headbands - or "hard hats" as he called them - a lot. So much so, that upon being traded to the Nets in March 1997, his first comment was, “I hope [the Nets] have the right kind of headbands,” according to John Brennan of The Bergen Record.
The Mavericks traded Gatling, who had just made the 1997 Western Conference All-Star team as the Mavs sixth man, to the Nets in a blockbuster, nine player deal. In addition to Gatling, the Nets received Sam Cassell, Jim Jackson, Eric Montross and George McCloud. New Jersey shipped back Shawn Bradley, Robert Pack, Khalid Reeves and Ed O'Bannon.
(O'Bannon has made his own legal news recently, in civil rather than criminal court. He filed an anti-trust case against the NCAA in 2009, which has grown into a class-action lawsuit that threatens the NCAA's entire economic model.)
Gatling would spend only one full season with the Nets in 1997-98, finishing sixth on the team in scoring with 11.5 points per game, third in rebounding at 5.9 per game and first in headbands worn. As we recently chronicled, Gatling led the Nets with 24 points in the franchise's first playoff OT loss, against the Michael Jordan led Bulls in Game 1 of the 1998 playoffs.
The 6'10" forward was traded 18 games into the lockout-shortened 1999 season along with Sam Cassell (again) to Milwaukee in a three-team deal that landed Stephon Marbury in Jersey.
The odd squatting charges are the most publicized, but Gatling has also been accused of forging his ex-girlfriend's checks and "funneling the money through College Bound All-Stars, a traveling youth basketball league that Gatling managed and operated," according to Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO-TV.
Gatling made nearly $29.5 million dollars in 12 NBA seasons, and may be the first NBA player to be accused of trying to rent a house he was squatting in.
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