New ESPN E60 Documents USC Women’s Basketball Player Aaliyah Gayles’ Return to Play After Being Shot Multiple Times

College Basketball - Women'sE:60

New ESPN E60 Documents USC Women’s Basketball Player Aaliyah Gayles’ Return to Play After Being Shot Multiple Times

Access for E60 During Surgeries, Rehab and Return to Team Contributes to Storytelling

Only The Strong Survive Debuts Saturday, March 23, at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2, Streaming Afterward on ESPN+

A new episode of ESPN E60 documents the amazing and what had been considered impossible return to basketball of University of Southern California women’s player Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot multiple times and spent more than a year rehabilitating after bullets burrowed through her arms and legs and left 18 holes in her body.

Only the Strong Survive debuts Saturday, March 23, at 11 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The documentary will also available immediately following on ESPN+, and ESPN’s YouTube channel.

In the half-hour feature, Gayles tells reporter Katie Barnes the story of the night in April of 2022 that changed her life and the journey to regain what was taken from her. It all led to her defying the odds and in November of 2023 logging her first official in-game minutes for the Trojans.

In her senior year of high school, she had played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and was the No. 8 high school recruit in the country when she attended a party in her hometown of Las Vegas on the fateful night. Gayles found herself in a confrontation that would leave her shot multiple times with injuries including shattered bones in her arms and legs and a burst blood vessel.

In the E60 feature, video and pictures show that emergency surgery saved all of her limbs and put Gayles on a long path of recovery. When the incident happened, Gayles had not officially signed to play collegiately, but USC, her top choice, still decided to offer her a scholarship. She spent months in a rehab facility, regaining her strength and learning how to walk. While her body was affected, her dream to play basketball only grew. Gayles would relentlessly rehab during the 2022-2023 season and was cleared to play ahead of this current season.

Aaliyah Gayles’ parents, her father Dwight Gayles and mother Malkia Lockett, are a large part of the storytelling, recounting their memories of the night of the shooting and their roles in their daughter’s comeback.

Among others interviewed in the feature:

Dr. Allison McNickle – surgeon, University Medical Center, Las Vegas, NV

Lindsay Gottlieb – USC women’s head basketball coach

Erin Tillman – USC athletic trainer

JuJu Watkins, Rayah Marshall – USC women’s basketball team members

Only the Strong Survive was directed by Jason Kostura.

After the initial airing, in addition to being available on ESPN+, the program will re-air multiple times on ESPN networks.


Media contacts: [email protected]

Andy Hall

My main responsibility is PR/Communications for ESPN’s news platforms including the Enterprise/Investigative Unit, the E60 program and SportsCenter. In addition, I’m the PR contact for ESPN’s Formula 1 coverage, golf majors (the Masters and PGA Championship) and TGL golf. I’m based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and have been with ESPN since 2006.
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