Gilbert Arenas Tribute Day is now over. Here are the links to all the articles from today:
- An essay on Gilbert Arenas and this blog, by Mike Prada
- Arenas' top five buzzer beaters, by Jon Kelman
- Five stats that showed why Arenas was underrated, by Mike Prada
- The "Perfect Storm" that led to Arenas positive memories being obscured, by Rook6980.
- Top 10 Gilbertology lines, by Jake Whitacre
- The best Gilbert Arenas pranks, as ranked on the Arenas Scale, by Sean Fagan
- The Barbarian: Chronicling the rise and fall of Gilbert Arena, by Bullet Nation in Exile
- Ten Arenas quotes from other people, by CJ Hempfield
Bethlehem Shoals, Free Darko (via e-mail):
It's really hard to sum up my Gilbert Arenas Experience in a few sentences; it would be just as hard, at this point, to offer any kind of big picture perspective on his career (up to this point -- he's not done yet!). I did a piece on Gil and Captain Beefheart for the Awl today, and set a personal record for quoting other people.
However, in the immortal spirit of Arenas at his best, worst, and whatever else there is, I have an idea: no more apologizing for, or mock-chastising, Gil. No one's going to win, peer pressure kills, and at this point, what's done is done. And for what Gilbert Arenas gave us -- title or no title, reckless gun play or no reckless gun play -- we should make every fucking day Thanksgiving. I don't want to talk about Gil's judgment, whether he could anchor a championship team, or if he got hurt too much. Arenas made the NBA a better place, and certainly a more interesting one. There's no taking the good, the exultant, of him and leaving out the flaws and squirms. That's not how life works, and as Gil leaves DC, it's not the right way to view a player we've invested so emotion in. Especially one whose best days are likely behind him.
Granted, we hope that Arenas plays well enough in Orlando to warrant serious consideration. He couldn't be traded until he was worth something; if we can start dissecting Gil's game, and maybe even his behavior, again, it means he's getting somewhere. I'm talking more about his legacy, which for the time being, is pretty much all we have. If today, you feel like parsing his Wizards career to see where it all went wrong, wondering whether Gilbert Arenas was worth it in the first place, or holding it all inside until they get around to retiring his number, then you didn't learn a damn thing from his time in the sun. For that, I truly do pity you. Next caller.
After the Wizards lost in Sacramento a few weeks ago, Arenas lamented that players change teams all the time, sounding resigned to the fact that he would eventually be gone from the Wizards. He compared life in the NBA to being a leaf on tree: You grow, you fade, then you fall. Arenas said that he would eventually be forgotten, just like one of those leaves.
I have a hard time seeing that happen here. In seven-plus years, he left behind so many memories for a fan base so starved for any kind of success that it tightly embraced every amount of hope that Arenas provided. But it was time for a divorce. It just was.
Steve Buckhantz is the play-by-play man for the Wizards, and his most famous catchphrase is yelling "DAGGER" to punctuate a shot that wins a game. It's the sort of tradition that hometown fans love, so naturally, Buckhantz' ad-libs have become an institution in D.C. over the past decade. But that's not necessarily a reflection on Buckhantz.
Nobody would have been watching Wizards games if it hadn't been for Agent Zero, and we wouldn't have such fond memories of "DAGGER!" if it hadn't been for all the times Buckhantz said it after each of the surreal, last-second miracles that Gilbert Arenas gave us.
He introduced a generation of D.C. fans to basketball and got us hooked. So if Game 6 vs. the Cavs is a metaphor for Gilbert the player, then Steve Buckhantz is a metaphor for what he meant to basketball in Washington. He gave us a taste of what it's like to have basketball be something that everyone loves. It became a communal experience around Gilbert. And like the guy at the register said looking at my no. 0 jersey, "Some good memories right there."
This is why, to paraphrase Leitch, in twenty years when we think of LeBron James, we will think of Nike and ESPN and maybe the Miami Heat. But when I think of Gilbert Arenas, I'll think of how it always felt cooler to lose with Gilbert than it would've been to win with LeBron. I'll think of the memories he gave us. The fans he created in D.C. and all over the country, and those three or four years where he saved basketball in this city.
The Wizards will find life after Gil, but it's hard to make the case there was much life before him.
That's the real lament when I think of Arenas and what he meant here. The Wizards had a star. He wore number 0 and he hit shots at the buzzer and he took off his jersey each night at home and threw it into the stands, as if he had just finished an encore with some uber-popular rock band. Gilbert Arenas had the District's long-suffering pro basketball fans cradled in his hands. They loved him, and he loved them back.
Lost in all the "Gilbert is now the worst person in the history of the universe" madness last season after the gun incident, was the story of the kid who lost his parents in the fire, whom Gilbert befriended and supported financially and emotionally for many years. Lost was the way in which he reached out to his fans in an authentic way that never came across as a pre-arranged autograph signing or a league-mandated public relations event.
He was an original, and he made us get up out of our seats, and though it never matured into much more than being outplayed by LeBron each spring, for a moment we all thought we had something special and lasting. Gilbert Arenas was special, all right; he just didn't last.
One way in which Ernie Grunfeld can be commended is that he found a situation relatively suitable for all parties, speaking of Gilbert Arenas too. And isn't that what it's supposed to be about? Should fans always feast on the blood of perfect-world trades and maneuvers? Or should they consider moves in their entirety? Maybe that last sentiment can only be reserved for special cases such as Arenas' relationship with Washington, but that's all we have to go off nonetheless.
You can't really go through a proper rebirth unless you change cities, traditionally speaking in the professional sports world. And now that Arenas has found a warm place in Orlando outside of the rebirth canal, he has switched jerseys again, going from No. 9 to No. 1 in the spirit of Penny Hardaway.
People will be rooting for Arenas. People will be mocking Arenas. The only person who has Gilbert Arenas' back right now is Gilbert Arenas. His new teammates don't know him well enough (outside of Jason Richardson), and Otis Smith has already put his weight behind Arenas in acquiring him. It's all on Zero from here on out.
Reports have surfaced that Arenas will be wearing No.1 for Orlando. There's all sorts of ways to look into it, but I prefer to think of it this way: it's how many lives he's got left in the NBA.
The Magic pretty much know what they'll get from Richardson -- Arenas is the wild card. In some opinions, that makes this deal a question mark for Orlando, but history suggests that this is the kind of moment in which he excels. Throughout his career, Arenas has been at his best when no one quite knows what to expect from him; he thrives on uncertainty. Now out of Washington and with diminished expecations, perhaps Gil will recapture some of the personality that has made him a must-watch for the past decade. He may not lead the Magic to any titles, but he could act as a trailblazer for a franchise in serious need of a new plan after this weekend's upheaval. Arenas, for all his eccentricity, has proven several times before that he can be an effective guide in confusing times.
The team was so convinced it couldn't move Arenas anytime soon that new owner Ted Leonsis repeatedly supported Arenas publicly in an effort to motivate him over the past six months. He compared him to his jewel on the Washington Capitals, Alex Ovechkin, even though the thought was laughable when looking at Arenas' recent history.
He shot down rumors he was trying to trade Arenas because, well, he was trying but having no success. The Wizards thought they'd have to settle in for the long haul and hoped to make the best of the uncomfortable situation with two franchise point guards, one past and one present.
So getting he chance to move Arenas now had to overwhelm the Wizards, no matter what the future may hold.
Gilbert Arenas couldn't stop smiling Saturday night as he talked about his trade to the Orlando Magic.
Arenas arrived at Amway Center at halftime of Orlando's 97-89 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, put on a Magic T-shirt and worked out on the team's practice court.
"This is a new beginning for me," Arenas said. "This is a true new beginning. Going back and changing my number wasn't a new beginning. This is a real new beginning in a new city, new people, a new team. I get to start fresh."
Most of all, these will be trades judged on Arenas, on what's still important to him, what's left of his abilities. All along, Arenas wanted a chance to play ball with Howard in Orlando. All along, he prayed this would be the trade to get him out of Washington, to free him of the bad circumstance he had created for himself.
It wouldn't be Chris Paul or Carmelo Anthony walking into Howard's Magic life, but a faded, damaged star who still thinks he can get his game right again, get his mind in sync with winning basketball. It's been a long time, a long ride, but Howard was desperate to stay in this Eastern Conference arms race and wanted Arenas on his side.
Two years ago, I got my first lesson on reporting from an NBA player. That NBA player was Gilbert Arenas. Writing for Matt Moore over at Hardwood Paroxysm, I wanted to kick off a column by interviewing the D-League's blogging king, Rod Benson, and the NBA's original blogging man, Gilbert Arenas. Arranging things with Benson was a breeze, because he's a baller like that.
Arranging some time to speak on the phone with Gil was a little tougher because I had to go through Wizards PR and explain why they should let me talk to their rehabbing all-star guard for a blog column they had never heard about. Eventually, I was given 10 minutes on the phone with Gil. I was told to stick to the 10 minutes I had been granted. Gil, though? He had a different plan.
Riding the bike after one of his first practices back from knee surgery, Gil hopped from topic to topic, talking Britney Spears, his father, Penny Hardaway, his fish tanks, drunk driving, celebrity and fame, scoring 60 points, giving away his jerseys, Magic Johnson and everything in between.
Our 10 minutes soon turned into 47 as he talked while he pedaled and before I knew it, had flipped the script and was asking me how I got into writing, who all I had written for and how old I was. Then, Gil asked me if I wanted some advice. Of course I did. Gil told me his biggest pet peeve were reporters who read a story and then pass it along without picking up the phone to do their own research and fact-checking. Two years later, I think of him every time I send a text trying to get sources for a story.
Today, I'm thinking about all of the good, rather than how things have unraveled in the two years following our conversation. Thinking about how he told me he'd prefer to be remembered for making people smile than for stats and accolades. Of how the Penny Hardaway posters on the walls of his childhood bedroom remained even after he had moved out and moved on to the NBA himself. I'm thinking of him now in Orlando about to play for the franchise of his childhood hero, the team he had hoped would draft him before he became Agent Zero. I'm thinking of the smile Gilbert had on his face in his first interview with the Orlando media who will now be covering him and I'm thankful for the memories he's given us.