A Star Dies, a Man is Born: Gilbert Arenas
Considering how he had been performing of late, Gilbert Arenas was lucky to even be in the game. With a regular season field-goal percentage no higher than the average of last year’s American League batting champ, Arenas had only managed to play in two out of the three playoff games, earning only 18 minutes of court time; a number he used to surpass in one half with the Washington Wizards.
But Arenas is merely a shadow of his former blog writing, jersey tossing nickname giving, stat-sheet filling Wizards fan-favorite persona. The shadow he cast on the town of D.C. was much greater though, as many fans could scarcely believe that a man who not only played, but wrote for our entertainment, would pen such a disastrous ending to his tenure here.
A former regular on the highlight reel, he has now been relegated to a regular on the bench; a man cheering on teammates taking shots that used to be his, offering veteran advice to those who listen, and most of all, avoiding the spotlight that in the end proved to be too bright for even his glowing personality.
Now, all this could change with one big shot. Something to justify squeezing himself back into coach Stan Van Gundy’s rotation. Something to keep Orlando’s ever fading playoff hopes alive, to justify the paycheck, something to remind us of the star that was, not the player that is. Thanks to a 20 point performance in Game 4, there was Arenas at the end of the 4th quarter with the potential to take this shot.
Down three points with about 10 seconds on the clock and a chance to tie, Arenas fielded an inbound pass and dribbled to the top of the key, no-doubt evoking emotions from all those who have witnessed games ended in victory by Arenas from this exact location.
But this is not the Gilbert Arenas of old; the fearless gunslinger. This is the new Gilbert Arenas, the man with the shaky aim who thinks before he shoots, if he shoots at all.
When given a chance to tie the game and send it into overtime, Arenas opted instead to pass the ball off to teammate Hedo Turkoglu. He never left his perch at the top of the 3-point arc though, and one could feel the old fire being ignited again in Arenas’ eyes as they begged for the ball from Torkoglu, who was proving too inept to handle the suffocating defense collapsing on him from all sides. The former lead singer now wanted the microphone back for one last song.
It was not meant to be.
Turkoglu brushed off the wide-open Arenas, and instead heaved a prayer 3-point attempt that never had a chance and clanged harmlessly off the rim. The cameras that used to focus on Arenas caught him in the background, slinking off to the locker room calmly with thoughts of what might have been. Now the Magic have almost no chance, and Arenas may have missed his last chance to fire-up the hibachi one more time for whatever fans he has left. Will a creaky-kneed shooter who can no longer hit the mark be afforded many more opportunities? Arenas should have taken that shot, but seems to have lost the same trust that his coaches lost in him. For better or worse, this is the new Arenas.
The new Arenas doesn’t face off against the league’s elite or take the big shots anymore, but he also doesn’t attract negative headlines, ignore medical advice, or put himself above his team or teammates. The new Arenas isn’t a star anymore, and may never be again. But the new Arenas is something that he desperately needed to be and never achieved in his stint with the Wizards; he is a man.