Growing up during the 90’s in the Washington, D.C. area, the Wizards were always on my radar. However back then, like most Washingtonians, the Wizards played second fiddle for me behind the Redskins. Yes, it was cool that Michael Jordan did his victory lap in Washington, but leftovers are never as good as the main meal.
That all changed for me in 2003. After a breakout season in 2002, Washington acquired Gilbert Arenas the following summer injecting a bit of hope into a franchise that was desperate for some sort of relevancy around the NBA. At the time, little did the Wizards know that they had just acquired a guy who would become one of best players in the franchise’s history but would leave a legacy that would be much more complicated than it would be celebrated.
On the court, it was Arenas’ confidence and swagger that made the local fans become enamored with him. His ability to score 40+ points on any given night made Arenas must watch TV. Over time, you had to stay glued to the television because not only were the Wizards never out of a game, if it came down to the final shot, you had to watch to see Gilbert drill it.
Knowing that a game was never out of reach, especially if Gilbert Arenas was taking the last shot was the tipping point that made me enamored with the Wizards for good. Now let’s relive some of Gilbert’s most memorable buzzer beaters.
5. Wizards vs. SuperSonics - March 2007
I still don’t know what sounds better - the roar from a home crowd as momentum is shifting or a spectacular play is made or dead silence after a fanbase is in awe or in disbelief of what just happened.
Many of Arenas’ buzzer beaters were from deep range but this one was different as he knifed his way through the paint for a floater in the lane as time expired in Seattle. And right before running off the court, he took off his jersey and placed it down on the floor right where he hit the game winner.
4. Wizards vs. Bucks - January 2007
This was the shot that started the avalanche of buzzer beaters in 2007. With the game tied at 105 and just five seconds remaining, Arenas brought the ball up the floor with somewhat of a cavalier attitude which had everyone in the stadium thinking “what’s he doing?! There’s only five seconds left he has to hurry!”
Arenas calmly pulled up from five feet behind the arc ... and SWISH! BALL GAME! Steve Buckhantz’s infamous “Dagger!!!” on the call makes this one that much sweeter.
3. Wizards vs. Jazz - 2007
Just two weeks later, Arenas was back for more. This time, it was the Utah Jazz who’d get burnt by Hibachi. With the game tied at 111 and just 11 seconds remaining, once again Gilbert had a very nonchalant attitude. After receiving the inbounds pass, he stood just inside of the halfcourt line as time dwindled down.
As everyone was standing around watching, he slowly made his move to the right side of the arc and pulled up for three. BANG. That would cap off a 51-point night and the second game winner in just two weeks for the All-Star.
2. Wizards vs. Cavs 2006 - Round 1
This game was the ultimate roller coaster of emotions. The Wizards trailed the Cavaliers 107-104 in Game 6, an elimination game against Cleveland. With just five seconds remaining, things looked bleak.
Then, Eddie Jordan drew up a play for Gilbert to get the ball on the right wing. Rather than trying to get closer to the hole, Arenas, once again let it fly from well beyond the arc which had everyone saying “no, no, no, no, no, OH MY GOODNESS IT WENT IN!!!”
Unfortunately for the Wizards, they’d lose this one in overtime as this was the game where LeBron James infamously had some words for Arenas at the free throw line.
1. Wizards vs. Bulls 2005 - Round 1
The Wizards lost the first two games of this series digging themselves into a quick 0-2 hole. Not impossible to come back from but also, the cards were stacked against them. After winning both games at home, the Wizards went to Chicago knowing they’d have to steal one game on the road to win this series.
With the game tied at 110 and looking like it might go into overtime, you know who found himself with the ball in his hands. Rather than settle for a three like so many times before, Gilbert drove to the elbow and pulled up for the jumper giving Washington a 112-110 road win as they’d go on to win the series.