The relationship between the Washington Wizards and former star Gilbert Arenas is a complicated one. Basically, it seems like the organization is content to pretend like he doesn’t exist as often as is possible. He isn’t invited back for team celebrations or to reminisce about the good ol’ days as you typically expect of former franchise players.
There’s good reason for that, obviously. I get where the team (and a good portion of the fanbase) is coming from. I don’t think I need to go into detail on his career lowlights for anyone reading this website.
But what’s the statute of limitations on something like that? For me and many others in my general age range, Gilbert Arenas and his mid-2000s teams made professional basketball in DC cool again.
Other pro teams I root for have won championships in my lifetime but I have never had more fun rooting for a particular team than I did the Washington Wizards from 2004-2008. I was a basketball fan before that but those teams made me a crazy, obsessed die-hard. So for me, I’m more than ready to cut Gilbert Arenas a break.
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age but I’d just rather focus on the good times than what came after. And there were plenty of good times worth remembering. The hope that came when they jumped from 25 wins in 2003-2004 to 45 wins in 2004-2005, playoff wins against the Bulls, torching the Lakers and Suns in the same week for 60 and 54 points respectively, and turning around with palms turned up as game-winners dropped through the net. And even though they were gutting, the missed free throws against the Cavaliers still made for compelling theater.
Gilbert Arenas joined the Bleav in Wizards podcast to talk to his former teammate Larry Hughes and I about all of those moments. They told behind-the-scenes stories about contract negotiations with Ernie Grunfeld and a free agency decision that brought Abe Pollin to tears. They talked about their bond as teammates and how competing against one another drove them to be better.
They even gave their opinions on who would win if they were matched up against John Wall and Bradley Beal. I’ve already admitted that I’m a biased homer but it was a fascinating conversation to listen to as a fan of those teams and those guys.
If you’re in a similar boat, I hope you’ll give it a listen. If you’re not and hearing the name Gilbert Arenas elicits a negative reaction from you, I still hope you’ll give it a listen. My opinion may mean next to nothing to you but I’ve done enough interviews like this over the years to get a sense for a who is a good guy and who isn’t. A lot of that is based on how they treat you, the interviewer, when you aren’t recording. Gilbert could not have been nicer or more generous with his time.
He clearly did some regrettable stuff. He’s expressed regret for those incidents. People mature and good people still make mistakes. For anyone who still hasn’t let it go yet, maybe listening to this will help!
All episodes of the podcast, including interviews with former Wizards Brendan Haywood, Jared Jeffries, Etan Thomas, and Sam Dekker, are available for download wherever you get your podcasts.