As we gear up for another exciting season of Wizards basketball, Hoop District will take a look at some Wizards/Bullets greats. We kick off our series with a look back at Gilbert Arenas, who became a household name. Known for his buzzer beaters, humor, and off the court antics, Arenas was a player of his own and made the Wizards one of the most exciting teams in the NBA in the mid-2000’s.
Before the Wizards:
Gilbert Arenas was drafted 31st overall in the second round by the Golden State Warriors. So how did 31 go all the way down to zero, but in a good way?
That’s right, before the Warriors became an NBA powerhouse, they had Gilbert Arenas running the point. Over his first two seasons in the association, Arenas averaged 15.6 ponts per game for the dubs along with 5.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. Believe it or not, the Warriors were near the bottom of the NBA standings during those seasons.
Gilbert’s story is an underdog one. He chose the number zero on his jersey because many of the so-called experts predicted that would be the number of minutes he would play in the NBA. Arenas won the NBA’s most improved player award in his second season and was even named MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore game during NBA All-Star Weekend. Following that season, he signed with the Wizards- a decision that came after coin flip. The contract was six years worth $60 million. There was even a rule created that bears his name that allowed theteams to be able to re-sign restricted free agents who weren’t first round picks. Had Arenas got drafted in the first round, the Warriors could’ve used expectations in the salary cap rules to match the offer but the expectations couldn’t be used to re-sign seond round picks resulting in the Warriors being unable to match.
While on the Wizards:
After the contract, Arenas’ Wizards career began in the fall of the 2003 season. Arenas played in just 55 games in his first Wizards season which was riddled with strained abdominal injury problems. However the next season Arenas would blossom into becoming a household name among the Wizards fanbase. Teaming up with Larry Hughes to form a high-scoring backcourt (a combined 47.5 points per game among the duo), Arenas made the Eastern Conference All Star team and helped lead the Wizards to their first playoff appearance since 1997 as the team won 45 games.
The Wizards went up against the Chicago Bulls. After dropping the first two games in the windy city, Arenas helped defend his arena (no pun intended) to even up the series. In the pivotal Game 5, the score was tied at 110 with five seconds left. It was that moment where Arenas defined his Wizards legacy. Dribbling just ahead of midcourt with the clock ticking down, Arenas went around Kirk Hinrich toward the basket and found his shot. The first of many daggers to come.
Game 6 would see the Wizards make history for an entire generation as they won a playoff series for the first time in 23 years. In a close affair, tied at 91 with 35 seconds to go at a sold out MCI Center, Hinrich inbounded the ball to Chris Duhon but wasn’t aware that a pass was incoming. The ball bounced off of Duhon’s back. Jared Jeffries was at the right place at the right time, picked it off and raced for a breakway dunk to send the crowd into bedlam.
The season came to an end at the hands of the Heat via a sweep but the comeback to defeat the Bulls was the high mark for Arenas and helped make Washington a basketball city. Arenas finished the 2004-05 season leading the squad in scoring with 25.5 points per game, good for seventh in the NBA. He was also sixth in the league in steals per game with 2.24 while his backcourt partner Hughes led the association with 2.93.
In the 2005-06 season, there was an uptick in scoring from Arenas as he averaged 29.3 points per game, which was fourth in the league. He also added two steals, which was also fourth as well as 6.1 assists per game. While he didn’t receive enough votes for a return trip to the All Star Game, he still was able to participate due to an injury to Jermaine O’Neil of the Pacers. Additionally, he was in the three-point shootout where he was a runner up to Dirk Nowitzky of the Mavericks. He helped lead the Wizards back to the playoffs with the goal of leading them to the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, they fell to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. This was James’ first playoff series of his remarkable NBA career. Staring at elimination in the face, Arenas led the Wizards in what would be a thrilling back-and-fourth affair between two of the biggest names of each franchise. James and Arenas matched each other shot for shot. The Wizards had an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter but the Cavs came back and later took a late lead. Trailing 107-104 with five seconds left, Arenas refused to go home as he hit a long three before the buzzer to force overtime.
Leading 113-112 with 15.1 seconds left in overtime, Arenas was sent to the line with the chance to give the Wizards a three-point cushion. That’s when James infamously went up to Arenas and told him if he missed both shots, the Wizards were going home. He missed both free throws and Damon Jones hit a corner three that sent them packing as Caron Butler missed a good look from three at the horn. Despite the loss, the game at Verizon Center was an instant classic as Arenas finished with 36 points while James finished with 32.
Gilbert was more than a great player on the court. He was a character off the court. Sadly I was in middle school so I never got to see it firsthand. He had his own blog and it inspired other basket blogs to be created including Hoop District, which was formerly called Wizards Extreme. One fan site, Wizznutzz.com called him Agent Zero. It was a nickname that stuck.
“Gilbert’s blogging and personality were a big part of why we thrived back in 2007, 08, 09 as he brought credibility to a franchise that was coming off the early 90’s debacle of poor records and the trading away of players who would contribute on many playoff winning teams (Ben Wallace, Chris Webber, etc),” said Hoop District co-founder Joe Gloriso. “At the time- 2007 – without Gilbert we probably don’t have an active message board (how Wizards Extreme started) and I therefore don’t ask Wiz PR for credentials.
2006-07 was a memorable one for Arenas. He scored a career-high 60 points against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Staples Center, a franchise record in a 147-141 overtime win.
He also hit buzzer beater after buzzer beater. Each clutch shot cemented his nickname as Agent Zero. He had some other nicknames too such as Hibachi, Nacho, Black President, and General. He hit a memorable buzzer beater to defeat the Bucks on Jan. 3, a 32-foot shot.
Two weeks later on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Agent Zero did it again to defeat the Jazz in a 51-point effort.
His heroics were also on display in Seattle against the Sonics on March 21.
Arenas was also named a starter on the Eastern Conference for the NBA All Star Game in Las Vegas. At the time of his voting, he averaged 29.7 points per game and led all Eastern Conference point guards in scoring, second in the NBA. Unfortunately his season was cut short due to knee injury late in the season and didn’t play in any playoff games as the Wizards were swept by LeBron’s Cavs.
That injury carried over into the next season as Arenas played in eight games. His last game before the lengthy injury occurred in mid-November and he would not see the floor again until early April at the tail end of the regular season. He played in four of the six games in the Cavs series before LeBron eliminated them once again for the third year in a row. He wasn’t his full 100% self. He mostly came off the bench in his late-regular season action and saw limited minutes in the playoffs.
Arenas opted out of his contract but would ultimately re-sign with the Wizards that summer but due to nagging injuries, he didn’t play at all until March 28, 2009. The Wizards finished the season with a dismal 19-63 record, missing the playoffs.
Hope was renewed among the fan base that summer as the team signed Mike Miller and Randy Foye. Arenas also entered the season healthy and scored 29 points in the season opening win over the Mavericks 102-91. His play became inconsistent for the next few weeks including a Nov. 11 night where he set a Wizards team record with 12 turnovers. He rebounded the next month with a triple double in a loss to the Pacers and had a season-high 45 points in a win over the Warriors.
Things got bad, however, on Christmas Eve. That’s when we found out Arenas had been storing guns in the locker room. The guns were unloaded and teammate Javares Crittenton were arguing over gambling. It violated NBA rules against bringing firearms into an arena and he also got in trouble in DC with the law of carrying a gun without a license. Arenas and Crittenton would be suspended for the remainder of the season
A few weeks ago, Arenas opened up more on the incident. Despite it being a gambling issue it was over a card game on the team plane during a flight home, according to a recent Arenas interview with The Action Network.
“I was like ‘Javaris, I will burn your car while you’re in it. Then we’ll find an extinguisher to help ya ass out.’ And he says, ‘well I’ll just shoot you then.’ I said ‘man I’ll bring you the guns to shoot me’,” Arenas recalled.
Two days later, he brought guns to the locker room as a “joke”. It frightened his teammates. The suspension by the NBA was issued on Jan. 6, 2010 which also happened to be Arenas’ 28th birthday. The league felt compelled to draw the line when Arenas was playfully shooting his teammates with his index fingers during the pregame huddle. On March 26, he was convicted for his crimes and his sentence was two years probation and 30 days in a halfway house.
There was a slight positive from this affair though. The Wizards had luck on their side in the NBA Draft lottery. Irene Pollin, the widow of recently deceased team owner Abe Pollin- who lost his life in November, sat in and wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring. The ping pong balls went in Washington’s favor with the number one pick, resulting in the team drafting John Wall.
Arenas returned during Wall’s rookie season to help mentor him. One change was Arenas changing his jersey number from zero to nine. Arenas would be traded to the Orlando Magic that December, passing the keys to the franchise over to DC’s newest point guard.
He played with the Magic for the remainder of the 2010-11 season and was waived by the team in December before the NBA began a lockout-shortened season. He would sign with the Memphis Grizzlies in March of 2012. He was a backup point guard on both the Magic and the Grizzlies. His NBA career came to an end when the fourth seeded Grizzlies lost to the Clippers in seven games in the first round of the playoffs.
His basketball career continued the next season in China with the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association. He averaged 20.7 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game in 14 games played, starting in eight of them. The Sharks finished with a 10-22 record and missed the playoffs. That would be the end of playing basketball for Arenas.
What is he up to now?
Arenas and his former-girlfriend Laura Govan had four children. The two had dated from 2002-2014 while Arenas played for the Warriors. Govan worked for the Sacramento Kings PR department.
Today Gilbert is a host of a daily sports show called Out of Bounds on Complex’s YouTube channel.
You can follow Arenas on Instagram @no.chill.gil.
Oh and for laughs, this happened with his boy Nick Swaggy P. Young a few years ago. There is only one Gilbert Arenas.
I hope you enjoyed this look back. Stay tuned to Hoop District to find out who’s next!