Gilbert Arenas and a buried talent in firearms

Gilbert Arenas and a buried talent in firearms
Gilbert Arenas and a buried talent in firearms

Among the huge number of peculiar characters that have existed in the history of the NBA, Gilbert Arenas occupies a dubiously privileged place. The point guard was one of those players who do not go unnoticed for his undeniable talent for basketball, but also for his eccentricities off the court.. A man who ended up reviled, but who wrote a curious story, which showed that he was a great player but that he was not married to glory but to controversy. Two things that have gone hand in hand in many cases, but that did not occur simultaneously in the figure of Arenas, that he briefly touched on the first and immersed himself fully in the second. Something that someone or another has already suffered before him, but that was particularly striking in the career of a playmaker that came from nowhereachieved relative success and later threw it all away.

Gilbert Arenas was born in Tampa, Florida, on January 6, 1982. Son of a mother who became pregnant as a teenager, social services moved him to a foster home before his father took custody, and going to Los Angeles for his cinematographic interests, determined to act on the small and big screen. Gilbert, who did not see his mother again for 20 years and who spent a lot of time alone at home, something he could not stand, did not stop doing mischief in his youth: from breaking windows to stealing cars. He calmed down at school and played football, like his father had done, But at the age of 11 he changed this practice for basketball, which he played compulsively.even training at night, which partially distanced him from the problems of the street.

The point guard was always separated by his teams and had many difficulties finding his opportunity. He was in the league of playground with players older than him and sought his luck at Birmingham High School, where his coach considered that he had already reached the peak of his abilities. He had more luck at Grant High School in Van Nuys, where he began to stand out at age 14. There he developed his training, averaging 33.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3 assists and 4.6 steals and finishing his career with more than 2,000 points, also declared the best scorer in the San Fernando Valley.

After fooling around with UCLA, which doubted Arenas’ abilities and academic commitment, he received offers from Arizona, DePaul or Kansas State, opting for the first of those universities and putting on the jersey of the Wildcats. Coached by Bobbi Olson, they reached the NCAA final in Arenas’ second year on the team, losing to Duke (82-72), where future members of the NBA such as Jay Williams, Carlos Boozer, Shane Battier, Mike Dunleavy played Jr. and Chris Duhon. A whole class of basketball players who could handle the young rival promise, who received a blow to the chest in the semifinals against Zach Randolphfrom Michigan State.

The NBA is coming

Arenas averaged 15.8 points in two seasons with the Wildcats before declaring eligible for the draft. Many specialists then declared that he was too young to make that decision, that he had no physique when it came to defending the guard position nor the aptitude for the base position, something that would only be half confirmed in his later years. One way or another, NBA franchise scouts must have thought the same, as Arenas was relegated to 31st place in the second round of the draft, thus dashing his hopes of entering the first round. In the end, The Warriors acquired his services, but coach Dave Cowens counted very little on him and his replacement when the team was in the doldrums (8-15 in the first 23 games), Brian Winters, did not like players who had not completed the university cycle.

Fate smiled on Arenas. At the end of February and when it was already obvious that the Warriors were not going to enter the playoffs, Winters offered him the possibility of playing point guard. Arenas accepted: his natural position was guard, but the possibility of having minutes was too tempting. Everything changed and he finished his rookie season with an average of 10.9 points, 14.1 when he was a starter, while adding 5.1 assists.. He was chosen best rookie of the month for April and was reunited with his mother during a visit by the Warriors to Miami to play against the Heat. And he went on to score 32 points in a loss to the Clippers. It was the beginning of a promising career. So it was.

The team’s poor record led to the departure of Winters (who went a very poor 13-46) and motivated the signing of Eric Musselman who was always a good assistant, but lacked some skill to be head coach. That did not stop the entity from betting on Arenas, selecting Mike Dunleavy in the draft instead of Jay Williams, who would have ended up being his competition. The point guard (already consolidated in that position) played in all 82 games of the regular seasonall of them starters, with 35 minutes per night and 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists on average. He won the MVP of the Rookie (30 points, 23 in the second half), for which he had not been selected in his first season. And the Most Improved Player award ahead of Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker. The future was his.

The golden years: star in the Wizards

Arenas found shelter in Washington, accepting a six-year, $65 million offer after being one of the most coveted free agents in the summer. It was in the Wizards where he forged his legend, a minor one compared to Olympus, but very important if we take into account a player that no one counted on. In his first season he scored 19.6 points and 5 assists before exploding in the next three. 25.5, 29.3 and 28.4 in three consecutive seasons, reaching the playoffs and the All Star in each of them and also being In 2005 and 2006 Arenas was part of the NBA’s Third Best Quintet, while in 2007 he reached the Second Best Quintet.

The Wizards reached the playoffs in those three years without interruption, something they also achieved in a fourth, already with Arenas in decline due to injuries. Before that, the guard, now definitively converted into a point guard, demonstrated the player who has made his reputation, even though today it is totally damaged. An explosive and versatile basketball player, capable of dribbling like no one else, with a very powerful first step and an enormous shooting range. Arenas became essential in the cluth time, with tight endings resolved by their talent. His best game was against Kobe Bryant’s Lakers, on December 17, 2006, in a temple like the Staples Center. 60 points (personal and all-time record for the Wizards), 8 rebounds and 8 assists with 17 of 32 in field goals, 5 of 12 in triples and 21 of 27 in free throws. Kobe, in his best individual form, could not stop his rival’s waste despite reaching 45, with 8 rebounds and 10 passes to the basket. Spectacular.

Injuries, decline and scandal

Arenas missed the last 8 games of that last season and the playoffs due to a left knee injury and underwent meniscus surgery. He no longer returned to being what he was, nor to form a big three scorer with Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler. In the following season he missed 69 games and played his last playoffs, in which he was injured again before signing a contract worth $111 million for six seasons. The 32 in 2009-10 were little despite once again moving above 20 points per night. In the middle of 2010-11 he was finally traded to the Magic. His glorious era is over. And he would never recover from the scandal he was involved in when he still belonged to the Wizards..

A game of cards on a plane ended in a fight that was exaggerated to the core. The next day, Arenas clashed with Javaris Crittenton (involved in the exchange that ended with Pau Gasol in the Lakers) in the locker room and he ended up pointing a loaded gun at him when the point guard had shown him four unloaded pistols. They all ran away. Finally nothing happened, but David Stern sanctioned them indefinitely. The punishment for Arenas was greater and he ended up pleading guilty at trial for carrying firearms, something prohibited in NBA regulations. By not having a license, he also flouted the laws of the District of Columbia. He was sentenced to two years of probation.. The injuries had taken their toll on him, but the scandal he was involved in ended up sentencing him.

Arenas tried to resurrect in the Magic as Jameer Nelson’s substitute, but the entity, in the penultimate season of Dwight Howard and Stan Van Gundy together and with star and coach increasingly distant in what was the preview of their private divorce, fell 4-2 to the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs. The Magic cut him in the lockout (the second season-shortening in NBA history) under the amnesty clause, the first time a player received the application of said rule. The point guard played another 17 games the following year with the Grizzlies before making the jump to the Chinese League, with the Shanghai Sharks. In 2013 he was arrested in Los Angeles for illegal weapons possession. He also had problems for breaking many driving rules, admitting that he had run up to 60 red lights in a period of four months..

His reputation plummeted. His career ended when he was 31 years old. and without anyone remembering the player who donated $100 for every point he scored during the 2006-07 season to local schools in the Washington area. Not even for being the mentor of a boy who lost his family at the age of 10 in a fire, even getting him a job as a ball boy. The firearms cost him his contract with Adidas and the injuries, together with said scandal, ended what he had achieved, the relative success of a man that no one counted on but who persevered until he reached the top. . He played 552 regular season games and 20 playoff games. He averaged 20.7 points. He took home more than $160 million in contracts. But his legacy is a curse and what could have been part of a charismatic and striking narrative, ended up being something much worse.. A unique talent buried in his own, unforgivable mistakes. Of those that prevail over the good part of what could have been done. Always.

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