Everyone knew it was going to happen, but David Stern made it official Wednesday: Gilbert Arenas will be suspended for the rest of the National Basketball Association season.
This was just days after Arenas pled guilty to a felony charge of carrying a pistol without a license stemming from an incident in the Verizon Center’s locker room on Dec. 21, 2009.
Details are sketchy, but after an argument over gambling debts, Arenas’ Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton threatened to shoot Arenas in his surgically altered left knee. In response, Arenas allegedly laid out four handguns in front of Crittenton’s locker with a note inviting him to “Pick one”.
Arenas’ guilty plea wil likely keep him out of prison, but the Wizards are strongly considering voiding the remainder of his $111 million contract.
Although I whole-heartedly support the suspension and criminal prosecution of Arenas, I’m sorry to see one of the most entertaining players in the NBA absented for any period of time. It’s particularly disappointing as he'd just returned from serious injuries that had sidelined him for most of the 2008-09 season.
Hibachi. Agent Zero. Whatever you want to call him, Arenas is one of the most entertaining players in the NBA. When he’s healthy he’s a dynamic scorers and playmaker, wrecking defences almost at will.
Want an example? When he was snubbed by Team USA and left off their FIBA 2006 World Championship roster, he vowed revenge against assistant coaches Mike D’Antoni and Nate McMillan as well as Managing Director Jerry Colangelo. His retribution had nothing to do with firearms: he promised that he’d average 50 points per game against their NBA clubs.
Sure enough, he scored 54 points against the Phoenix Suns (D’Antoni and Colangelo’s team at the time). Unfortunately, he faltered against McMillan’s Portland Trailblazers, scoring only nine points. It was a fun side-note to the World Championships, and all basketball fans could appreciate Arenas’ competitive drive.
For a time, he took to yelling “HIBACHI!” after every made shot, because he was hot like the Japanese grill.
In early 2007, Arenas told Liz Robbins of the New York Times that “Most of the [NBA] stars, they’re not entertainers.”
“When I was growing up, that’s what I loved about Shaq. I want to be like that, fun-loving. I think everyone takes things too serious. For some reason, I look around, it’s like, we’re not grateful for what we get and what we are.”
That was one of the most appealing things about Arenas. He always seemed to appreciate the fact that he was paid millions of dollars a year to play basketball, a game he loves.
During the 2006-07season he donated $100 for every point he scored in Wizards home games. Team owner Abe Pollin matched the donations for every point Arenas scored on the road.
He was the most accessible of professional athletes, quiet, down to earth and maybe even a little nerdy off the court. He is the official sponsor of Team Final Boss in Halo III competitions, and an avid player of the game himself, playing under the handle Agent Arenas.
He was a regular blogger for NBA.com, until he found that it was too often a source of trouble for him. His quirky jokes and off-the-cuff remarks often motivated his opponents and got him in trouble with the media and coaches.
Arenas often seemed childlike, even childish, and it backfired when he decided to tease a teammate with some of the samples from his gun collection as a joke about a gambling debt. Obviously, he didn’t know when to quit with his bizarre sense of humour.
Arenas’ playfulness is going to be absent from the NBA for a long time now. When he returns to the league, it’ll probably be as a toned down, vanilla version of Agent Zero. The suspension and criminal charges are necessary, but NBA fans are going to sorely miss the Hibachi.