Arenas should stick to shooting threes, not teammates

January 26, 2010 — by Vijay Menon and Abhi Venkataraman

Gilbert Arenas, superstar guard for the Washington Wizards, has always been known around the NBA as a prankster and a character. Fans enjoyed reading his quirky “Agent Zero” blog on the league’s website and watching comedic videos of him joking around during practices on YouTube. However, on Christmas Eve 2009, Arenas took the joke too far. After losing a bet to teammate Javaris Crittendon, Arenas reportedly pulled out an unloaded gun stored in his locker intending to make humor of the situation.

It is clear that Arenas did not harbor any violent intentions. In fact, Arenas justified placing the gun in his locker by stating that he simply wished to keep it away from his child at home. Yet the situation has highlighted the star’s immaturity and tactlessness. As a result of the incident, Arenas has been indefinitely suspended by NBA Commissioner David Stern and faces up to six months in prison for the possession of an unregistered firearm.

It shows an utter disregard for the organization and its fans and could potentially result in the termination of his multimillion dollar contract. In particular, it smacks of disrespect to the memory of late Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who changed the name of the team from the Washington Bullets to the Washington Wizards in light of high crime rates in the city. As surprising as it sounds, however, it is not the act itself as much as it is his reaction to the uproar that has so significantly damaged Arenas’s repuation.

In the aftermath of the incident, Arenas displayed even more immaturity in underestimating the severity of his actions. He used his Twitter account as an opportunity to carry on the shenanigans, stating that he “didn’t do anything” and calling Stern “mean.” The last straw came during pre-game introductions of a Wizards game against the Philadelphia 76ers. In a huddle with his teammates, Arenas cocked his “finger guns” and playfully pretended to shoot his teammates while they pretended to fall down. Images of the incident surely made their way to Stern, who promptly handed down the suspension and stated that Arenas was not fit to take the court. Arenas has not played since.

Arenas is correct in his assertion that his actions were not entirely malicious. And although having an unloaded gun in a locker room is surely an egregious infraction, it pales in comparison to some crimes other NBA stars have gotten away with. For example, in the summer of 2009, Denver Nuggets’ star J.R. Smith killed his friend in a drunk driving accident but received only 24 days in jail and a meager seven-game suspension.

Arenas’s real fault lies in his immaturity and unwillingness to accept responsibility, choosing to treat the situation as a laughing matter. He even blamed his teammates for the situation by stating that they were “egging” him on and that he wasn’t at fault. It is a shame that Arenas’s inability to take his actions and their consequences seriously may destroy a promising career. In truth, though, he has no one to blame but himself.

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