The Come Up
On the surface, Gilbert Arenas is nothing. Just take a look at the number on his jersey. An odd choice, the assigned donut represents the number of pro minutes skeptics swore he'd play back at the University of Arizona. Two NBA all-star seasons later, Gil's now up to 38 a game with the Washington Wizards. And the skeptics? Still stuck in NBA fantasy land. Hibernating in hotel rooms while teammates enjoy groupie love, Arenas isn't an obvious choice for KING's hoops "Itâ€ man. Go back and peep the Los Angeles native work his inside/outside magic first at 'Zona and then with the Golden State Warriors, though, and his current baller-status wouldn't seem so hocus pocus. Fellas, break out the chalk while Arenas delivers play-by-play for overcoming narcoleptics. - Demarco Williams
KING: What's the biggest difference between the Gilbert of today compared to the one from 5 or 7 years back?
GILBERT ARENAS: I got my head on a swivel now. I can see straight. 10 years ago I was young and just ambitious. Now I'm thinking like a businessman. It's growth. When you first come into the League, it's just basketball, basketball, basketball, 24/7. Now I'm just trying to put my hands into everything. I'm about to start up a modeling agency with DeShawn Stevenson called 02 Talent. I just got a deal with Gatorade vitamin water. I'm just trying new things now. I got a shoe deal with Adidas.
Did you always know you had this in you and it just took time to blossom?
Umm, I remember when I was in high school and somebody said I had a million-dollar smile. If you ever make it, a lot of people are going to use you and stuff. I just nodded my head [and said], "Yeah, yeah, yeah.â€ But once I started getting older and over the last three years or so, I started realizing that. I started to position myself in this light where I can become successful.
Any hard feelings to those who never thought you'd be successful?
They call themselves professionals but they miss talents all of the time. Every time somebody said, "Oh, I don't think he's going to make it,â€ I'd go in the gym and shoot for three hours, just trying to master my craft. Now I'm in a position where I can be one of the leading players in this league.
Speak to the high school senior or college junior who's not being heavily recruited right now.
You know, from my experience, underdogs are the best. We have nothing to lose. . I always view my situation from the back; I'm looking in, so I can always see everything that's going on. You can't see nothing else. You just see where you are. When I talk to kids [I say], "No one else is going to believe in your talent. You have to belief. As long as you believe, anything can happen.â€
What's going through your head right around tip-off?
A lot of players wanna stick me just â€˜cuz of the way I play. When the game starts, I'm just trying to intimidate'em. I'll throw the ball and make a smart comment. I'll just do something and make them know it's going to be a looong night. When this ball goes up in the air, it's domination time.
What kinds of smart comments do you make?
One I heard Larry Bird used to make. When the ball goes up, I say, "All right, we're going to treat y'all like some girls: We're gonna get a lil' ass and we're gonna get up outta hereâ€¦â€
I know you have big goals for the Wizards, but give me a couple of Gilbert Arenas expectations for the season.
I've shown the League I can torch them. Now I wanna show them that I can get assists and I can play defense. You don't have to just label me as a dominant scorer. I can do it all. So, now I'm going to stop people and I'm going to distribute that ball.
The media kinda overlooked you a few years back, but like everyone else, they've taken a liking to you over the past couple of years. What are your honest thoughts about the media?
I think they just go with the wave. If somebody writes an article about somebody, then everybody just jumps on that bandwagon. Whoever they think is hot at that time, they just go with'em. With me, you can say anybody is better than me, but at the end of the day, he's going to have to face me on that court. It really doesn't matter who you got in front of me or who you got in back of me, at the end of the day he has to battle meâ€”and we're going to see [who wins].
Name a couple of athletes in other sports you really respect.
Derek Jeter is a great athlete. Tiger Woods. Mike Vick and T.O., them my mans.
Tonight's an off night. What's on the game plan for this evening?
I was going to go watch that new movie Borat from Ali G. I'm about to go and get a haircut and then I'm going to go watch that. I know he was funny on that Da Ali G Show, so I gotta see this, too. I just got that Dave Chappelle-thinking mind. All of my stuff is offbeat, the way I think and do things.
You're brave and you're balling for real right now. So, I gotta ask: Is it just groupies all night long?
C'mon, man. I've ALWAYS had the ladies. I've been having ladies since I was yay high in high school. But you know what? The quality is better now. I don't have to go for "10 to 2â€ girls anymore. "10 to 2â€ girls are those that at 10 o'clock [they're average], but when you done had that liquor in you around 2 o'clock, they're 10's! I don't have to go through them no more.
Want to go from zero to hero like Gilbert Arenas? Check out his pearls of wisdom in the Mar/Apr 07 issue of KING. On newsstands now!