A special spark lights up in Gilbert Arenas' eyes, precisely the reaction you knew your question would elicit. It's equal parts exasperation, determination, agitation, confidence and agony.
Where do you rank among guards, Gilbert?
"There's no one, pound-for-pound, that is above me," says Arenas, who averaged 29.3 points and 6.1 assists for the Wizards last season. "No one can do the things I do. Anyone does something, and I can do it better."
|Gilbert Arenas knows what he has to do this season: Help the Wizards advance past the first round of the playoffs. (Getty Images)|
Oh, Arenas is brash, cocky, outspoken, all of that. He's one of the more engaging personalities in the game, the Chad Johnson of the NBA. He can get away with saying things primarily because he means no harm, but just as important, because he can back them up.
"Who out there can score like me? If I shot 50 times like Kobe does, I could score what he does, too. Name anybody else that can score like me," Arenas demands, then continues before you even think to answer. "I've got two 20-point scorers on my team and I still do what I do. If I didn't have Antawn (Jamison) and Caron (Butler) out here with me I would average 40."
Yes, Arenas is serious. He might be right, too. He has been right about everything else.
To understand the two-time All-Star and his deep-rooted desire to be embraced as one of the best, you have to know a little about him.
At 3, his pop rescued him from Overtown in Miami and a young mother who had succumbed to drugs. Father and son formed a unique bond that can only be brought about by the adventure they shared. Gilbert Arenas Sr., an aspiring actor, and his young son went off to California with little more than the car in which they traveled. Over the years, they persevered, savoring small victories and chasing dreams.
Young Gilbert was 5-feet-nothing in his early teens, but ultimately blossomed into a late-signing-period steal. You should correctly surmise that people doubted Arenas even back then, and he ultimately landed at Arizona as Lute Olson's last recruit in 1999. Arenas was just 17 and chose the number 0 to represent the minutes everyone expected him to play. Even then, he was having fun with people's underestimation of him.
Arenas was superb right off the bat and declared for the pros after his sophomore season, although that too was a maligned decision. Clearly, he wasn't ready, right? I must admit that at the time, I questioned his choice, too.
Arenas was assured that he'd be a first-round pick and wound up shedding tears on draft day.
Unfortunately for him, they weren't the kind associated with joy.