There’s this baller name Gilbert Arenas. From 2005 2006 to 2008, he was one of the most popular basketball players in the NBA (2006 for casual fans. 2005 for real fans)
He had game, alright, but the main reason he was so popular was because he was a goofy, eccentric, man-child with a penchant for practical jokes, lighthearted self promotion, and quirky demeanor.
He once nicknamed himself Hibachi, because he gets “hot” like a Japanese grill.
He wanted to make the all star team so bad in 06 he bought thousands of voting ballots, took them home and filled out each form voting for himself.
He once vowed vengeance on the whole city of Portland and Phoenix because the coaches of those city’s teams cut him from Team USA.
Everyone loved Gil. Adidas made him the face of the brand, Washington Wizards made him the face of a franchise, and NBA Live made him its cover boy.
Then came the downfall. First Gil got hurt, but not before signing a 112 mil contract with the Wizards. Even healthy, the contract is a bit much for a good-but-not-great player like Gil. After he got hurt, everyone looked at the contract with the stink eye. Washington execs didn’t try to hide their regret at paying him.
After losing nearly three years to a knee injury, Gil came back last season, giddy and goofy as ever.
One day he gets into an argument with a teammate over supposed unpaid poker debt. Ever the immature joker, Gil bought three unloaded guns to the locker room, placed them in front of the angry teammate, and asked him to “pick one”.
To us normal folks, that was undoubtedly a dumb ass thing to do. But Gil has always been a character who lacks a bit of common sense. So while everyone looked at the incident in horror, Gil thought “why so serious?”
David Stern, the wise commish who understood his Black players are always under scrutiny, took no chances. He suspsended Gil for a whole season for the gun incident.
Although no one really believes Gil had a ill–or violent–intentions with the gun stunt, he got punished severely anyways.
It wasn’t just the loss in income from the suspension, it wasn’t just the 30 days he spent at a halfway house (kinda like house arrest). It was the fact that, everybody–people who seemed to love his jokes before–all turned on him.
The Wizards all but disowned him. Took his face off all promotional material; stopped selling his jerseys. They woulda gotten rid of him if they could, but they’re locked into that ridiculous contract.
So Gil sat at home, suspended, and listened to everyone bash him and his own team disown him.
Sometime during that stretch, he lost his smile. Gil’s back in action now, but throughout weeks of promotional activities, he hasn’t cracked a smile. Stone cold expression whereever he goes. Reporters try to ask him what’s up, he replies in a “Basketball is basketball, nothing else” tone.
What Gil realized is that it’s a dog eat dog world. The same corporations who made millions off Gil’s joker behavior, the fans who adored him, all wanted no part of him when he–unknowingly and naively–took the joke too far.
Now, Gil is passion-less. He’s seen how fast everyone turned their backs on him, so to shelter him from the pain, he becomes distant. The walls go up.
Gilbert Arenas was a cheery, happy-go-lucky joker — a bit too naive and foolish — but a harmless lovable dude no doubt. Now, he’s a cynical. He’s guarded. He’s apathetic.
Is that what it takes to survive? Having child-like qualities: showing great passion, being excited-at-life, naive and optimistic doesn’t work in the real world. To survive, you gotta be ruthless and selfish. You gotta look out for yourself, you gotta be, to quote Mos Def, a quiet dog who bites hard.