As I write this, it’s Thursday night and Gilbert Arenas has just been charged with a felony. As a Wizards fan, it feels heretical to applaud this news, but really: THIS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. It’s sad that things have come to this, but that’s the kind of year it’s been. Gilbert Arenas’ current contract is the most disastrous max contract ever awarded under the current collective bargaining agreement. Let that sink in for a second.
That’s what we’re talking about here. The worst contract ever, in a league with A LOT of bad contracts. But right from the start of that $111 million deal, Gilbert’s been a disaster. He’s Chris Webber after the knee injury. Penny Hardaway, post-Orlando. A Grant Hill that hasn’t learned how to pass yet. Seriously. As a basketball player and a franchise centerpiece, Arenas has become a cautionary tale. A worst case scenario for teams making free agent decisions.
To say that the future was bleak with Gilbert would be understating it. Things were going to get really, really painful over the next few years with Arenas. This was a city that worshiped him. His fall from grace has been swift the past few weeks, but it would have happened anyway. It was only a matter of time before the fans in Washington realized that he was slowly killing the team. But now, rather than a gradual decline into misery, it’s all happened at once.
In a matter of weeks, Wizards fans have had to accept that Gilbert Arenas could never be a franchise player. It happened because of something off the court—over-shadowing problems on the court that Wiz fans would have acknowledged eventually—but that’s beside the point. Wizards fans understand: it’s time to let go of Gilbert. And because of this felony charge, and Gilbert’s impending guility plea, the franchise will likely be able to void Gilbert’s contract, and re-build about five years earlier than expected. Rather than five seasons of gritting our teeth, pretending that we can win with Gilbert, and gradually realizing the futility of it all, the Wizards get a fresh start. That’s not just lucky; it’s a freaking miracle.
The team’s worst nightmare might just give birth to a dream scenario.
And as for Arenas, here’s to hoping he gets a fresh start, too. He’s been unfairly persecuted in all this; a bad contract and bad decisions don’t mean that he’s evil. For now, he’s a pariah, and no doubt, the NBA and David Stern will try to give him the Craig Hodges treatment. But then… in a perverse way, this is perfect for Gilbert too.
He’s the underdog again. And when the dust settles here, people will realize that what he did was actually kind of harmless. Incredibly stupid, but harmless. And he’ll get another chance. Gilbert will be back in the NBA, once again trying to prove the world wrong. It’s a role he was born to play. As a franchise player, he never quite worked, but like his whole life story—just when you write him off, he’ll find a way to make it work. It won’t happen in Washington, but that’s okay. Wizards fans will always love Gilbert, and wherever he lands after all this, we’ll be rooting for him.
As someone that loved Gilbert more than anyone in sports, this has been impossible to process. But that much is certain: wherever he lands, I’ll root like hell for Gilbert Arenas. Even if he’s playing the Wizards and Kevin Durant.