Gilbert Arenas, man. To say that we are, all of us, on the record about Gilbert Arenas is a pretty significant understatement. I wrote my first paean to the dude five freaking years ago; Shoals wrote his most recent one earlier today, for his NBA blog at GQ. We are also bickering about Arenas on Gchat as I write this. The reason that we're talking about Gilbert, who is after all an amnesty casualty of an unsigned free agent fresh off a year in which he was pretty lousy for the Magic and even worse on Twitter, is that he is still fascinating. The more direct reason is that a long and interesting (and wildly contradictory and intermittently Drake-ish and also somewhat sympathy-inducing) interview with Arenas by Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick went up this morning. It's worth reading in its entirety—part one is here and part two is here—but here are seven moments from it that struck me for one reason or another. More on this to come, obviously. Also, the image below still looks great on a Mothering Hut t-shirt.
1) Arenas: NBA is fantasy. Sports are fantasy. Driving around in all the new cars and jewelry and all of this—that's fantasy. And if you can't escape, then you lose yourself. If you can't get home, can't escape that world, you lose yourself in it because fans, media—they can't decipher between the two. They don't realize there's two different people. Like Lady Gaga, that's the image she's giving you guys, but when she's at home, she's a normal person. And when she's in the public eye, that's who she is. When I was in the public eye, I was Agent Zero. When I'm home, and I'm away from everybody, I'm me. And I felt when "me" got attacked with that felony charge, I didn't know how to react with that one.
2) Arenas: "When I got amnestied, I could've just taken the money and just left, and just basically said, "Hey, you guys did me a favor. I don't want to be crucified anymore." As much as I've done for fans and for people, it sucks the way the world works. You can do a hundred things for people, but you do one bad mistake and everyone crucifies you and that's all they want to remember. They don't want to remember I gave my own money to the [Washington] D.C. school district and built up the D.C. school district. They don't want to remember none of that."
3) SI.com: So what's the conclusion—that the Wizards were done with you?
Arenas: Were they done with me? I can't get into that. I just feel like the NBA is a fantasy. You live in a dream. My felony charge is real-life stuff. But I'm crucified, like I just go out in the streets [causing problems], but no one sees me. No one sees me in public. I'm in my house all the time.
SI.com: You get out to the YMCA, though. What's that group like? Anybody there with any past experience?
Arenas: I'm playing with players who just love the game of basketball. Past experience? They've played the game of basketball before, yeah [laughs].
SI.com: Are these 65- or 70-year-old guys out there or what?
Arenas: There's some 45, pushing 50. Other than that, it's 30s, 20s, some teens. It's fun. That's fun basketball.
4) Arenas: When you do something good, if it gets magnified, you're some Jesus. And then when you do something bad, you become Satan. But two years later, if you're still talking about a mistake I made, then something is really wrong with you. Like when you write an article, if you're going to bring up the gun thing, then bring up that I adopted somebody when his parents died in a fire. Put that in there, too.
I guess negative things sell, and we can tell because we've got these reality TV shows where everybody just beats themselves senseless and we just keep tuning in. That's where my iffiness comes back and the reason I stayed away so long, is like, "Do I even want to be a part of that anymore?" I'm happy now. I'm a race-car driver.
5) SI.com: It's all heavy stuff. Did you ever talk to a therapist about any of this?
Arenas: A therapist? I just watched Dexter and The Sopranos [laughs]. If Tony Soprano goes to the therapist, then I just use that. That's it. I just watch TV.
6) SI.com: I don't remember you ever talking about that day in the Wizards' locker room. Can you go into it?
Arenas: I've never talked about it, and I felt like this: The reason I never talked about it was because if [the media] couldn't do your own research to find out the truth, then why should I do it for you? It was like, "If you don't care, I don't care."
7) On why he shut down his Twitter account ...
"Because I was done. What I wanted to do is, I was giving out my shoes because I knew my fate after the lockout. I didn't need the shoes anymore, so I was giving them away. And while I'm giving them away, I'm going to make you listen to my jokes. So you're forced to listen to my jokes, and hear me say anything that pops up in my mind, which most of the time I'd written down anyway. And you get the shoes. You don't have to pay for it. You just have to put up with my ignorance or whatever. It was all just fun. My tweets were deeper than what people wanted to believe. There was always subliminal stuff inside my stuff."