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How Video Gamers Saved Gilbert

Gil's salvation (AP).

After that run of inquisitorial Does-Gilbert-Cheat-At-Halo video game stories last week, I'm worried that people might have gotten the wrong impression about Gilbert and his habit. He said he plays 14 hours a week; some people wondered whether that was too much. He admitted to exploiting a loophole to pad his skill rating; some people worried about whether he might take shortcuts in his other competitive endeavors.

Which reminded me of a conversation Gilbert had with the media shortly before training camp opened. Many of his stories that day had a nostalgic hue. He had talked about the origins of the large scar on his surgically repaired knee (it came not from the surgery, but from falling on glass when playing Frisbee as a kid). He had talked about his belief that only age confers leadership powers ("Whoever's the oldest player on the team is the leader," he said. "I wasn't the leader of my high school team until I was a senior; our senior back-up guard, because he was older than me, he was the leader.") And he had talked about the broken hand he suffered during high school (he claimed he took off his cast during a game, checked in and scored 51 points. Someone asked if there was YouTube evidence. "They didn't have that then," he said.)

Anyhow, WRC's Lindsay Czarniak asked Arenas what it was like to sit out during the bleak final moments of last season, and he went on one of his trademark, rambling monologues.

"That was frustrating, because aside from my hand getting broken I never really had a serious injury," he began. "I'm sitting there like, 'Why couldn't I break my hand, I'd rather break my hand than hurt my leg, because I can play left-handed.' That's how I'm thinking. But when you have that leg [injury], you're just sitting there, just feeling sorry for yourself.

"And that's the reason I didn't talk to the media, because what am I gonna say? In my mind, I was like, 'Man, I feel like a loser right now.' You're sitting there watching NBA games, and you're just down. Like, your team is losing and you're sitting there yelling at the TV. I didn't want to be around my teammates, because I didn't want to bring my negative energy towards them.

"The funniest thing that you wouldn't think, would get you out of it. One day, I just logged on to online video games, decided, 'Instead of watching this [NBA] game let me just play this video game.' And one of the kids just said [to another gamer], 'You just need to shut the ---- up.' And it just made me laugh. I didn't laugh for about two weeks, and it just made me laugh, because it's so innocent."

"You know, there's no star power, there's no nothing. You hear these 13-year-olds just going at it: 'My Xbox broke, I can't afford it, I can't afford to get a new one,' and this and this. And you're just sitting there talking, and you start interacting, and you start laughing again. Then you just start enjoying. This is what life is really about."

Then he told us about facing kids with gamer tags like KobesBetterThanGilbert or LeBronsBetterThanGilbert.

For many people, perhaps, life is not about 13-year-old kids talking online trash while playing video games. And I'm not sure that when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird got down in the dumps, they'd console themselves by going to the local rec center to watching middle schoolers play Pitfall! and Pole Position on their Atari 2600s. But as performance enhancers go, it beats human growth hormone, no?

Other highlights from that day:

On whether he wanted to see offseason personnel moves: "It's hard, when players get traded and players leave, because you build a relationship with the player. I was real sad when Larry [Hughes] left, Jared [Jeffries] left, Juan [Dixon] left. You have that bond with them, so when they leave it's like, 'Aw, man.' Now you've got to get another teammate, now you've got to try to learn his antics, what he likes to do on and off the floor. So to better the team, you have to get better at each spot, but to lose a friendship sometimes is hard to take on."

On whether he wanted to get a new center: "When you have three guys that score 65, 70 points, there ain't too much that the frontcourt can do. I mean, we give Brendan the ball, but we don't rely on him to give us 20. That's not his role. His role is to balance out the offense. He balances it out as a big, DeShawn balances it out as a guard. So you have three scorers, two playmaker/defenders, somebody to run around with out there."

On acquiring other centers: "No one's giving up Shaqs. I don't know how Boston got Kevin Garnett. I mean, they had to get rid of the two GMs, a couple fans, all the players, bleachers, season tickets...."

On leadership: "I talked about it with Calvin, Antawn, the older players. As a young player coming in, just because I do all the scoring and I'm everywhere, I'm the leader? I told them, why am I the leader? How can I tell you, grown-a$$ men, you've been here 12 years, to listen to me?"

By Dan Steinberg  |  October 15, 2007; 5:51 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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If playing video games helps with his eyesight so he doesn't bump into people and bust up his knee again, he can play Halo all night long. We need to go to the conference finals this year!

Posted by: DB | October 16, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, and we need to WIN the conference finals....the whole thing would be nice but you know..the whole Western conference thing.

Posted by: DB | October 16, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

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