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How to Become a Wiz Ballboy Without Really Trying

Gilbert, Drew Cleary and Garrett. (Mitchell Layton/NBAE via Getty)

The first time Gilbert Arenas called Garrett Scanlon, he was at school.

"Let me call you back," Scanlon said.

"Who was that?" his friends asked.

"Uhhhh, Gilbert," Scanlon said.

(This story, I should point out, is brought to you by anyone who thinks Team Wiz is better off without Gilbert. Win-loss record aside, no team is better off without Gilbert.)

(Also, is any NBA team more in touch with suburban teenagers? Recall, Gil sponsors video-gamers, Caron shows up unannounced for random birthday parties, and also this.)

So anyhow, Gilbert and Garrett had met back in the Spring of '06, in much the same way any NBA all-star and suburban high school junior meet nowadays: on the Internet. Garrett, a longtime Wiz fan from Montgomery County, had come across a mention of Gilbert's Black President MySpace page. Like all of us Wiz Web aficionados, he saw the private pics of Gilbert with his daughter and friends and figured, huh, maybe this is really him.

So Garrett created a MySpace account, and messaged Gilbert, and Gilbert wrote back, and they began a correspondence about the usual stuff--Gil's charity work, the NBA playoff series Gil was currently waging with LeBron James and the Cavs, etc.

Eventually, Garrett--still not convinced that his new electronic friend was actually Gibert Arenas--asked whether they might meet in person. Gil said sure, and directed Garrett to come down to the Verizon Center for one of his summer workouts in '06.

Action shot, from Comcast SportsyNet via Wizznutzz.

"I was like, 'Ok, it's either a security guard pranking me, or it's actually him,' " Garrett recalls thinking. "If he said, 'Meet me on a street corner,' I wasn't gonna do it."

So, as instructed, Garrett went to the arena's security office and said he was there to meet Gilbert.

"They didn't believe me," he said. "The people at security had no idea. I was kind of weirded out."

So Garrett went home, and messaged Gilbert what had happened. Gilbert said he would get it worked out, and two days later Garrett tried again. This time he was escorted down to the practice court, where the all-star guard was shooting around.

"He was like, 'I'm Gilbert,' " Garrett told me. "It was like, 'obviously.' "

Garrett stayed for a bit, and they played video games in the players lounge, and Gilbert gave him a basketball and his new Gil Zeros--before they had been released--and that was that, since Gil had to leave for a game that night at Barry Farms.

"It was just unbelievable, kind of," Garrett said. "I mean, he's an NBA all-star, and all of the sudden I'm sitting in the players lounge talking to him. That was kind of weird. I was star struck, but at the same time, it was like talking to a friend."

So later in the summer they traded messages about Gil's experience at Team USA tryouts, and eventually Garrett got around to asking whether he might get a job as a Wiz ballboy. One day Gil wrote back to say that he had set it all up, telling Garrett to "just come down whenever," and Garrett asked for more details, which is why Gil wound up calling Garrett at school.

They talked later that night, and Garrett skipped school the next day to interview with the team, and he got the job and worked for the Wiz all last season--his senior year at Good Counsel.

His parents grew to love the Wizards, watching many of their games during dinner, and Garrett of course met all the players and got all the freebies he could want--"I've got a closet just full of shoes, I don't really know what I'm going to do with them," he said. But he doesn't really ask Gilbert for swag or autographs or anything.

"The first time I asked him for his autograph he was like, 'Why do you want this, you know me?' " Garrett said. "After that I was kind of like, 'Yeah, that's true.' "

I asked what his friends at Good Counsel thought about all this.

"I mean, they thought it was crazy," Garrett said. "It is."

Then this summer Gil needed help with his rehab, so Garrett wound up going to the arena dozens and dozens of times this summer, sometimes twice a day, shagging balls during shooting drills and running bleachers in the 400 level with Gilbert and strength coach Drew Cleary, and also helping out Andray Blatche and Roger Mason and Donell Taylor. When the Pan-American team came to town, Wiz VP Tommy Sheppard introduced Garrett to Villanova Coach Jay Wright and his staff, since Garrett was going to 'Nova.

During his first few weeks away at school, Gilbert called a couple times, just to make sure he was adjusting ok. Thanks to that introduction from Sheppard, he got a job in the Wildcats' basketball office, and some of the 'Nova players really like Gilbert, so Garrett took them to a preseason game in Philly and helped Antonio Pena score a Gilbert jersey. And Gilbert recently called, wanting Garrett to help him as he starts working on his jumper again, but Garrett couldn't make it because he's back at school.

I asked whether it didn't seem weird, that he's sort of friends with Gilbert Arenas, whom he met through MySpace as a high school junior.

"That's just his personality," Garrett said. "Obviously I'm just a little blip on his screen, he's got so many people in his life, but it's crazy how he takes time out to make sure I'm doing all right....I don't need to be some NBA superstar or a groupie. Some players have a lot of 'friends' that come to games; he's got one guy and that's about it. He's kind of a normal guy. Although he makes millions of dollars."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 17, 2008; 11:30 AM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Great story. And it stays away from United, which is a plus, especially since you apparently have a new victim.

Posted by: Kim | January 17, 2008 11:50 AM | Report abuse

On one hand I think what Gilbert is doing is great.

On the other hand: I fear one day Gilbert will show up to some place trying to prove to one of his MySpace buddies that he really is himself. But instead of finding a buddy, he finds some middle aged guy announcing, "Hi, I'm Chris Hansen from Dateline NBC."

Posted by: James | January 17, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Good piece. So what does he think of Scottie Reynolds?

Posted by: sitruc | January 17, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Somehow I don't see Gil trolling the internet for underaged dates. At least I hope not.

I think we're really lucky in this town. Every team we have is full of some of the greatest personalities. Gil, Ovy, Carron, Manny, Da Meathook, Christian Gomez from the drum incident up in New York, Portis... How many other places can say they have all-stars dropping by birthdays and inviting kids down to be the ball boy who they meet online?

Posted by: EricS | January 17, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Fly Falcons Fly. Wonder if he and Roger Mason were reminiscing of their G.C. days... God I'm such a dork.

Posted by: ron | January 17, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I don't think i would be able to stay calm each time id talk to him. I'd be stunned every time i see him.

Yeaaaah Garrett still unbelievable thats how it happened.

Posted by: Chris | January 17, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I think it's sweet that Shaq gave Drew Cleary those shorts. Or are they capri pants?

Posted by: Sean | January 17, 2008 12:37 PM | Report abuse

hell yeah good counsel. hell yeah garrett. hell yeah agent zero. hell yeah caron butler. hell yeah roger mason. hell yeah eddie jordan. hell yeah zards.

Posted by: | January 17, 2008 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Good Counsel = nerd. Video games = nerd. Myspace = nerd. Ballboy = nerd. Villa-no-fun = nerd. But I'd kill to be Garrett for one of those phone calls. Congrats, buddy. If only my Good Counsel diploma could do more for me. . .

Posted by: Dave Olson | January 17, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

That little dude has more swag than all of Montgomery County and Ashburn, VA combined.

Posted by: | January 17, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Players as people? Didn't think that angle still worked these days. Glad to hear it. Great job, Dan!

Posted by: Mike12 | January 17, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm impressed his parents believed him enough to take him to the Phone Booth that fateful day - and not immediately cut him off from any further access to the interwebnets...

Posted by: Rob Iola | January 17, 2008 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely agree, Dan! NO team is better off without Gilbert! I was touting him all of last summer before his rise from all-star to superstar! There's NO ONE more marketable than Gilbert! Not even LeBron! Okay, maybe LeBron but nobody else! lol

Posted by: Binh | January 17, 2008 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Great story. What a guy.

Posted by: Steve | January 17, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

The best point you made in the story, and one in which is easy to forget in times like now is that no matter how well the Wizards are doing without Gilbert; you want him on your team and you want to sign him to a long term deal. He's a great guy in every context.

Posted by: Bobby | January 17, 2008 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Gilbert's a wonderful guy, but I don't think he helps you win many basketball games. He's pretty inefficient for a stud scorer and he's definitely not the right guy to be running the point. Of course what do I know, I just read your team's box scores.

Posted by: Asher | January 17, 2008 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Other so-called superstars: Please take note on how to go out of your way to treat your fans.
Way to go, Gil.

Posted by: Arlington Pimp | January 17, 2008 5:44 PM | Report abuse

Great story. I have talked to Garret before on myspace. We tried to meet each other at a game once, but he was busy and we didn't get to meet. I believed him when he said he worked out this past summer and man I wanted to join. That would be like a dream come true.

Posted by: Ed aka AznZer0 | January 17, 2008 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes you come across a story that really warms the heart. This is one of those stories. What a great guy!!!!

Posted by: Al | January 17, 2008 6:42 PM | Report abuse

So the point of this story is that Garrett could hook me up with a Roger Mason Jr. jersey? Or at least tell me how to become a member of "Mason's Madness?"

Posted by: Derek | January 17, 2008 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Wiz PR guy Daren Jenkins has a similar story about how he got his shot working with the Wiz. Rumor has it when Jenkins was about 11 yrs old ( 4 years ago) he was at a Wiz game when a short plump fellow with a disticnt mustache carrying game notes to the press knocked him over spilling all of his popcorn. the man ( Dolph Sands) helped up young jenkins offered to make him his assitant and the rest is history.

Posted by: i got work | January 17, 2008 8:55 PM | Report abuse

When I hear the term swag, I think of b@ll sweat...I think we called it schwag in HS.

Posted by: WaPoLiveFan16 | January 17, 2008 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Swag is your Swagger the air of confidence you carry about yourself.. Schwag is like your gear and shoes...big diference homey

Posted by: my swag is phenominal | January 17, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

It just goes to show the person Gil is, he's a great guy who is grounded regardless of his wealth or status. I think Gil is needed on and off the court. The more I hear about the things that he does the more I think Gil is just one of us. Go Gil, come back soon.

Posted by: Tu | January 17, 2008 10:41 PM | Report abuse

To all the people who think Gil is on Myspace messaging underage kids for reasons other than friendship, should think again. I've personally seen Gil play one-on-one basketball with minors in his hometown of North Hollywood, California, where we're both from. He's a very friendly guy, and does not take advantage of his 'superstardom', if you will. He actually attended Grant High School and ran the backcourt with my best friend's older brother during his varsity years. One could ask his teammate running along side him in the backcourt, or any of his teammates, coaches, friends, or acquaintances for that matter; he might seem like a cocky athlete on the court, but off the court, there aren't too many people as humble as Gil.

Posted by: Sam | January 18, 2008 2:02 AM | Report abuse

This is great. Gil is a great human being. He certainly earn a fan here.

Posted by: Carlos | January 18, 2008 7:57 AM | Report abuse

The thing I like about Gil is, what you see is what you get. No pretenses. I will always remember how he immediately ran out and bought whatever he could with the cash he had to help the Katrina victims coming to DC. He was one of the first to do what he could and you could see the sincereity in his gesture. And the things he does for the schools in the area. I love him to death. Lebron may be the NBA's poster child, but he has no personality to me and comes off as a little arrogant and removed from us commoners. That doesn't detract from his game but he is not a player who I would like to meet. Gilbert has such a quality about him that makes him so endearing. A friend of mine that worked for the Verizon center got me a personalized autographed T-shirt. I was like too through that he would take the time to do that. I truly hope that he remains a Wizard.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 18, 2008 9:34 AM | Report abuse

I recall a similar story. Current Wizards equipment manager Rob Suller met former Bullets great Harvey Grant in an AOL chatroom back in 1997. Grant invited young Robert to The Capital Center to hang out and Robert eventually became a ball boy. Eleven years later Suller is the head man in charge. What a great story.

Posted by: Everybody Knows Him Well | January 18, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Yeah I am a Gilbert fan too & I don't really follow basketball.

He just "seems" like a good person.

Posted by: jamal | January 18, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

None of this surprises me about Gilbert Arenas. In 2002 (at least I think it was 2002), I was having dinner at a restaurant with big communal tables, and Gilbert came in after his game with the Warriors and sat down next to us. He was the most unassuming guy. He said they'd lost their game, and then he wanted to know what to order, and he just talked with us until we finished our meal...

Posted by: Gabe | January 18, 2008 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Dude on the left of the first picture....NICE SHORTS!

Posted by: Uniwatcher | January 18, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Gilbert's for real. This is all for real. (And news -- like -- Dan, seriously, you have such a good nose for sports news.)

I know this 'cause I remember Gilbert bringing those supplies -- quietly, without publicity -- to the National Guard heardquarters for the DC Hurricane Katrina victims.

Gil's just a good guy.

I'm a season ticketholder and I went to the "meet the team" event. No press or anything. And they're calling out the players one by one. There's a cute little kid hanging over the railing, inside the tunnel almost that Gil's coming out of. Press can't see Gil and crowd (other than me, sitting next to cute kid) can't see Gil, and Gil hesitates to walk out so he can stop and sign the kid's jersey.

I yell: "Gil, you're a a sweetie!"

Hey, a la Sean Taylor and all, this story also worries me a little. If you let just anyone into your life, there are some people that will totally use you for your money. I kinda worry for Gil, too.

When I go to the games, I'm happy to see Gil there on the bench. (Although seriously, no oversized yellow shirts with charcoal-colored vests, OK? Or just generally, no shirts hanging out beyond vests/jackets/etc.)

Because Gil is a sweetie.

Posted by: Nancy | January 19, 2008 5:52 PM | Report abuse

(Can someone give Dan an award for writing and also writing good titles for his articles? Hello? Does anyone at the Post even know he's there? Hello? Hello?)

Posted by: Nancy | January 19, 2008 5:53 PM | Report abuse

prepare them themselves. The town affords a market for the surplus produce their lands must have been cultivated before any considerable towns could be

Posted by: Betty | January 23, 2008 6:19 AM | Report abuse

Grett you're about to get so much pussy with this article. Fvckng right doggy!!!!!!

Posted by: Slags | January 23, 2008 10:12 PM | Report abuse

natural inclinations of man. If human institutions had never thwarted those been the case in France, and probably in most other parts of Europe. With

Posted by: Betty | January 24, 2008 7:23 PM | Report abuse

Good hoops site:

Posted by: mgraham | January 25, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

aewdsa saf wefrasf adsf sdaf

Posted by: Jessica | January 28, 2008 9:02 AM | Report abuse

i never thought a basketball player could be so down to earth and caring about people and being real,after reading all of this guys blogs,and the way he treats people,he should be on the top of some mvp list for all of the usa as most valuable player from any sports for his contributions to real people and on such personal levels,i mean come on who else would EVER do things like him? lol i dont see T O showing up at some kids birthday party haha.and to tell you the truth before this i just saw him as a great player,but to watch him play now feels like you kind of know the guy its pretty amazing.

Posted by: mike | January 28, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

Go Gil!

Posted by: Tony | January 29, 2008 11:04 AM | Report abuse

There is no happiness like that of being loved by your these returning vnhxtrrpczayd was very pleasant or desirable no magnet drew me.

Posted by: Rebecca98 | January 29, 2008 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I read this the first day and meant to post that Gilbert is the best. I was also thinking of how he went out to the armory to meet the hurricane Katrina displaced residents also. He has done a lot of great things in this community! Cant wait to see Agent Zero on the court! Go Gil, and Wiz!

Posted by: Anonymous | January 29, 2008 6:01 PM | Report abuse

Since coming to DC, Gil has done so many things that have helped people in some way or another. I remember reading the story about the little boy who lost his family on Christmas Day and how Gil got him a job as a ball boy, took him shopping for school and other things. It's great to have him in DC and to see him giving back to the community!

Posted by: Nikki | January 29, 2008 11:12 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Betty | January 30, 2008 1:20 PM | Report abuse

atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity and that now I was map quest driving direction Next day new steps were to be taken my plans could no longer be

Posted by: Betty | January 30, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

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