Gilbert Is But a Leaf on a Tree
Dime Mag published long portions of its cover story Q&A with Gilbert Arenas this morning, and suddenly we're back to the very serious, world-weary and slyly crafty Gilbert, whose entire persona has been created to maximize his star power. It's the kind of self-aware straight talk that causes you to doubt the entire foundation of wacky Gilbertology, and to once again wonder whether he will become a marketing executive when he finishes his playing career. Among many highlights:
A franchise player, he sells tickets if he's sitting on the bench or if he's in the game. I know how to sell tickets. I haven't played basketball in a whole year, and I went from No. 10 to No. 8 in jersey sales. I went up.
It ain't all about on the court. It's if you sell your team's product. I'm a product-seller. One reason they signed me back is I know how to sell. A guy who can sign his adidas contract and his NBA contract on his own, he has to know something about marketing. They can rip me all they want, but you still have a kid who came from nothing and learned and took the time to educate himself. And he watched his forefathers, what they did and what they brought to the game, and he took it and turned it into a media whirlwind.
He then said he wondered why modern players didn't emulate Magic and Shaq with their off-the-court funnies, and he specifically mentioned Kobe and Iverson and T-Mac "just playing" instead of all the rest.
When I came in there was only one player who was using himself that way, and that was Shaq. That's who I wanted to be. I needed to be following that person, seeing how he interacts with the media, how he interacts with the fans. I would see Shaq and think, 'Man, I'm as funny as him. All I don't have is the name.' Once I started playing and becoming a household name, my personality just pushed me forward.
It's an outstanding read, and I'll just quote one more part, in which Gilbert makes his tree-and-leaf analogy and further proves that he's better with words than 95 percent of working journalists, present company included.
I think what we don't realize as players is we're like leaves, and the NBA is a tree," he said. "And when the wind blows, some of us are out of there. At the end of the day, all of the leaves on the tree are gonna be gone, and there's gonna be new leaves. I'm just a leaf on a tree right now. We're just passing through, but in that time when you're passing through, get what you can out of your time here. What can you stamp on that tree that will make you special, you know? And some people's marks are bigger than others, but no one is bigger than the tree. No one's the tree. I don't think players realize that.
As he acknowledged, many fans don't want to hear any of this from a guy who sits on the bench every game, and he even talks about the possibility of dropping some blog craziness just to stay relevant. Still, in a one-week span to go from frank discussions of his painful childhood to crass remarks about vice presidential candidates to "no one is bigger than the tree" is a pretty remarkable rhetorical achievement.
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