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A history of Gilbert's practical jokes

This whole issue of a Gilbert practical joke gone wrong? It seems fairly predictable in retrospect, though obviously not to this degree. Some of his jokes have always veered a bit too close to the edge. A few years back, a teammate told me a story that involved Gilbert flinging full bottles of Gatorade at another teammate's vehicle while they were moving at high speeds. I sort of downplayed it at the time, but that strikes me as potentially dangerous behavior, perhaps marginally amusing to adrenaline-fueled teenagers but sort of silly for millionaire adults.

But heck, when Gilbert told us he was creating a cartoon series, it was going to be called "Gazo the Pranksta," starring a group of high school pranksters. Inside the stuffed animal promoting the show was a note, that began like this: "Hypocrites, fools and the oversensitive beware."

See the pranks and jokes and japes and escapades certainly became part of the Agent Zero allure, and I did as much as anyone to glorify them. And no, I'm not suggesting that any of this stuff warrants the current characterizations of Gilbert as a thug or villain; he's neither. But I do think you could have predicted that at least one prank would end very badly. Let's review.

From an old Sports Illustrated profile of Gilbert:

To say Arenas enjoys a good practical joke is like saying Timothy Leary enjoyed the occasional recreational drug. He responded to the veterans' orders to bring doughnuts to practice by buying plain ones and sprinkling baby powder on them--that is, when he wasn't buying frosted ones, licking each one and putting it back in the box. He also took great joy in stealing his teammates' keys and hiding them in, say, a bottle of water. Then there was the time Arenas showed up on the team charter wearing a Fran Tarkenton jersey--make that forward Chris Mills's Fran Tarkenton jersey, a specially ordered throwback that Mills had been talking about for months. Arenas had sneaked into Mills's house the night before and pilfered the prized shirt. Once on the charter, he opened his jacket to unveil what he loudly proclaimed "the best jersey in the world!" and proceeded to attack the lunch spread, making sure to wipe his hands all over Fran. "Talk about someone getting choked. I got choked for like five minutes," Arenas says, then nods appreciatively as if remembering a particularly good Merlot. "It was funny, though."

Despite his antics, teammates say they love playing with Arenas because, like the puppy who pees all over the couch and then wags his tail furiously, he's consistently good-spirited. "You can't get mad at him," says Warrriors guard Jason Richardson. "You just have to laugh."

Thing is, there have been so many pranks and jokes I can't even remember all of them. I know there was one where he filled Andray Blatche's bathtub with coffee during a road trip. And one where he would dump coffee on teammates' mattresses. And one where he had a friend pretend to steal Nick Young's Land Rover. And one where he would cut up his teammates' suits. The Oklahoman once wrote that he used "players' cell phones to send inappropriate text messages."

Then there was this passage from a San Jose Mercury News profile in 2003. Worth a quick read.

Sometimes a nickname is too perfect. And if nobody else will bestow it upon you, well then you might as well give it to yourself. That's why Gilbert Arenas wrote "GABW" on a basketball he used to carry with him.

Gilbert Arenas Boy Wonder.

It started a few years back when Arizona teammate Jason Gardner decided the dynamic duo backcourt of he and Arenas should be known as Batman and Robin. It never caught on...except with Arenas, who morphed his role to Boy Wonder.

"That fits me because Robin was the young guy who never paid any attention to authority, and that's how I am," Arenas said. "I do the opposite of what everybody says...."

"He really is the Boy Wonder because you never know what he's going to do next," Chris Mills said. "He can be destructive and kick holes in the wall and then two seconds later is on the bus laughing up a storm. I don't know if it's a split personality or what."...

The craziest thing Arenas has done? His teammates roll their eyes.

"We can only choose one?" asks Adonal Foyle before casting his vote for Arenas' tendency to break clipboards when angry.

Mills goes with Arenas' habit of ripping up cards for no reason when the guys are playing on the team plane. Antawn Jamison chooses Arenas' recent prank in Chicago, where he threw all the towels in the shower so that rookies Mike Dunleavy and Jiri Welsch had none to dry off. Then he started a snowball fight on the team bus.

"He's definitely 21 going on 12," Mills said. "His mind hasn't caught up to the number on his birth certificate."

The Tuscon Citizen reported that Gilbert often played pranks on super-serious Arizona teammate Gene Edgerson, "creating tension between the two." Jason Gardner was once asked about Gilbert's pranks at Arizona, and refused to go there.

"It could mean a little trouble for Gilbert," Gardner said. "Maybe even cause him not to start."

There were the countless tales of his locker room wrestling matches with Awvee Storey, including this one from Esquire:

"You know, when you have aggressive people, they have to relieve some of that. And I'm one of those people. I don't care--I wrastle. Wrestling. Hurting. I'll bite, punch him in the side....Our personalities clash because he's a bully and I don't like being bullied by anybody."

Storey was also the target outside the locker room, as in this tale of pranking:

"It drives some guys crazy, but I love it. One of my favorites was sneaking up on my teammate Awvee Storey. He has a bad attitude, and I just have to try and get him to smile. One day he was on the toilet reading the paper, and I snuck in with a water hose, turned it on him and sprayed him for, like, three minutes. He had all his clothes on, and he got soaked. It was hilarious. But for some reason he still wasn't laughing."

There was the famous paintball shootout involving Gilbert and Andray Blatche and various friends, in which Gilbert's team won:

They ran out of CO2 pretty quick because my team had most of it so one of Andray's friends yells, "Aww, it's not fair!" and they started to bail and jumped back over the wall. But one the kids was a little too heavy. His name is Jamar. That's 'Dray's cousin. Jamar couldn't get over the wall because Jamar has been eating one too many Twinkies.

So Jamar got stuck in my yard with the five of us. We gave him the chance to walk out like a man, or cry like a girl. He did both. He cried like a little girl while he was walking and running while we were shooting paintballs at him. I told him, "Hey, come in the lion's den, you're bound to get hit."

They said that he got hit so many times that he had trouble putting his clothes on the next day.

And then there was the time that Javaris Crittenton was traded to the Wizards, via the AP.

Crittenton even was given a pair of sneakers in Wizards team colors by Arenas. Asked whether he was worried about notorious jokester Arenas setting him up with some sort of prank, Crittenton smiled.

"I've heard about Gil," Crittenton said, "but I don't think he'll do that."

Yeah. And then there was his press conference after signing the mega-contract.

"All the little things I do out there is gonna come to a halt," Arenas said. "You know, but I think I'm up for the task. I just need to cut out some of the foolishness I do."

"What foolishness?" asked Abe Pollin, appropriately

"It's a good thing," Arenas answered. "I create hype, I create excitement, I think I can still do that. But some of the other stuff I know I've got to calm down."

By Dan Steinberg  |  January 7, 2010; 1:29 PM ET
Categories:  Wizards  
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Wow. Thanks for putting that together. It should be required reading for anyone following this issue.

Posted by: cballer | January 7, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Gil needs a long tiem out from basketball period to get his head on straight. Regardless of Chritterton's apparent equal if not greater stupidity, Jarvis doesn't makes or break a team, Gil does. I hope he takes this timeout to get himself some long-term professional help in dealing with whatever is going on with him.

Posted by: EricS2 | January 7, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Roger McDowell realizes he was just a bantamweight all these years.

Posted by: Section117 | January 7, 2010 2:11 PM | Report abuse

The Chris Mills story is definitely the one I'm thinking of. I still wish I could read Brendan Haywood's reaction to that story. It was funny at the time, and telling today.

Posted by: Tank2 | January 7, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Thank's for posting that Dan. Right now it's kinda sad to read it as we're pretty much at the end of it and it seems like it will all come right back at Gil's face...
But as cballer said everyone should read that if they wanna understand this whole mess. I mean, at first I understood that Gil was joking with crittenton with the whole gun thing cuz I know Gil but now that I re-read that I just remember how much of a crazy guy Gil is and it's true that getting in legal troubles only now is a miracle considering some of his pranks... I hope Stern will at least understand that and more importantly the Wizards organisation (not too much hope though...)

Posted by: LilGil | January 7, 2010 3:09 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Just like with Tiger. Now, we will dig into his past and pull out all of the things he has ever done. Sheeze! Glad I am not a celeb. Sure would like to look into the closets of some of these media type who loves to stand in judgement of someone. I am sure there will be plenty of bones falling all over the place.

When is the next game and how are the Wiz preparing for it. That, is what I am interested in. I know the whole Gil saga now and like the other Wizards, I am a little tired of hearing about it. Until, a judgement is handed out, can we please move on. We all know Gil was always full or pranks. This time he just went way to far.

Posted by: ivyleague | January 7, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Wow! Just like with Tiger. Now, we will dig into his past and pull out all of the things he has ever done. Sheeze! Glad I am not a celeb. Sure would like to look into the closets of some of these media type who loves to stand in judgement of someone. I am sure there will be plenty of bones falling all over the place.

Posted by: ivyleague | January 7, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Great, great comment ivyleague. I have felt this way for years. Those perfect people in the media act like they never make any mistakes.

Where is the outrage over Peter Vescey's outrageous claim that Arenas drew his gun on Crittenton??????

Gilbert is the victim here folks.

Posted by: Barno1 | January 7, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Arenas basically committed a victimless crime. He made a mistake. Now DC might prosecute him for 20 years in jail and the Great Stern has decided to take away his livelyood perpetually while also screwing the Wizards franchise. What a crock.

Posted by: Dellis2 | January 7, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Dumping coffee on beds and cutting up suits, really? Arenas is a narcissist dweeb.

Posted by: buster17 | January 8, 2010 12:10 AM | Report abuse

Gilbert Arenas -- what a card!


Posted by: MikeLicht | January 8, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I am just glad he is off the team! I was disgusted by that sickening contract to a player of his vastly overrated low caliber! Sure, an above average player but superstar.. HELL NO!!

CERTAINLY not worth that much! Career shooting % barely over 40! Not a PG even now. Better off trading him... no team will eat THAT contract!

Posted by: iubiquity | January 8, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

In the five years that Gilbert's been in DC, hasn't that corresponded to a drop in police blotter incidents involving the Wiz? Especially, in comparison to the mid 90's! I think you ought warm up your slide rule, and test that hypothesis.

Posted by: emrj | January 8, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

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