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Throwback Thursday: An Ode to Agent Zero

Gilbert Arenas has been called a lot of things throughout his NBA career: Agent Zero, Hibachi and quite frankly, a head case.

Once a universal top 10 NBA player, Arenas now makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Last month TMZ posted footage of Arenas smashing his own Mercedes because his ex-girlfriend threw his computer in the pool, losing his Netflix password in the process.

His comments in an Instagram post added some much needed clarity to the situation,

“When she toss ur #3 monitor computer in the pool, you’re like HELL MUTHA F—N NAW, I don’t remember my #Netflix password it was auto saved, you piece of s–t…#TMZ u take a person #Netflix away, nothing else matters.”

Netflix can be addicting, but come on.

After this incident, news was quiet on the Arenas front — or at least until he posted this to his Instagram three days ago:

Yes, you read that correctly. Arenas was banned from the Orange County Fair after winning seemingly an endless hoard of stuffed animals for his kids. At least he’s using his shooting powers for good these days.

Really though, if you followed Gilbert Arenas at all during his career, none of this should come as a surprise. There was really no other way for him to go out, and that’s why we love him.

He’s Agent Zero, on and off the court. Trying to harness and contain Gilbert Arenas is like trying to control a bowl of fire, which is fittingly the direct translation of his nickname, Hibachi. He’s meant to roam free and be who he is. That’s what made him so special, and that’s what made his rise to stardom so captivating.

Arenas wasn’t destined to be a star by any means. He wasn’t the fastest or most athletic guy, and even though he was 6’4,” he didn’t have much of a muscular physique to speak of.

That’s probably why he fell to Golden State in the second round of the 2001 draft, and why he only played 24.6 minutes per game his rookie season. Arenas showed glimpses of his potential in his sophomore season, averaging 18.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists, winning Most Improved Player in the process. 

The following season he bolted for Washington, and in the nation’s capital, the world would finally get to see Agent Zero let loose. The production, volatility and sheer excellence of Arenas’s prime was unlike any other. He knew he wasn’t the quickest or most athletic player, but he knew his strengths and used them as a weapon.

Arenas was one of the most skilled players in the NBA, with exceptional ball-handling skills combined with a fearless, unfazed, confident attitude that made him a relentless competitor on the court. He didn’t know what a bad shot was and is probably the all-time leader in NBA coaches saying “No, No…Yes, Yes!” as he let it loose from 30 feet to somehow find the bottom of the basket. He embodied the scorer’s mentality down to its core, scoring basically anyway from anywhere.

It wasn’t always an efficient brand of basketball, but he’d draw double-digit free throw attempts and chuck close to seven three-pointers a game, and he wasn’t shy about it either. His style of play was a precursor to the analytics age, where there’s an emphasis on pace and taking a high volume of shots from beyond the arc and at the rim. He was basically James Harden before James Harden.

From 2004-2007, Arenas averaged at least 25 points and five assists, and made at least 500 free throws and 199 three-pointers each season. According to Basketball-Reference, the only other player in NBA history to do that in one season was Harden last year. Arenas did it three consecutive seasons. Arenas STATS

However great you thought Arenas was, and he was great, he thought he was that much better. That’s what made him so good, and what made him so clutch. His game winners were majestic, defying logic at times, and no sort of tomfoolery he does these days can erase them from the annals of NBA history: 

He was the ultimate showman, and even though he rubbed people the wrong way, he backed it up on the court. He doesn’t have a signature playoff run to live in infamy, so his biggest mark on the game has to be his 60-point performance against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center in 2006 (when they were a playoff team), breaking Earl Monroe’s franchise record of 56 points from 1968:

His bow after the Wizards took the 147-141 win was an iconic moment that only Arenas could conspire. He had three 50+ point games and 27 40+ point games in his career.

The only reason we speak of Arenas in past tense is because, like many greats before him, his career was cut short by injuries. An assortment of knee tears and other injuries diminished Agent Zero into brief glimpses of his flashy play. He only played 134 of a possible 410 games from 2008-2012, marking the end of his career.

His head may not always be on straight nowadays, and maybe it never was, but an Instagram post Arenas had earlier this week actually puts his career in perspective quite fittingly:

“Your legacy is how you remember you, not how others do.”

Well, if you know Gilbert Arenas at all by now, you know that means he had one heck of a career. Hall of Fame or not, Arenas was fun to watch, and his late-game heroics, frenetic scoring and larger than life persona will make him live on forever.

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