LOS ANGELES – If it’s possible to delete FaceTime off his phone, Gilbert Arenas says he did it, or he found a way to turn that toggle off. He’s still learning Instagram on the fly to immense success as he’s amassed almost 700,000 followers without a major media deal, posting videos around Beverly Hills or his home in the Valley, clips of his No Chill podcast, memes, and of course, footage of himself shooting. He also recently joined the Big3, but was quick to let everyone know he didn’t join the league to pass the ball.
Arenas isn’t the type to relax, and he wouldn’t know how if you asked him to.
The same monomaniacal focus and unique personality turned Arenas into one of the best scorers in the league, earned him notoriety in the pre-social media era as an early pioneer of athlete-first content, and led to an infamous flame out starting with an incident that to this day doesn’t even seem real (bringing loaded guns into the locker room over $1,100 then-teammate Javaris Crittenton owed him following a card game on the team plane).
That was 10 years ago now, and Arenas is still working out his place in the basketball ecosystem. He’s had missteps on social media, including some blatantly sexist Instagram comments in 2015 he never really apologized for, an inexcusable and baffling post about dark-skinned women in 2017, and an ill-planned marketing stunt for his now-defunct Complex show with Mia Khalifa that same year.
Contrition isn’t Arenas’ strong suit, nor is reflecting on the past. It’s part of what molded him into such a fierce competitor, as he wouldn’t back down from anybody, and never remembered a missed shot, instead always focusing on the next one. It’s also what pushed him out of the league almost as quickly as he was elevated to star status in the first place.
If the game is going to remember him fondly as more than a footnote while peers — and friends — like Paul Pierce and Caron Butler get high profile broadcasting gigs, it’s time for him to embrace the parts of Hibachi that made him so beloved as a player, while scaling back (or at least self editing) those misguided attempts at humor or unfiltered discussion that got him here in the first place. Basketball isn’t what it was in 2009. Humor, or what’s perceived as humor, isn’t either. Trolling or otherwise, words have an impact. And if Arenas can’t evolve with the times, he might be left behind.
The podcast is a big part of those efforts. He can still say what he wants — No Chill highly emphasized — about other players and where the game is headed without fear of oversight or the big backing from a network. There will always be a part of Arenas who needs that; the question becomes whether or not saying what he wants is more important to him than being idolized. He’s a star in the Valley, and always will be, after a spectacular career at Ulysses S Grant High School took him to Arizona and onto the NBA. This is home to him, the place where he still gets shots up in the gym every day and plays in weekly card games. Younger players look up to him, and he gives advice to everyone from Shareef O’Neal to Jayson Tatum.
But Agent Zero can be more. He seems like he wants to be more. It starts with balance, channeling the dynamic personality that can be his best asset or enemy depending on the day. Poolside at the home that influencer and motivational speaker Tai Lopez uses for his business operations in Beverly Hills, which doubles as where Arenas records his podcast, the former Wizards star is as blunt as ever.
It’s clear he still has plenty to say. It’s just a matter of whether or not he still has an audience out there who cares to listen.