When Gilbert Arenas pulled the plug on his "AgentZeroShow" Twitter account last September, he went dark in ways we hadn't seen since his fascinating rise and infamous fall.
He stayed out of the social media circle and out of the spotlight that caused him so much angst in recent years, and on Dec. 9, the Orlando Magic used their amnesty clause on the three-time All-Star. Arenas, who struggled in 49 games with the Magic after being acquired from Washington in December 2010, is owed $62 million over the next three years.
In his 10-month respite from the NBA floor, the 30-year-old Arenas is starting to become whole again, personally and professionally. He's returned to the court, most recently in a workout for the Lakers in Los Angeles, has shed more than 20 pounds since last season and has stabilized his home life with his longtime girlfriend and mother of his four kids.
Arenas spoke candidly with SI.com in a 90-minute interview that touched on everything from the ill-fated gun incident in the Wizards' locker room on Christmas Eve 2009 to the "downward spiral" it caused in recent years to his long road back.
When something drastic happens in our life, one person goes and hides and doesn't want to be seen. That's what I did. [Others] want to stand up and fight and think they're tough. Like if someone gets shot, you're either scared of guns or you think you're Superman. In my situation, I wanted to hide. I didn't want to be seen anymore.
When I got amnestied, I could've just taken the money and just left, and just basically said, "Hey, you guys did me a favor. I don't want to be crucified anymore." As much as I've done for fans and for people, it sucks the way the world works. You can do a hundred things for people, but you do one bad mistake and everyone crucifies you and that's all they want to remember. They don't want to remember I gave my own money to the [Washington] D.C. school district and built up the D.C. school district. They don't want to remember none of that. They just want to remember, "Oh, I single-handedly destroyed the Washington Wizards franchise." It sucks, but that's the way it is.
So I decided I'm not here to prove anybody wrong anymore. I'm just here to prove myself right. I'm not here to chase the money, to chase stats. Now what you have is a basketball player who's ready to play, and that's what people don't understand. Like on Sept. 1, when I shut my Twitter down, this is the first time you're hearing from me, because I let everything go. Who I am is what you don't hear. When you don't hear me, I'm living my life -- quiet, I don't get in trouble, don't drink, don't smoke. But if you ask anybody else, I'm just this -- what would they call me? -- problem child. Somebody who gets in trouble all the time.
I don't pay attention anymore. But right now, you have a basketball player. I work out two times a day, every day. I watch tape. I play basketball. If I don't play in the NBA, I'm playing at the YMCA and I'm just as happy.
NBA is fantasy. Sports are fantasy. Driving around in all the new cars and jewelry and all of this -- that's fantasy. And if you can't escape, then you lose yourself. If you can't get home, can't escape that world, you lose yourself in it because fans, media -- they can't decipher between the two. They don't realize there's two different people. Like Lady Gaga, that's the image she's giving you guys, but when she's at home, she's a normal person. And when she's in the public eye, that's who she is. When I was in the public eye, I was Agent Zero. When I'm home, and I'm away from everybody, I'm me. And I felt when "me" got attacked with that felony charge, I didn't know how to react with that one.
But when you get in trouble at your workplace, the only way someone finds out is if somebody wants you to hear about it -- just like at your home. If I hear something about you at your house, then somebody at your household wants me to hear about it.
By the second shot, I was feeling 10 times better, so I ended up getting six shots and I actually did both of my knees because basically I was favoring one side of the leg for the last couple of years [because of three knee surgeries]. It was six days, every day. And then I came back a week later and had my hips done.
I'm not going to lie, I feel so much better. I'm jumping and moving like before I got injured, like it's basically '06 again. My explosiveness, my jumping ability, my quickness -- it feels like I never got injured. I can see why he's out there doing what he's doing at his age.
I guess negative things sell, and we can tell because we've got these reality TV shows where everybody just beats themselves senseless and we just keep tuning in. That's where my iffiness comes back and the reason I stayed away so long, is like, "Do I even want to be a part of that anymore?"
I'm happy now. I'm a race-car driver.
So I'm doing my thing, got a new profession, having a little fun. You know, this is the first time I've been able to enjoy life. I put so much time into basketball. It's kind of funny now how you read stuff. I remember before I was this gym rat who loved to play basketball, and all of a sudden I was [made out] to be [like] Shawn Kemp.
Even right now, I sit on NBA TV and just watch everything. I watch the games, I watch who's who and who's doing what, who I think is going to be successful because of the style they play.
That's who I am, but I get to enjoy it again as a fan. That's why I say that as of right now, if I'm willing to go back into the NBA, then you know that it's just strictly basketball. And you know I'm giving you a product because I'm not on the outside looking in, in the sense that I'm just trying to come back because I need a paycheck. I still have my contract. So if I'm coming back, then that means I have something to offer basketball-wise.
But if someone picks me up, I want them to be happy about it. I don't want them to be like, ''Oh, man, he's going to come in here and do this and that." That never works. If you don't want the person there, you shouldn't bring them in.
My ex-coach Phil Hubbard [former Wizards assistant] and Eric Musselman [Arenas' former coach with the Warriors] called me to come to the D-League [where they coach the Lakers' affiliate]. I said, "Well, after the All-Star break, once I'm ready to go, sure, I'll come play. I'll come out there and break all the D-Leaguer ankles."
It's basketball, man. You've just got to enjoy it.
You know how when you think someone is talking about you, and you try to go in with high spirits when you start off, but as soon as one bad thing happens you revert? Once I got to Orlando, I got my spirit back. I was around some people who like me and we're on an eight-game winning streak and then all of a sudden I get my playing time cut and then from there I just lost it. I couldn't think anymore. Every shot, I thought about shooting -- just like [the Magic] players playing now. They're not losing their game -- Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, they're not losing their games. They're just going through so much pressure now with the Dwight [Howard trade situation].
I tried so hard to fit in and let people know, "Yo, that [Wizards incident] was not me. The things people are saying about me is not me. That's not who I really am." I made a mistake, and I was tying so hard to fit in with everybody that I couldn't play the right way.
There was a point where I don't even think I talked to the media the last two months. I just took my showers and just went home. And then when I went home, I basically never left the house. I was just in denial.
I remember I was at Dwight's barbecue, and I'm hearing him on the microphone and I'm just watching him and I'm sitting in a corner trying to hide from fans -- it was so sad -- and didn't want to be around people anymore. I'm looking at [Dwight] like, "Man, that used to be me. I used to be the life of the party." And he's just in there enjoying himself, saying, "Everybody, let's dance" and this and this. And that kind of got my spirit back up, like, "What the hell am I over here sulking for, like a little girl?"
Then a reporter said, "Look, just bring Agent Zero's spirit back. Get a Twitter, say your funny jokes, get yourself back. Because right now, man, it's not just that you lost your game -- you're mentally gone. Get your mentality back. Get the cockiness back. Get the rudeness back."
It all plays a part, so that's when I created my Twitter.
I just didn't know what the hell was going on with me. Mentally, I was just distraught.
OK, I owed my teammate [Javaris Crittenton] money and I pulled a gun on him? OK, does that even make sense, like I owed you money but I'm pulling a gun on you?
When somebody writes an article, it can be 10 percent right and 90 percent wrong, but if they write it, it's going to be 100 percent right. And the more you try to explain it, the more you look like you're lying.
If I did everything they said I did in that locker room, how come they never tried to void my contract? That's the only way I can explain it. Not even
Before that incident, I was the people's champion, God's gift to all fans, gave fans everything. If I never go back to the NBA, I had a great career. I've hit big shots. I've had my moments. Hey, everyone can't win a championship, but I had fun. I got to play the game that I always dreamed of, and I did it more than I expected it. That's how I look at it now.