This was going to be about a white lady standing on Michigan Avenue in the heavy just-before-the-rain air across from Louis Vuitton wearing a Carmelo Anthony jersey. Then about the reasons that people like to ironically wear NBA jerseys to music festivals. Then about a Hakeem jersey I once owned. The one with the rocket ship that had a face. But then it turned into me remembering how much I loved Gilbert Arenas before the guns and the knee injuries. Back when he was furious for not having made the Olympic team. When he was Hibachi.
I was going to put all that in italics as a sort of you-don’t-have-to-read-this-precursor, but I decided against it. It’s in regular font because I like it that I’d planned on a certain thing and Gilbert blindsided me. It’s what he did before his knee decided it hated him. He came out of nowhere and went and surprised an entire league. A second rounder who set the world on fire for a handful of years. This is just remembering. It’s me being nostalgic. It’s August.
Whenever I was sophomore in college I spent a lot of time trying to spend my parents money. Shoes, extra hushpuppies at Long John Silvers, gas, tickets to Juno because of an irrepressible Ellen Page crush, what have you. I’d spent the first eighteen some odd years of my precious middle class caucasian existence feeling that I had problems because I had to ask my parents permission before I bought a shirt from Hollister that, in three years time, I’d be embarrassed to death to have owned. It had the word “Hollister” on it in yellow, cursive lettering with the words “Laguna Beach” on it. I thought Dieter was funny.
Now, though, I had a big fancy check card and a two and a half hour buffer from my parents. I could drive to the mall when I wanted and buy, within reason, what I wanted. If I saw a pair of Nike sweats at Foot Locker, I could scoop them up without the previously necessary groveling and the inevitable (and I see now, entirely reasonable) “Maybe for Christmas/your birthday” that followed.
I didn’t make it rain, but the skies sprinkled some.
I’m at Golden Corral for a pre-game meal one day in 2007 and the stench of the bread bar is wafting heavy in the room like some kind of butter cloud. I’m there with the rest of the basketball team. My friend and point guard Kortney starts a’whispering to me and my friend Evan about a sale at Walls. Walls is the discount store in between the Big K-Mart and the Golden Corral that buys out stocks of compromised clothing, stuff that’s fine but the stores they were headed for were ruined and destroyed in Katrina and the like, then sells them at a fraction of the listed price. Sometimes it’s a barren wasteland of wooden owls and Christmas decorations, but there’s moments where you walk in there and the world opens up like Phil Knight is actually God and you found his personal closet.
I’m only tell yall about this because you’re my boys and you don’t wear my size shoes, Kortney tells us. They got all sorts of stuff there. J’s. I’m talking nice J’s. Get em for, like, $45. They got jerseys and shorts and sweats. All of them Nike and Adidas and Jordan. Some LeBron gear. All for cheap. Don’t tell nobody.
We leave the Harbinger of Sloth that is Golden Corral and head one parking lot over, to Walls.
Inside it was as promised. Whole racks of NBA jerseys, and good ones. So much Jordan gear it’s like MJ decorated the store himself. The shoe racks at the back, usually reserved for velcro numbers, Sketchers, and Deebos, are holding a murderers row of sneakers. Jordans and Dunks and Forces, oh my. Everything shockingly affordable, even for college kids. I leave with a pair of lime green and grey Air Maxes, a pair of purple Jordan shorts, and the crown jewel of the trip: A golden Gilbert Arenas Washington Wizards jersey.
Let’s rewind. It’s 2007. Arenas is doing this. And this. And all of these. That’s Agent Zero. That’s Hibachi. He was burning like hell pools the whole year. Steaming, even. He put on shows. He turned around and lifted his hands in the air on 30 foot buzzer beaters before the ball fell through the net. He was a showman, you know? The ringleader of a DC circus that, with the the help of Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison, was becoming pretty good television.
He wasn’t one for convention. The dude claimed to have decided on the Wizards, as opposed to the Clippers, in the first place by flipping a coin. Fun and entertainment is absolutely and completely right. God bless him. He faded, sadly. Betrayed by his knee. Then it’s the gambling fueled, gun-toting argument with Crittenton. There’s a suspension. A long one. Then he comes back only to be traded to the Magic. Then he’s amnestied. Then he’s with the Grizzlies. Then the Shanghai Sharks. What a job this is.
My love for Gilbert and his jersey is un-ironic. Not like the Dan Majerle Suns jersey you see in the third row at a Dirty Projectors concert. My adoration for it is straight pure Heisenberg type stuff. I wore that jersey a lot. It was my fun time jersey. The one I broke out when I wanted to show I had a sense of humor and the pickup games didn’t matter.
Gil’s a shell of himself now. A guy only written about anymore because he’s surprising in the Drew League and putting up 33 on a bunch of no names.
I don’t know how to end this. I’m a fan of Gilbert Arenas, I guess is what I’m saying. He makes me think about good years I had in college. He makes me think about how extremely lovely basketball can be to watch when you’re watching someone play who’s trying to prove something and entertain at the same time. He makes me think about how there are no good nicknames anymore. I don’t know.
I’ll just say that I want this jersey and leave it at that.