Nothing fits forever

It would seem that last night’s infernal burst of Gilbertology might truly need no comment from ours truly. As in, we live in heaven, he lives alone, our souls are intertwined and the moment need not be soiled by explanation. The more and more I gazed upon that fascinating still, though,—one as destined for iconic status as Tiger with the fist pump or Yao’s scream of antiquity—the more brutally apparent it becomes to me that Arenas, far from being an oddball, is the living, breathing god of my favorite kind of NBA player: the kind you eyes-on watch, instead of just view. What Iverson, Kobe, Nash, and a handful of others I go out of my way to see play have in common is this ability to not merely produce on any given night, but to casually redefine themselves through masterstrokes of basketball impressionism.

Let me put briefly put aside the strained fire and brimstone that guides this site long enough to admit, as I did last week, that this is by and large a league of consistency. Unlike baseball and football, where one can be violently up and down from one game to the next but still get recognized overall as a fantastic young person, to be a credible contributor in the NBA a guy’s got to come with steady output. Freaks and streaks can be profound, but no player’s a recognizable force (or definite failure) in this league until he can be counted on; to scrape the ridges of Mount Dunkmore, he’d better be guaranteed to account for a serious percentage of his team’s production, both in the box score and as a reliable force when the ball hits his hands. Until then, he will always get saddled with the p-word, no matter how impressive he is in spurts.

When you reach the rarified air of superlative hoops accomplishment, there are at least three kind of consistency. Most obviously, there are the rock-solid bequeathers, under-appreciated and often big men like Duncan, Brand, Bosh, Dirk, Jamison, Kidd, Ray Ray and Redd. These folks give it their all with frightening regularity, churning it out from the opening bell and expected to operate as if to a rhythmic tick. I want to stop short of saying that you can intuit them from looking at a box score, but by and large there is no dramatic arc to their in-game performances. Professional, workmanlike, whatever you want to call them, these are consummate anchors of an offense, the given you pencil in at most moments during the season’s onslaught.

In the next category, you find explosive players with a tendency toward predictable outcomes, who ebb and flow over the course of a game, occasionally make you doubt, and ultimately bring you right back to who you always knew they were. I’m talking about Garnett, Pierce, Wade, Vince, Billups, Bibby, Gasol, Melo, Richardson, Jefferson, Sheed, Marion, and Artest himself—unquestioned experts who sometimes lull, sometimes soar, but never have to redeem themselves and are constantly working within their own limits and images. This isn’t a knock on any of these fine, hurling turtles; merely to point out that if you turn on the television to see them play, you know what you’re getting and will be accordingly excited. Each game reinforces their profile, with ups and downs that end in a pointed reminder of yeah, that’s him.

Gilbert and his gang, as I will now aptly dub them, rest upon their own set of shaggy shoulders. To return to last week’s trope of half-assed existentialism, All-American and yet bleakly Continental, they are players constantly exceeding themselves, or at least engaging in what feels for all the world like a motherfucking statement game. It can LeBron or Amare exerting and expanding their dominance, Kirilenko or Gerald Wallace twisting up the parameters of a box score, Nash working his conductor-ly magic, or Kobe, Iverson or McGrady scoring not only at will, but as if it’s unnatural for them to miss—or even repeat themselves out on the floor. Arenas is a must-see, not only because he’s likely to put on a show, but for what each and every game can do to your sense of him as a player and personality. If Wade proves with each big game that he’s still Wade, still proud, then Gilbert does it up in a way that’s not only unpredictable; with each of these self-transcending events, he also manages to seem unlikely all anew. As does Kobe, Bron, et al. In the crucible of the game, their legend is broken down and created from scratch, surprising you not only with this most recent installment but, in its reconstitution of the player’s most basic essence, shock you yet again they exist at all, that anything they do has ever happened in the glare of man’s senses.

This may seem like two-bit metaphysics for those of you not in tune with my lifelong education on this planet (or anyone merely taking issue with my late night sloppiness). But next time you find yourself up past bedtime watching one of these aforementioned idols, think about whether or not you feel you’re seeing them for the first time, whether you’re transfixed partly out of the fear that you’re witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Not just a good game from your favorite NBA player, or one of those “instant classics” this blog will reference two years from now; I mean one of those performances where, in some ways, you feel like you’re discovering the sport again for the very first time.


At 3/09/2006 5:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. earlier this week in a conversation with a friend i was unable to put into words why i love kobe and gilbert so much. you just did. nice post, great blog, etc.

At 3/09/2006 6:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like your style. Gilbert is the man. He gets dissed like all the other greats because of his so called selfishness. Thats the biggest crock o' shiite in the NBA right now. The kid has so much game, its not his fault he drops nearly 30 a game. Its his teammates fault for not stepping up. Ive never ever played on a team that had a guy drop 30 a game, and Ive played from birth to NBA pro leagues at Irvine and Long Beach. The reason was and should be for all NBA players: If this kid can drop 30, why cant I drop 15 or so and take a few buckets? Those type of awesome, ridiculous players always helped my game. I would kill someone to play with Shaq. I could average 3 3's a game and belike the NBA's Freddie Mitchell. The NBA average is under 9 a game... Dude...... I could sign with the Knicks.... I get ahead of myself. Point being, instead of dissing Gilbert's game like alot of people do, you should reviere in it, like my fellow jew does. Watch it in Awe. I am so thankful that even though my Lakers suck, I can flip on the game and marvel at Kobe. Thats enough for now. Game is still game.

(Side note and name dropping will follow)

Gilbert broke nearly everyone of my records at Grant High except my 8 3's in one half. This kid was ridiculous since the 8th grade, when I first met him. I used to play in the parks in the Valley with his Dad all the time back when he was a struggling supporting actor. If you guys havent read the stories, they used to sleep in the car etc... Gilbert has earned everything that he's done and he's the Pride of Grant High. He embodies everyone of us who didnt make it. If by some chance, one of us did make it, we would be like Gilbert is now. Thats the world we grew up in. He's an enigma, and so were we, a white high school who always seems to kick ass in the LA City public school leagues. No recruits, no wooing dudes from South Central. Us against the world. Gilbert took the foundation we laid for him and took it beyond the stratosphere. Hate him now. You cant.

Back to Gilbert's game. First, I knew he was special when he did me up as a 9th grader and I was in college then. We all knew then, trust me, noone did me up, even in the Pro Leagues. Of course he dropped 30 a game in high school, he could have dropped more. Noone was high on him when he signed with Zona, we knew. He showed up the first day of school at open runs with the team with Lute Hensen (Mr Indiana basketball) and Reuben Douglass (led the NCAA in scoring at NM one year) when they was at ahead of him on the depth chart going in. He destroyed them. He made them both transfer. He dropped 15 a game with a loaded team, we knew.

On draft night, my friend who coached him from the beginning and brought him to Grant was with him. We were in constant touch on the phone. Hell, I hope I was one of the guys who told him to go Pro, he was that good. The analysts were saying the usual shit. He should stay another year, he should refine his game. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He would never play point at AZ with Jason Gartner there, JG was a pure point guard. He was regulated to the 2 in college. He needed to go pro. So back to draft night, he gets passed up over and over again and im getting the calls, they are fucking devestated. Thankfully they never blamed me directly, hopefully the agent. I was like, hold on guys.... just wait. Dont worry about the free 1st round cash. This might turn out for the best. (by this time they stopped calling me back.)

Boom, Golden State drafts him. The team had no back court then, I was like E, you guys just hit the lottery. He was like why? Were FOOKED, no guaranteed money (they finally answered after he got drafted.) I had to break down to them what really just happened. I was like look.... GS has no backcourt so he will get runs, 2nd round also means, instead of being stuck for 4 years, your out in 2. We both know Gilbert has super game and will make the GS roster. Tell him to just go and play ball, that's it and even if something bad happens, he's so young he can still come back and get a fat contract... This is the motherload.......

The rest is history,


P.S. When we retired his Jersey at Grant a couple years ago, he shook my hand and said thanks.

Game is game.

At 3/09/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger c-los said...

Gil had one of those rare circumstances where being a 2nd round pick actually worked better for him. 1) It added even more fuel to his fire. We all know the reason he wears #0 blah blah blah, but this gave him an extra edge. 2) Because he was a 2nd rounder he only signed a 2 year deal so after he blew up his 2nd year he could get paid and sign that max deal a year sooner than first rounders.

And if you watched that game you would have known why Gil gave them the 2 finger salute. The bench was complaining all game and talking shyt to him.

At 3/09/2006 10:55 AM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

gil didn't even sign a max deal, did he? i remember it was a pretty decent contract with the wiz, but i'm pretty sure it was not a max deal.

also, where's that dude who was saying yao was a failure because he wasn't dominating?

At 3/09/2006 10:58 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 3/09/2006 11:05 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

As much fun as Gilbert is to watch and as awe-inspiring as he can be night in and night out; I'm not sure I'm quite ready to place him atop Mount Dunkmore alonside Bryant, James, Iverson and Nash. I've watched him play in many games and not once have I thought to myself : "Wow, this guy is truly special and I should consider myself so lucky to be watching him". I have felt that way many times watching the other four guys I named. Arenas is a talent, an otherwordly one at that, but in no way, shape or form is he transcendent or worthy of icon status. In fact, I believe Melo should be placed above Gil.

Kobe : He puts fear in other teams and fan bases. Last night in New Orleans was a perfect example. Everyone (from Stern to the 12th man on the Hornets' bench) feared he would come in and ruin the party, and as he bricked shot after shot through 3 quarters and confidence built throughout the arena, the assassin went to work. 18 fourth quarter points, including one of the greatest fadeaways you'll ever see over Claxton, and that was that. The legend of the Mamba grows even more.

Lebron : The consumate team player who gently rips your heart out. The anti-Kobe. Everyone (from myself to Barkley) keeps insisting that he be "The Man" at crunch time and that he takes all the shots because, well, that's what great players do. Guess what, Lebron is shifting the paradigm of what a great player does right before our eyes. In the last two Cavs games I've witnessed, James has set up the artist formerly known as Damon Jones and Flip Murray for game-winning three pointers after the defense collapsed on him. Do you think Bryant, Cassell, Billups, Anthony or any other clutch performer would have done the same? Absolutely not. James gained my undying respect last night against Toronto as he made what would normally be a very difficult decision for any other great player, but for him it was the ONLY logical one with the game hanging in the balance. I don't really know how to quantify Lebron. He doesn't necessarily have a killer instinct. He has something else, something that may, over time, prove itself to be even more significant. He is the solution to world peace. Like Magic (but ultimately better), he unifies and shines light on everyone. I'm pretty sure Mos Def had him in mind when he penned "Umi Says".

At 3/09/2006 11:09 AM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

point isn't necessarily that you should put gilbert up there, status-wise, but that the effect any single game has on your view of him is like those guys. it's important that everyone watch lebron and kobe for those reasons, but if you give a fuck about arenas, you realize this is almost more the case for him than anyone.

At 3/09/2006 11:21 AM, Blogger mutoni said...

maybe i need to catch more Wizards games, because I just don't feel my view of the man is affected from game to game (in any meaningful way) unlike my view and understanding of the other icons atop Mount Dunkmore. I'm simply not moved by his performances. His personality amuses and intrigues me, but his game is almost forgettable.

He did, however, provide one of the great post-game quotes of all time after hitting the game-winning j in game 2 of last year's playoffs (in Chi-town). Sager was interviewing him and asked him how he felt after the big shot and Gil shot back : "It's simple. I win games."

At 3/09/2006 2:21 PM, Anonymous panoptican said...

on a semi-entirely unrealted note: fizer.

At 3/09/2006 3:27 PM, Anonymous Bob said...

None of Gilbert's performances have "moved" you?
How about in 04 when, after that little bitch Kwame complained about him shooting too much in a blowout loss to Indiana, Gilbert didnt shoot for the entirety of the next game, dishing out assists, until the final minute when he won it on a jumper. Or in 04 when after he missed a game clinching free throw, he went 18-for-18 vs. Detroit. What about dropping 42 in 30 minutes versus NY? You, much like the rest of this blind, deaf and dumb NBA landscape needs to wake up and smell the bacon.

And thank god for this post, after the wiz blew two straight heartbreakers, with the "Darling" Dwyane getting infinite free throws it was nice to read good Gilbert pub. And the anecdote from annonymous was especially dope.

At 3/09/2006 3:46 PM, Blogger c-los said...

@ Mutoni

His game is almost forgettable???

Yeah, you do need to watch more Wizards games before you say some BS like that. No star has more talent around him than Lebron. Damon Jones was brought in to hit that shot. Not many players impact the game like Gil. The Wiz dont usually win unless Gil has a decent game. Only Kobe has less in my opinion. Tmac has Yao who has been killer lately. DWade has Shaq or vice versa. The Wiz have Jamison who is a more productive Lamar & Caron who Kobe had last year. There is no one in the league that can stay in front of Gil and when his J is falling like it was when he got 44 on 16 shots he is unstoppable.

At 3/09/2006 4:15 PM, Blogger Pooh said...

I have conversations with people like the first anon all the time, they seem to 'get' Gilly in a way that I don't. Though not having League Pass the last two years probably has more to do with my not getting it then anything else...But when you put it the Shoals way, it all becomes clear.

At 3/09/2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Aaron said...

Will the US losing to Canada in the World Baseball Classic get any of the sort of "America needs to rethink the way it puts together a baseball team" writing that USA Basketball earned at the last Olympics?

Odd, isn't it, how foreigners have hijacked the "National Pastime" and nobody complains, but when the Euros beat us in basketball, the world is falling.

Sorry, I'm just pissed at the fucking Canadians right now. Let me be.

At 3/09/2006 5:45 PM, Anonymous T. said...

While I'd agree with Gil having to do more with less (actually I think AI has the least - I'd take 2k6 Jamison over 2k6 Webbber) - I'd take issue with No star has more talent around him than Lebron.

See D. Wade. See also, T. Duncan.

I enjoy Gil in the same way that I enjoy the story about Ron Artest wanting to get a job at Circuit City when he was a rookie - quirks are so much more interesting than robots. Ray Allen, Tim Duncan . . .even Kobe - all seem so pre-manufactured - personality-wise. Even their newspaper battles seemed pre-programmed to me.

Gil seems a little bit closer to the average person - just with a 40 foot shooting range on his jumper and a first step from God.

At 3/09/2006 5:56 PM, Anonymous hospital said...

When Arenas beat the Bulls with that playoff buzzer-beater last year, the ball was inbounded with 5.2 seconds left. He took the pass, stood five feet behind the arc, and PUT THE BALL ON HIS HIP. My brain exploded, but he just stood there. (And then drove past Heinrich and lofted over Chandler, releasing with about .5 on the clock.) Seriously, he's got some bizarrely uncanny time-sensitivity -- when he holds for the last shot- there's never even a full second left afterwatds. I bet it's laboratory-testable.

At 3/09/2006 5:59 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

webber may not be what he was, but he's still an invaluable asset passing out of the post. dalembert is a monster ("beast" would be too uniformly positive) and iguodala is on the verge of being the next josh howard. that's at least as good as what the wizards are fucking with.

what makes arenas amazing is that he's constantly outdoing himself as both a player and a personality. he's like watching iverson and kobe rolled into one.

and gawd, that first step is so effortless and fluid that it's almost subtle. that's why no one recognizes how hard it kills everyone. but no one, i mean no one, can stick with him off the dribble. it's almost oxymoronic to call it a first step, since it gets him instantly moving like tony parker with half a court of acceleration behind him.

and then the power he gets going right around the hoop. . . he's almost the guard equivalent of marion, in that his game is so unique it defies conventional praise.

At 3/09/2006 6:11 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

i meant like watching artest and iverson.

At 3/09/2006 6:26 PM, Anonymous T. said...

I actually think Wade's first step is a bit better - and no one is better at splitting the double team.

Best first step at least for my memory though - James Worthy in the post with his back to the basket.

At 3/09/2006 6:43 PM, Blogger mutoni said...

Arenas has a big ass. I can't support a baller whose booty rivals that of the the girls in heavy rotation on BET.

At 3/10/2006 9:51 AM, Blogger Dr. Chestnutt said...

Fine, fine work on McSweeneys today DLIC. I'm too dumb to make an intelligent point about it, and thus, engender message board discussion, but I just wanted to commend a superior piece of writing. Well done.

At 3/10/2006 6:43 PM, Anonymous the allrights said...

what kind of crack is gilbert smoking to be calling out the Pistons? fool is going to school this weekend. he wants them for 7 games. watch the Wiz get pissed on Saturday.

At 3/11/2006 10:04 PM, Anonymous DB said...

so what happened? i missed all this and really have no idea what you're talking about.

At 3/12/2006 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Gilbert were white I'd be much more interested in his game.

Being a black man, I want to know more about his life. Very little of which I hear about being out west. (only snippets from the few playoff games and even fewer (any?) nationally televised games.


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