• Jeffrey Kee

Gilbert Arenas: The Little Monster Hiding in Kobe’s Closet

*Photo via BR/Getty Images

Long after Kobe Bryant retires, his name will still reign supreme in the hearts of basketball fans everywhere. His memory will be that of a fearless warrior, and above all these, a ruthless winner who shoved daggers in the hearts of his opponents for nearly two decades. Lakers fanatics will sweep away any negativity that has tainted Bryant’s legacy and will bury it deep inside the confines of the Staples Center; never to be spoken about again. Why? Because when you’re a legend, that’s the way history works. When you’re a legend, your dirt is swept up and thrown into a closet, where it is to remain for the rest of eternity.

If we took a peek under Kobe’s closet of clemency, it is safe to say that we’d find a few things that most Lakers fans would much rather forget. His feud with Shaq, his sexual assault case, his two finals losses, and most disgustingly, his attempt at a rap career. But if you dig a little deeper, you’ll find something even more astonishing. You’ll find a little monster named Gilbert Arenas and the glittering moment that was December 17, 2006 when Arenas came into Staples Center and dropped 60 points on Hollywood’s basketball king.

Now, I know Kobe fanatics are going to stray off topic and argue, “Yeah, but how many rings does Gilbert have?” And yes, you’re right. Arenas never won a ring, if fact, he never made it out of the second round of the playoffs. But let’s stick the point. On that breezy winter night in the City of Angels, Arenas was possessed. He felt disrespected by the basketball world after being cut by Team USA that previous summer and was on a mission to dethrone every player that Jerry Colangelo deemed more worthy.

So when the Lakers began the game with Smush Parker guarding Arenas, that disrespect resonated in Gilbert’s head. He wanted Bryant and after a quick 30 points on Parker, Arenas got his wish. For Kobe, this was merely just another day in the office. Some rising NBA hot shot had entered his dojo demanding respect and to Bryant’s pleasure, he would have to be the one to humble the young Arenas. The only problem was that Arenas had the ghost of Pete Maravich in him that night.

Crossover after crossover. Jump shot after jump shot. Everything that Arenas had done to Parker, he was doing to Bryant. Soon Arenas hit 40, then 50 and when the buzzer rang, Lakers fans were flabbergasted as to what they had just witnessed. The kid who had grown up poor on the streets of Los Angeles had scored 60 and Bryant, the player Arenas idolized growing up, had 45 and a loss.

For Arenas, a moment like this will forever reign. He’ll gloat to his grandchildren about the day he scored 60 points against the most revered franchise in NBA history. He’ll chuckle at the thought of Kwame Brown attempting to stop him as he drove in the paint and grin every time he thinks of how angry Kobe looked after the game. For Bryant, the game meant nothing. He’s a 5x champion, a 17x all-star and a league MVP. He’s idolized by millions and when he finally hangs it up; he’ll be remembered as one of the greatest to ever do it.

Sadly for Arenas, his NBA stardom was short lived. Whether it was immaturity, the devastating injuries or the gun incident, Agent Zero’s legacy is that of a man whose talents went unfulfilled. Still for one night in Los Angeles, Gilbert outshined the city’s brightest star. For one night, he was king.

Ultimately, Laker fans will scoop up Arenas’ greatest game and shove it into the back of Kobe’s closet (next to all of his other skeletons). More 60 point games will be eclipsed and Gilbert’s shining moment will be forgotten about. And although fans will forget, Arenas won’t; Kobe won’t either. In twenty years, Bryant will open his closet. Inside he’ll find Shaq, he’ll find Dwight and he’ll even find a copy of his old rap album. But standing in the corner will be an undersized combo guard named Gilbert. He’ll look up at Kobe with a smirk on his face and say, “Remember me?”

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