I haven’t written anything in a while so I figured I’d share a recent write up did. Just to warn you, it’s a long one….but it should be a good read if your not busy. Anyways, it was inspired by a interesting conversation I had last week when I ran in to a some guys I used to hoop with regularly about 2-3 years ago. Nowadays, I don’t get to play like I used to, (about 5 days a week) but luckily, on that given day everyone happened be at the gym at the same time so it was kinda like old times all over again. Funny, I didn’t even to get to actually play with them (they all arrived after I’d played a few games and was close to leaving) but I managed hang around long enough to catch up on some good NBA conversation afterwards.
Inside the locker room the playoffs post game show was on and after a few minutes of general playoff talk, (The Bulls are overrated, the Heat are going to the finals…etc) somehow the conversations switched to strictly Gilbert Arenas. The highlights were playing and I think Orlando had just beat Atlanta in game 3. The story of the game was not how Dwight had another monster performance, but the fact that Gilbert Arenas had only 2 points in like 7 minutes which came to the surprise of everyone.
Some initially blamed Van Gundy for the lack of minutes but there’s obviously a bigger issue at hand with Arenas himself. Given what he’s capable of, there no reason he shouldn’t be at least EARNING major minutes. We were all just expecting the old Arenas to show up, you know the 2006-07 pre-gun scandal version. Now I’ve never been the biggest fan of Arenas, but I know he’s worth more than 2 pts. Otherwise what’s the point of having him. I’ll even agree that few years ago he was an eilte player but not much more. Apparently three out of four guys in the room with me thought he could’ve been second coming….as in the new “Jordan” and next to the throne like Kobe Wade, Lebron, and now Rose are considered to be today. Well, regardless of whether I personally like Gilbert or not, the question we all faced that night was: what happened to him and how?
It’s like that 2 point performance was a defining moment to them, the last piece of evidence that Arenas had reached a new low; one perhaps he counldn’t return from. As if on cue, he did have 20 points off the bench a few days later, which I’m sure got some peoples hopes up, only to follow it with 9 points yesterday. Its clear his current role with the Magic is up in the air as his stats there reflect the roller coaster course his career has taken in recent years. Given the heights he originally came from, the new lows are a disappointment no doubt. His future in the NBA is no longer promising. Perhaps he’ll never live up to the nickname “Agent Zero” again but there’s still hope.
Gilberts not washed up yet. His career is just at a critical turning point. But how did such an amazing player end up there? That’s the point of this post. The strange thing is, there’s no obvious reason to why this happened; not a good one at least. Penny for example, was plagued with injuries. Grant Hill too. Even Brandon Roy, has battled career ending injuries. However, they have excuses to fall back on which if anything makes for a good, “what if” story when their careers are finally over.
Yea, Gilberts had a rough couple of years in the aftermath of the notorious Gun incident, but nothings happened that could’ve have stripped him of his natural talent and abilities. I’d hate to blame his current state solely a stupid mistake that’s well in the past. He’s seems to have finally moved on….literally, now with a new team in a great city and winning franchise. Somehow, even with on Magic, he’s basically been a bum basically averaging 8 points. Thats a lot less than the near 30 he averaged from 05-07. No one expects him to put up these numbers in Orlando with Dwight Howard, but we all were dumbfounded as to how someone still with so much left in him could be reduced to, as someone put it: “Ben Gordon” which isn’t much of a slight but even Gordon gets consistent playing time in Detroit.
That night in the locker room, we all sat with no logical explination to Gilberts apparent demise until one of the guys had a “eureka” moment and replied: “you know what it is……CONTENTMENT.” Thinking back it’s ironic that this guy in particular would say this because he easily could’ve been playing college somewhere but he fell victim to the same thing. I would always tell him this over the years since graduating High school but now he’s not in school anymore and works too much to even think about basketball or getting back in school any time soon. Anyways, he had a point, contentment was the perfect word and it reminded me of the problem that likely plagued a few potential “heirs to the throne” even before Arenas.
We all agreed the idea of “contentment” for many NBA players meant a loss of passion for the game after virtually reaching their peak and then facing adversity. Contentment could be the reason many former super stars are no longer a factor and as the conversation progressed and the names Iverson, and Tracy McGrady also came up. I even threw in Marbury for the heck of it. Then I got to thinking, what do Agent Zero, AI and TMAC have in common? Well true to my title, they’ve all scored 60 or more points in a single game (Marburys scored at least 50) and fallen off considerably within a couple years. Two aren’t even in the NBA anymore and the other two well…..seem to be following the same path.
I say 60 points because it’s sort of a magic number. Only an exclusive group of players have done this. There’s only 5 currently who have: ARENAS, MCGRADY, IVERSON (he hasn’t retired yet), KOBE, and SHAQ. And if you look up the names of players from all time, it reads like a Hall of Fame first ballot list. Point blank, you have to be pretty special.
However, despite their potential, these current “60 point guys” eventually hit a wall at some point on their individual paths to greatness. Granted, this path is one most players can only dream about embarking on. Most NBA players have no shot at being the next Jordan, Magic, Kareem or Isaiah. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth a try though.
Many give it their all just to survive in the league. The problem is that those who are most talented out the gates often lack the work ethic the later down the road to reach their potential. A perfect example of the whole contentment argument is seen in players who you could argue “weren’t working hard enough” and/or “relying on their natural skill or athleticism” to the point that when they’re faced with a real challenge they back down or accept mediocrity. The gifts God gave them may have carried them through High school college and a few seasons in the NBA but at some point you gotta work hard. No ones simply born better than the rest…..ok maybe Jordan was, but he still faced his share of obstacles and always worked HARD even while he was considered the greatest to ever do it.
TMAC, A.I., Arenas and Marbury, in their prime, were heads and shoulder above the rest of their peers. Like I said, when you score 60 points in a single game your basically in another league, however, you’re the considered the best only for that ONE moment in time. Although scoring a ton of points may solidify a player as a force to be reckoned with, what makes them a legend when they retire isn’t the same thing that allowed he or she to dominate that one game. The most skillful and athletically gifted players in any sport don’t go far without proper drive and determination usually evident in an unstoppable will to improve their game. That’s how Kobe got his last title cause we all know he lost his explosiveness years ago. Add a little patience and humility to the mix and there’s no limit to how far a player can go. Unfortunately, natural gifts are sometimes the very thing that gets in the way of players success.
One can only coast off their individual talents for so long. There’s only so much you can do with skill alone versus skill PLUS practice hard and work. It seems like common sense but some guys are content with 2-3 seasons on top, an allstar game, a playoff appearance and a few Jordan comparisons. They get a big head and they’re are not willing to work hard over a period of time to maybe become one of the greatest ever 10-15 years down the line like Jordan. Some think their above the game as if they don’t need to practice or work harder then less skilled/important teammate. Others simply can’t take criticism or discipline that comes with the territory of being a franchise player.
It’s tough being on top and staying there’s the hardest part. If you look at some of the greats, yes they were blessed with athleticsm and naturally born skills, but they worked hard at some point to get to another level. No matter how good people told them they were or how good they thought they were at one point they strived to be better. Furthermore, they’ve also faced adversity and it only made them stronger. That separates the good from the great. Look at Brandon Roy. He’s a perfect example. If he’s really back, it’s because he willed it. Any type of adversity will drive great players, to be better instead defeating them.
Just imagine if Carmelo was out the league 3 years from now or playing overseas somewhere. Doubters already say he’s likely to be another Marbury. As a Melo fan, its hard to believe but did you ever imagine Iverson would be in TURKEY? I sure didn’t. And he was much better than Melo in his prime. More often than not, the extremely talented NBA stars burn quickly and never reach their full potential. And that’s how the conversation ultimately ended; with the question if Arenas, TMac and Iverson can make a comeback and have end up with the type of careers we expect from them….but that’s a whole new debate. You know me, I still believe Iverson will help lead a team to a title one day in the right situation. And if he can, then I’m sure the Arenas and McGrady can….maybe even Marbury. He did score 51 in China only 1 year ago.
Chris Paul had 13 rebounds? This ***** is like 5'10!
Meanwhile, Pau had 5, Bynum had 9 and Odom had 4. THAT is the problem with the Lakers. They’re are soft inside and they got “punked” just like Phil Jackson said. Fisher is also a problem but that’s nothing new….