When Mike James Took A Media Bullet For Gilbert Arenas | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

When Mike James Took A Media Bullet For Gilbert Arenas

Updated: March 1, 2010

{A post-game locker-room scene from the night of January 2, 2010}

The media feeding frenzy at the Verizon Center has dwindled to a faintly glowing ember. Since Gilbert Arenas was banished, there have been press flare ups here and there, such as when former team icons are removed from the franchise’s edifice and shipped out of town, bringing in fresh new faces. But otherwise, it’s usually just the regulars these days.

But when Arenas was around, two noteworthy instances of media circus come to mind: 1) the Wizards’ first game of 2010, the night of January 2nd against the San Antonio Spurs, i.e., the first game after initial stories of a two-man Gun-Gate were revealed; and 2) practice on January 4th, the day the team left for a game in Philadelphia, where finger guns occurred. That Tuesday’s Sixers game would end up being Arenas’ last in a Wizards uniform (to-date). So, that would make Monday afternoon’s practice Gil’s last one in the arena that used to go nuts for him.

That day, the media came looking for Agent Zero, yearning for any morsel of sensationalistic news they could find, I believe they would call them answers. And while January fourth’s practice probably wasn’t as gonzo as the practice on New Year’s Day (which I missed), it nonetheless provided entertaining fodder in it’s own way.

That day, Mike James took one for the team, becoming the first member of the Wizards, amongst those who were dodging the camera lights, voice recorders and notepads at all costs, to throw his own chum into the shark-infested waters. Others did end up speaking, Caron Butler was later accosted in a side hallway, and Randy Foye spoke with a few reporters after most had given up and left. But James took the first shot for the team. His teammates, including Arenas, were partially able to dodge the unwanted attention because of Mike’s distraction, whether it was an intentional act on his part or not.

Am I being a tad dramatic? Probably. But it’s still enjoyable to poke fun at such a ridiculous media scene. James is no longer a Wizard, asked to stay away from the team until his contract situation is sorted out. And while there are many stories to be told about Mike’s brief time in Washington, let’s take a look back at that one day.

{Waiting for Gil}

Today is D-Day for Mike James. By 6 pm eastern, if he is not straight out waived by the Wizards, whereas he would receive the full remainder of his salary, or if he doesn’t negotiate a buyout with the team, whereas he would essentially take a pay cut, he will not be able to sign with another team and be eligible for the playoffs.

The Wizards are unlikely to waive James without a buyout in place. If the two sides don’t come to an agreement, the Wizards likely will, however, waive him sometime after today. By then, it will be too late for the Pollins to cut costs. And since at that point they’d owe James the full remainder of his salary regardless, the team would surely set him out to sea in order to free up a roster sport. Unfortunately for James, in such a scenario, his boat would be an ocean away from the NBA post-season.

Will we potentially see Mike James in the playoffs while his ex-team watches from home? We’ll know by six. Otherwise, why not start remembering James’ exploits as a Wizard with a video of his interaction with the media after that January 4th practice.

Primer on the video below:

The video begins seconds after a local reporter starts to ask James a couple questions. As a result, a full-on scrum breaks out. Up to that point, no other Wizard had talked. James made the sacrifice to jump on a grenade, and the media exploded on top him.

In the video, you’ll see a guy scramble to adjust his microphone, some lady with a fancy cup of $7 coffee looking around, seemingly not really knowing who the hell Mike James is, more microphones, more camera lights, and Wizards media & PR personnel carefully monitoring.

Coffee lady asks Mike what practice was like between Arenas and Crittenton, as if she expected the two to be glaring at each other the whole time, I suppose. If she saw the Spurs game, she would have witnessed the two amicably talking to each other during timeouts, or even them shooting basketballs with each other at the actual practice that day. At one point coffee lady’s phone rings and she has to run away. Nice.

And then some cat in the prototypical hipster(ish) ‘thick-framed glasses & skully’ wardrobe comes at James with some “But it’s guns!?!” questions, etc., about which James is not exactly willing to discuss, and understandably so, but kinda does in a way that only a character such as Mike can.

My favorite line from James to the hipster reporter:

“How would you cope with something if it was you? What, you gonna sit in the corner, crying up in the fetal position? Maybe [Gilbert] doesn’t want to do that.”

You might not agree with everything Mike has to say, but you got to respect him for talking in the first place and for sticking to his convictions. Just watch.

Mike James, good sir, you will be missed. Best of luck to you, wherever you land.

{Keep scrolling for links}


And since Dan Steinberg recently took the time to properly highlight some of the worst writing about Gilbert Arenas, below are some back-in-the-day links highlighting some of the best writing on Gil:

[Dan Le Batard – Miami Herald: Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas was wrong, but so was suspension]

Arenas was wrong, period. You can’t defend the dumb and dangerous. Bringing guns into any workplace, never mind an emotional one, is certainly that. I can tell you that good guy Greg Anthony admitted to The New York Times in 2003 that he used to bring a pistol into the Knicks locker room. I can tell you that since the in-home muggings of Antoine Walker and Eddie Curry, basketball players are more armed and alarmed than ever — so scared that Antawn Jamison usually circles his neighborhood two or three times when returning from anywhere just to make sure no one is following him. And I can tell you the locker room is more like the gym or the country club than the sales guy’s cubicle. But, again, there shouldn’t ever be a gun there, never mind four.

[Mike Wise and Michael Lee – Washington Post: For Gilbert Arenas and Wizards franchise, latest incident sheds light on entitlement]

The carefree, self-proclaimed “goofball” who employed tweets and an NBA.com blog to usher in the era of professional athletes who use the Internet and social media, now faces the loss of his reputation and millions of dollars because he peeled back the layers too far. An athlete known for his uncanny ability to charm basketball and non-basketball fans is suddenly being mentioned among modern sports outlaws such as Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick.


A person close to Arenas said Stern’s suspension might have been a blessing in disguise, saving Arenas from further condemnation. He had apparently scripted an even more elaborate — and uncouth — opening for the next night in Cleveland, in which he would affect a gimp-legged walk like John Wayne and draw at 10 paces with Young, his also-playful teammate.

“We talked about it,” Young acknowledged Friday night.

[Gregg Doyel – CBS Sports: Crazy from (packing) the heat: Talk of Arenas lifetime ban is ludicrous]

Arenas isn’t evil or even, if you ask me, dangerous. He’s a dork, is what he is. He’s immature and inappropriate. He’s the class clown, the guy who will inch right up to that line in search of a laugh and then, if you’re not laughing yet, will sprint willingly over it. We all know people like Arenas, people who hide behind corners and scream “boo!” and seem genuinely baffled that the victim of their prank was more irritated than amused. Arenas is annoying, not nefarious.

And don’t, whatever you do, try to counter that position — Arenas is annoying but not nefarious — with the garbage reporting of the New York Post’s Peter Vecsey, a longtime NBA writer who hasn’t gotten a story right in years, including this one. Not a single witness has backed Vecsey’s mind-blowing version from Jan. 1 that Arenas and teammate Javaris Crittenton had drawn guns on each other in the locker room less than two weeks earlier. That’s because it didn’t happen.

The problem is, first impressions are lasting. They’re stubborn. The first thing most of us heard of this incident was the Post’s version of events, and while that version was so fictional and over-the-top that it should have been co-authored by James Patterson, that’s the version that sticks.

[Sally Jenkins – Washington Post: Who is Gilbert Arenas? Even he doesn’t seem to know]

I don’t claim to know Arenas. Like so many others, I’ve always enjoyed him from afar for his lightness of being. But looking backward, perhaps it was a sign of trouble. That lightness now looks like an empty vessel that he fills up with whatever version of a self pleases him in the moment, or that he finds expedient. This season alone, we have seen Strictly Business Gilbert and Vow of Silence Gilbert morph into Chattering Gilbert and Unstoppable Twittering Gilbert. He contradicts his own statements, one day he expresses regret for bad judgment and the next he’s got nothing to be remorseful about. The emerging depiction is of a man with sharply veering moods, whose sense of self is highly unstable, and who has yet to adequately address or heal some inner divisions and fractures.

Arenas is in trouble because he doesn’t know who he is, because he play-acted the most harmful depiction imaginable. He’s a maker of manners in a city where violent crime occurs at three times the national average, yet he showed zero cognizance of that fact. He’s in trouble because he seems profoundly disconnected from himself and his community.

[Austin Burton – Dime Magazine:  Silent Night: Gilbert Arenas Beyond Black and White]

In Gilbert’s case, even if he truly feels his situation is being blown out of proportion, he could have used the now-inevitable connection between himself and guns to do something right, especially in a city with a history of violence like D.C. He could have cut a PSA about gun violence; he could have made a verbal apology to the kids who look up to him, going off-script to genuinely own up to his mistakes. He could have tried to keep the focus on his actions as a good father (deciding to take guns out of his house when he daughter was born) rather than those as a prankster teammate.

Instead, Arenas constantly downplayed the situation, then on Tuesday night sealed his fate by making finger-gun gestures and cracking up with his teammates — I didn’t notice Javaris Crittenton in that huddle, by the way — before the Wizards game at Philly; another NBA city that has a gun/violence problem. “Ongoing actions” was the term David Stern used in his statement announcing Gil’s indefinite suspension. In other words, it’s not just what you did originally, it’s what you kept doing after the fact.

[Lang Whitaker – Slam: Stop Being Gilbert Arenas]

Regardless of what did or did not happen, there was one correct way for Gilbert to handle the situation he found himself in which would have resulted in him keeping most of his money and maximize his time on the basketball court: Shut up other than to apologize and then play basketball. Let the system run its course. Basically, stop being Gilbert Arenas, at least for a while. Maybe you are completely innocent, maybe you are as guilty as can be, but let those things play out in front of you without commentary. Because in a worst-case-scenario, you could actually make public perception worse. Which is exactly what happened.

[Henry Abbott – TrueHoop: Gilbert Arenas, kicked out of the star factory]

The tide of media washed in, full of froth and accusation for Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards, gun culture, and everything else.

Now it is slowly receding, leaving a fresh batch of bric-a-brac on the sand. This story exits leaving unanswered questions like hunks of driftwood and assorted plastic bags: Why is the player with the unloaded (and, in another incident, playful and imaginary) guns in more trouble than the one who reportedly loaded a gun in anger? What kind of kook is Gilbert Arenas anyway (defecating in a teammate’s shoe)?

[Holly MacKenzie – The Score: Arenas on my mind]

I’m also pissed at Arenas because I cannot defend his punishment. I cannot defend his actions in playing a joke that went horrifically wrong and I certainly cannot defend his decision to bring weapons into the workplace. I cannot look over my shoulder and pretend that a grown man who is making the choice to own licensed firearms does not also automatically bear the responsibility of checking on the status of those firearms when he crosses state lines.

I cannot make what Arenas did any less wrong and because of that, it’s going to be hard to try and tell you he should not be made an
example of, difficult to try and make the spotlight pan out to the bigger picture and damn near impossible to change the way the majority of the public population will — unfairly — now view him.

Kyle Weidie on EmailKyle Weidie on GoogleKyle Weidie on InstagramKyle Weidie on LinkedinKyle Weidie on TwitterKyle Weidie on Youtube
Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.