For every 100 people who love you, there will be 100 people who hate you. You just have to believe in the choices you make, and that’s what I did. I believed I could play in this league.
Interview by Rachel Trem
Gilbert Arenas has proved critics wrong in huge ways. Besides exceeding the zero minutes they told him he’d play in college, he posted more than 1,000 points for the University of Arizona. He’s now averaging more than 28 ppg for the Washington Wizards. The second-round draft pick-who wears zero as a tribute to his nay-sayers took home the 2003 got milk? Rookie Challenge MVP and Most Improved Award and was named to the 2005 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star Team.
There’s more to this man than his game, though. He bowls 277, drops big bucks to please his crowd and hangs with Denzel on the big screen. Read on as Arenas tells us what’s good from the hardwood to the alley.
STACK: So I hear that you don’t do anything out of superstition, just routine. Is that correct?
GA: Yes. I just get into certain habits and routines.
STACK: Take me through your game-day routine, starting in the morning.
GA: We have a shoot-around at 10:00. I get to the gym an hour before and take about 100 shots. That’s it though, because I don’t want to shoot too much the day of a game. Then I go to the shoot-around and go home after that.
STACK: What next?
GA: I’ll usually just lie down, watch a movie, relax and try not to think about the game. You don’t want to be thinking about your sport for 12 hours, so I let my brain rest from the game. I go to sleep, wake about 3:30, eat, take a shower and then leave for the gym by 4:30. Once I get there, I put my legs in a cold pool to make them lighter before the game; heat makes them heavier. Then I go for a full-body massage.
STACK: Before a game, do you try to stay calm or get yourself psyched up?
GA: All the way to the gym, I listen to soft music. People are different; I’m mellow, one of the quiet ones. I just like to hype myself up in my head-not too hyper though, because then it’s hard to actually focus. About 30 minutes before the game, I switch to my hyper music.
STACK: What’s your soft, what’s your hard music?
GA: You know, R. Kelly, Ginuwine, Mariah Carey. Then my harder music is like Game, Fabolous, Lil’ Wayne.
STACK: Mentally, how do you prepare when you’re about to face your toughest competitor or a team you really want to beat?
GA: Right before the game, after they call our names, I grab a cup of cold water and splash it on my face to calm me down. That relaxes me.
STACK: Is there anything you’re particular about before a game?
GA: Not really, except I won’t touch my jersey or my shoes until Coach starts the meeting. Once he starts talking, then I get dressed.
STACK: On game days, is there a diet you follow, or a food you avoid or make sure to eat?
GA: I just like to eat oatmeal in the morning and try to stay away from sweets, so I don’t get too high or low. I really just watch my diet in the summer because were not training.
STACK: Do you pay attention to how much fluid you drink on game days?
GA: Definitely, because I’m a cramper. For some reason, my body cramps easily. So during the day, I’ll drink a Gatorade going to and from practice in the morning, then on my way to the game and back again. I usually drink another two or three once I get to the gym. I usually have about eight Gatorades on a game day. I like the Fruit Punch and Lemonade.
STACK: What about sleeping the night before a game-do you make sure to get a certain amount?
GA: It’s especially hard to sleep before big games and when were on the road. When were traveling, we usually get where we’re going about 5:00. But since we’ve been on a plane, we’re tired and really just want to sleep. I just watch a movie to stay up.
STACK: How does your routine change when you’re on the road?
GA: It’s like night and day. On the road, you don’t have as much access to a gym. I advise high school athletes to train at whatever time your sport plays it’s games. If you have a night sport, then train at that time on days you’re not playing. Your body will get used to playing then.
STACK: So how do you combat the time difference when you travel to the West Coast?
GA: I usually work out all through the night, sometimes at 8:00, 12:00 or 1:00 in the morning. That helps a lot.
STACK: Do you have a hard time sleeping after you pull a late night workout?
GA: Not really, because I usually only sleep three to four hours a night.
STACK: Wow, not big on sleep?
GA: Yeah, I just take catnaps throughout the day.
STACK: What part of your game are you trying to improve?
GA: Right now, Im just trying to be a defensive-minded player and smarter craftsman. I watch a lot of my game tapes and a lot of older players. I just want to be wiser about my craft.
STACK: What competitors make you pick up your game?
GA: Allen Iverson, Dwyane Wade, and, even though we don’t play the same position, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. I get switched onto them sometimes.
STACK: Do you like being asked to step up to that challenge?
GA: Yeah, definitely. It’s hard defensively, because you know, LeBron weighs 235. But its fun.
STACK: At the end of your games, you throw your jersey into the crowd. Do you pick someone in particular or do you just throw it into the stands?
GA: I don’t pick anyone in particular-I just give it to whoever. Sometimes I see signs that have some nice little line that gets my attention, or one that says, It’s my birthday. Can I have a jersey? Then I’ll have someone in the back get them a jersey. Everyone loves it.
STACK: This is a $225-a-game habit. What made you start doing it?
GA: When I was younger, I was watching a Bulls game that Dennis Rodman got kicked out of. On his way out, he threw his jersey into the crowd, and everyone was screaming for it. So I thought, if I ever make it to the NBA, that’s what I want my legacy to be-someone who gave his jersey away. No matter what he did in the NBA, he gave his jersey away.
STACK: What do you consider your greatest NBA achievement?
GA: Making my first NBA shot. Players usually say it was getting drafted or hitting the game winner. But mine is my first layup. No one can take away those points. It will always be in the record book that I had those two points.
STACK: What was your biggest challenge in making it to the NBA?
GA: My hardest challenge was the critics.
STACK: Who were your critics?
GA: Everyone. When you’re a basketball player-or any athlete-for every 100 people who love you, there will be 100 people who hate you. You’ll always see both sides when youre trying to make decisions or do anything. You just have to believe in the choices you make, and that’s what I did. I believed I could play in this league.
STACK: Do you have any more words of advice for high school athletes?
GA: Always work harder than the next opponent. Because if you’re not working, my daddy always told me, somewhere, someone else is. So if you want to be on top of your game, keep working and stay focused.
Food: Cinnamon Toast Crunch
Fast food: McDonald’s
Movie: Any one with Denzel. I could watch him all day.
Song: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
Celebrity: Jack Nicholson
Video Game: Halo
Fellow NBA Player to hang with: I can only pick one? God, probably LeBron
Favorite thing to do in your down time: Watch movies or bowl