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For Arenas, the Ultimate Assist

Wizard Provides Kids With a Merry Christmas

By Michael Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2004; Page D03

Andre McAllister was aware of Gilbert Arenas's giving spirit before Arenas decided to become his "big brother" yesterday. Andre, 10, has seen Arenas toss his jersey -- and often his sneakers -- into the stands after every Washington Wizards game.

Before watching "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" with Arenas and about 200 other kids yesterday at the Regal Gallery Place Stadium 14, Andre wanted to know if Arenas had anything special planned as they left MCI Center.

Wizards' Gilbert Arenas gives Jasmine Bryant a gift as part of Gilbert's Annual Christmas Dream. (Dudley M. Brooks -- The Washington Post)

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"Are you going to throw your hat?" Andre asked.

"No, I like this hat," Arenas said.

"Are you going to throw your shoes?"

"No, I like these shoes."

Arenas had no spare clothing to offer Andre or the other kids he treated to a movie and other gifts during Gilbert's Second Annual Christmas Dream. "Just gifts," Arenas said. "That's enough."

Arenas made a special invitation to Andre, who lost his mother, twin sister, great grandfather and a cousin on Monday in a fire on the 400 block of 17th Street SE, near Capitol Hill. "I heard about what happened while we were on the road," said Arenas, who was hitting the game-winning shot against Golden State the night Andre's home burned down. "You see how fast your life flashes in front of you. One day you're sleeping with your parents and the next day, they're not there. It's going to be hard growing up without family in his life."

Arenas said he could relate to Andre -- he was raised by his father in North Hollywood, Calif., after his mother abandoned the family when he was 3. "His situation is a lot more worse than mine," Arenas said. "You can see right now that he doesn't realize all that's happened, so he's just having fun. I'm just trying to keep him from thinking about it, because it's going to be a hard situation when he does.

"Those are things you don't see coming," Arenas said. "I didn't have my mother when I was growing up, so I know how that feels, and how he's going to feel as he grows up. I just want to be here for him. Whatever he needs, he can come to me until he can get back on his feet."

Andre and his cousin, Andre Townsend, 10, got to hang out with Arenas and the Wizards the entire day. Earlier at practice, Andre McAllister told forward Jarvis Hayes that his twin sister, Aisha, had a bookmark with Hayes's picture on it. "My sister thinks you're the cutest one on the team," Andre McAllister said. Hayes, who was unaware of the situation, smiled and said, "You go home and tell your sister she's all right."

"She's dead," said McAllister, the only family member to escape the house alive. The expression on Hayes's face turned from delight to distress.

"It just sends chills through your body," Hayes later said. "It's a real tragic situation. I was nervous talking to him. But he's tough, you know. He's holding up."

While the Wizards watched film, the cousins shot around on the practice court, with Andre McAllister hurling the ball and swishing a three-pointer. He later played a little one-on-one with Jared Jeffries and Jeffries gave the cousins a tour of the locker room.

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