For Arenas, the Clothes Really Do Make the Man

By Mike Wise
Monday, May 1, 2006

With the legend of LeBron growing exponentially and the myth of Washington having the better team in this series about shattered, Gilbert Arenas found solace in the only force of the universe that mattered to him at halftime: superstition.

That's right. Arenas, mired in a slump that would have him miss 11 of his first 14 shots, was convinced his uniform was at fault. He completely undressed, head to toe, at halftime and tried to buck any false notions or fallacies.

"I changed my shoes, my shorts, my shirt, my tights, everything," Arenas said. "That first uniform was bad luck for me."

He put on new kicks. New jersey. New shirt. New tights.

New game.

His game.

He stole it from James and the Cleveland Cavaliers last night at Verizon Center, took it while they were sleeping in the fourth quarter. When the most defining moment of the Wizards' maddeningly inconsistent season was done, Arenas had outshot and outperformed another young gun, the 21-year-old they call the Chosen One.

Nike's main man. The Golden Child. LeBron James, the player who is not only entrusted with saving a crestfallen sports town from its own self-loathing but also an entire league in need of a torchbearer.

After living off free throws and deep three-pointers that resuscitated a lethargic Sunday night crowd, after erupting for 28 second-half points, Arenas was essentially asked if it was psychologically tough to watch James detonate for 25 first-half points -- basically take the game over -- while Washington's resident all-star chipped orange paint off the rim.

"This is LeBron's show, you know," Arenas said through a babykins smile. "We're all just -- we're just all witnesses."

The media room busted up laughing. Arenas had taken a light-hearted poke at Nike's ad campaign, taken a little shot at the only player in this first-round series anyone seems to be watching. That was Arenas's way of letting the masses know: "I can play, too."

From the beginning of this series, the main concern the Wizards' organization had about Arenas was whether he was going to get caught up in the hype. Privately, there was real concern that Arenas would turn this into a game of one-upsmanship. Whatever LeBron could do, he would have to prove he could do better.

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