By Michael Wilbon
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Gilbert Arenas knows people are roasting him. He woke up to a morning radio show on ESPN, "And I heard Mike & Mike killing me." His Washington Wizards teammates are, too. They're greeting him this week with: "Do you know who I am? I'm a basketball player. I play for the Washington Wizards."
If I'd been arrested in Miami Beach for simply getting out of my car, I'd have called Jesse L. Jackson or Al Sharpton or somebody. Arenas, as is true to his personality, is taking this remarkably in stride. In fact, when he was handcuffed Saturday night for going to the aid of teammate Awvee Storey, Arenas at first thought he was being "Punk'd" by MTV. But he wasn't; he was being arrested. "I was told it was for resisting arrest without violence," Arenas said in a phone conversation yesterday.
"I still don't understand what for. I was in a limousine, stuck in really bad traffic going to this restaurant, Ago, when I decided to step out of the car. The limo driver said, 'The guy who just got out is being arrested.' I looked over and saw seven police officers arresting Storey. . . . I didn't have the chance to say anything; an officer put cuffs on me from behind. . . . When I was taken in, I said, 'I don't mean to be rude, but can I talk to the officer who arrested me?' And the officer says, 'You were being nosy.' And I said, 'Are you putting that in your official police report, that I was being nosy?' And then he keeps asking me questions:
" 'Do you have tattoos?' I said, 'Yes, I have three.' And then, 'What is your street name?' I laughed. Of course I laughed. My street name? What? Okay, it's Zero Hero. [Arenas wears "0" on his Wizards jersey.]
" 'And he says, 'Oh, everything is funny to you, huh?' "
Arenas is lucky he wasn't in Los Angeles . . . or Prince George's County.
Anyway, what we all want to know is whether he said it -- whether he said, as the police report stated, "You can't arrest me. I'm a basketball player. I play for the Washington Wizards."
Arenas took a deep sigh. "You know I didn't say that," he said. "It's so dumb. . . . Have you seen the movie 'Anchorman?' There's a scene where Ron Burgundy says, 'I'm kinda of a big deal; people know me.' It reminds me of that. It doesn't work in the movies or on TV . . .
"Anyway, there was a guy locked up in one of these three cells who said, 'Hey, Gil, if they brought you in here I'm never getting out.' And one officer said to me, "Gilbert, what are you doing in here?' And I said, 'I don't know.' I watch a lot of TV, and I know I haven't even been searched. I've still got my cellphone on me and stuff.' That's when a lady officer told me what I was being charged with."
Okay, we have to back up here and provide a little context. Miami Beach is beyond packed on Memorial Day weekend. After Atlanta essentially threw "Freak-Nik" out of the city, all the MCs, DJs, Playaz, hotties and shorties took the show to Miami a few years ago. Now, it's called "Urban Beach Week." Older folks, the hip-hop challenged and people who like to see order are a little undone by Urban Beach Week, which is essentially young black folks and young white folks who like hip-hop hanging out on Miami Beach all weekend in various forms of dress and undress. Basically, it's a late spring break for the hip-hop crowd . . . which attracts tens of thousands. Think BET, not MTV. Law enforcement folks who don't necessarily see the similarities get a little nervous sometimes.
This is what Arenas got caught up in, even though he wasn't going to hear music, wasn't walking around with a posse. "I was going to dinner," Arenas said.
But because the traffic slows to a crawl in the evenings, the limousine couldn't move on Collins Avenue, the main drag on South Beach.
I know this first-hand because I was in Miami on Saturday night for the Heat-Pistons playoff game and ventured over to Miami Beach afterward.
And while I did not witness Arenas and Storey being arrested that night, I did witness the interaction between officers and motorists on the unthinkably packed streets.
Let's just say it was tense. And I absolutely believe Arenas and not for one second the police report.
At one point late that night, the primary causeway from downtown Miami to Miami Beach was closed off by officers.
You might, as I did, ask how to get across to the beach. While usually you get a polite explanation, you also might get a "GET BACK IN YOUR CAR!" as I've seen happen. The Miami Herald carried a story one day last weekend that reported nearly 600 people had already been arrested, and there was Monday still to go.
"There were three cells I remember in the place I was taken," Arenas said. "There were two with 30 to 35 people in each cell and one huge cell with, like, 300 people. I've been to Miami Beach on Memorial Day. I've got a condo there. I pretty much go jet-skiing and to dinner. I just don't hang out much."
He doesn't. Arenas is notorious for not hanging out. His big plan last weekend was to see "X-Men" a second time. I'm 47 years old and I hang out more than Arenas, which must come as a shock to people who think every single NBA player parties his brains out every single night. The only reason I went to the beach Saturday was because my alleged friend and colleague Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald insisted. He lives on Miami Beach and knew shortcuts to avoid the traffic (which carried us right around Arenas and Storey). I told Le Batard if we got arrested or shot I'd kill him, and his exact reply was, "If we do, it'll make for a great column."
Okay, so nothing happened to us. But Arenas didn't have access to Le Batard's shortcuts. And Arenas, while he's in very good humor about it, says he won't be needing any shortcuts anymore. "I'm going to sell my condo," he said. "I'm done with the Miami scene. They can have their nice beach. They've convinced me I do not belong."