Sunday, October 19, 2008

Gilbert Arenas, In Perspective...

A lot of people give Gilbert Arenas (Washington Wizards Guard) a hard time on the court for his antics and the way he markets himself to the fans in his unique style but I personally always dug it. He overestimates his skill with his swag but I appreciate him trying to make things fun for his fans and I certainly respect that.

So anyway I check his blog from time to time and I recently came across an entry he posted last week that explains his relationship with his absentee mother who had him when she was young and it's not quite as touching as a Mother's Day Card but it goes a long way toward explaining Gilbert in a way that his on the court facade is incapable of. This is an excellent read, so check it out and see if you don't come out respecting him just a little more than you did before reading it:

I have something to clear up. I read a comment on my last entry. I always like to read the comments, because there’s always going to be somebody who disagrees with everything and goes against the grain. Someone commented and said:


I thought about it and this blog post is my response to that comment.

For all the people who don’t know the story, a story came out two years ago by Mike Wise of the Washington Post about my life. This was before I had the blog, so I never actually got to comment on it. It was about what happened between me and my mother and all that.

The funny part is that I never heard the story of my upbringing before until we got put out of the playoffs against Cleveland the first time and my dad was just sitting there next to me and he says out of the blue, “How come you never asked about your mother?”

I was like, “I don’t know.”

He was like, “You never wondered where your mother was in your life?”

I was like, “No. When I was about eight-years old do you remember that fight I got in school and they kicked me out?”

He said, “Yeah, I remember.”

“Well, the other guy said something about my mother and then the fight started. While I was sitting in the detention hall waiting for you to pick me up, I thought about it. I’ve been fighting my whole life, beating up kids who talk about my mother and I don’t even know her. From that day I really took her out of my life and never thought about it anymore.”

So my dad says, “Do you want to hear the story?”

I say, “Not really,” because I’m watching the playoffs on TV and I’m still mad that we lost.

“You sure?”

“Not really.”

“Well, I’m going to tell you anyway.”

He starts telling me the story …

“You know, me and your mother … She was a basketball player and I played basketball and we met in Tampa …

And I go, “Oh, OK, so that’s where I get my athleticism from,” you know, I’m trying to throw little jokes in there on the side.

He goes, “No, no, Gilbert. Be serious.”

“OK, OK, go on.”

He was like, “I was in college at the University of Miami and she was living with her parents and me until she moved out to the projects with me in Tampa, Florida.”

So, she was in Tampa and he was in Miami going to college and he came down to visit her early one time to surprise her and me and long story short, she was there with somebody else and doing drugs. They broke up right there and he went back to school.

Back in Miami, he ended up breaking his leg and had to leave school to come back to Tampa to be closer to me I guess. While he was coming back to Tampa, he didn’t know it, but she was going up to Miami to move with the other guy because she was pregnant by the other guy.

Now, my mom had another kid by the dude she was moving to Miami with whose name is “Blue” living with us in Tampa. So when she ran off, she left me and my stepbrother Blue with the dude’s mother. The dude’s mother called my father and said, “I’m going to give you a second chance to be a father.”

She was like, “Francis,” (my mother’s name is Francis), “Francis hasn’t been here for months. She hasn’t seen her kids in months and I’m getting ready to turn your son over to the state. You can come down here and pick your kid up.”

So my dad drove down and picked me up right before the foster care was coming to get me. I guess my dad and my mom talked about it a couple months after he got me and they agreed that she was going to come and get me back. And she never did.

Next I stayed with my grandmother, my dad’s mother, in Tampa while my dad moved to California to try to find work as an actor. While I was living with my grandmother I lived across the street from Mike Williams who played football at USC. He’s not in the league anymore – I don’t know why. We were best friends though. Both of our grandparents still live across the street from each other in Tampa to this day.

Once my dad was settled in California he flew me out there to be with him, but he wasn’t established enough to support me, so he flew me back to his mother in Tampa to stay with her some more. Then he came to get me the final time and that’s when we drove all the way from coast to coast. This whole process took four or five years. My grandmom and my dad’s brothers watched me.

From there, it was just my dad and me. When I was little it didn’t bother me, but I always thought about it so when slow songs came on like when Tupac came out with “Dear Mama,” those were the songs that kind of hurt me, like, “Dang, where’s my mom? Is she ever going to see me? Is she ever going to come out here?”

But I never asked my dad, I was too proud to ask him because he had his own thing going on trying to get work and find work and keep getting into the acting thing.

So when I grew up, I never really asked. I was just bad. I put all my anger out by causing trouble. I didn’t get in trouble trouble like stealing and all that. I did stupid, funny stuff like Dennis the Menace trouble like you’re living in an apartment building and you break all the tops off the automatic sprinklers on the lawns so when the sprinklers come on, they just shoot straight up into the air like waterfalls. That was my kind of stuff. You know, throwing dye into the pool and making it red or green, that was my kind of stuff.

Once I started playing basketball I remember sitting at home one day and looking in the mirror with a basketball resting on my head and making a promise to God. The first thing I said was, “If you ever let me see my mother, I swear I won’t ask her anything, all I want to do is see her. I just want to meet her. I just want to be a kid who gets to meet his mother. I won’t ask no questions, I won’t think about it, I’ll let it go right there.” The second thing was, “If you ever get me to the NBA, I’ll never do drugs or anything like that.”

Both of them came true.

Meeting My Mom
It was 2002. I was on the Golden State Warriors and we were playing in Miami. It was the first time I actually put braids in my hair. This was when I had the little funky, ugly hairdo when I was trying to mimic Kobe but my curls wouldn’t curl right back then.

So it’s before the game, we’re on the court and I hear this woman screaming my name. I’m thinking, “I know I don’t have any fans like that in Miami. I mean, I know I get buckets, but I ain’t got no fans …” and then I turned around and saw the lady and she says to me, “I’m your mother.”

All I can remember is all the anger from all the years of beating up kids from them talking about my mother, it just got charged inside of me after I saw her. I played that game so angry that I got kicked out of the game for throwing my headband into the crowd.

After the game she met us by the bus and fell into my arms crying and said again, “I’m your mother.” Then she said her name. That was the first time I had ever seen her. I never even saw a picture of her before. I didn’t know if she was dark skinned/light skinned, I didn’t know nothing. She gave me her number and we had to go, so I got on the bus and I called my dad.

“Yo, what was my mom’s name?”


“Well, I think I just met her.”

He asked for her number and he called her and that was the last I ever heard of her until my dad told me the story after the Cavs series and it was the last time I ever saw her Mike Wise’s story included a picture of her. When I saw her by the bus it was all a blur, I didn’t really have an image of her in my head. The first time I got to see her see her was when that article came out.

So, back to the comment. When the commenter goes, “How come you never gave your mother a second chance?” I thought about it. That’s not a question you need to be asking me, that’s a question you need to be asking her.

You give somebody a second chance when you’ve cut them off in the past. Like, if I fire somebody, for instance, I could give them a second chance. She left me. She should have given me a second chance. That’s how I look at the situation.

My grandma has been in that same house in Tampa since my dad was little, almost 60 years living in the same house. She hasn’t moved. You know where to find me.

That’s how I look at a lot of people in my family. When me and my dad left, where were they? My dad keeps in touch with a lot of people in the family. I don’t. I feel that those are his family. On my side, all I know is my dad. He’s my family.

Me and my dad get in arguments about this because when we were struggling, we were they? We’ve been away from them for 15 years and I never got one card, no happy birthday, no nothing. I didn’t get anything. No one called me, I didn’t talk to anybody. Everyone started to talk to me because I was playing in college. I remember them, but at the end of the day, they’re strangers to me now.

How I look at the situation with my mom is, I don’t want to know you as a basketball player. I’ll know you when I’m done playing. I’ll know you as a man. Like, “These are my kids. This is my family. How are you doing?”

I don’t want to know you as an NBA player because I don’t know what the angle is. I don’t know if you want to reconnect with your son or if you want to reconnect with the man who is playing in the NBA. If I was your son, then I was your son for all of these years. I wasn’t your son once I made it to the league so you can tell all your friends, “Oh, that’s my son!” That’s how I look at the situation and it’s kind of funny because I never really thought about it until I read that comment.

I heard she has eight other kids besides me and they don’t live with her, but I don’t judge people because, hey, who knows what happened in her life that made her do the things she did. She was a young mother who probably couldn’t take care of things and that happens. I don’t fault her for that. I became a man and with my children I know what not to be. I don’t want my children looking at me how I look at her.

There’s going to be one day when I knock on that door and say, “Hi, I’m Gilbert. I’m your son.” But not while I’m playing basketball. I don’t want nobody coming into my life while I’m a pro because there’s been all these years when I wasn’t and no one came into it.

Me and my dad, we don’t see eye to eye on this. He tries to bring up the past like, “They took care of you …” and this and this and I’m like, “I understand that. They took care of me for those years when I was young, but there’s been a 15-year gap when I didn’t hear from nobody.” You know them because they’re your brothers and they’re your friends, but I don’t know them personally. I grew out of them.

There’s a lot of players that are going through this and there are a lot of people who are going through this and everybody has to deal with it the way that they see it. I see it that I grew into a man and I have to make a manly decision and my decision is that while I’m a professional, I don’t want to know you. When I’m done and I’m just a man and a father, OK, there we go, we can try to reconnect my relationship with her.

For the person who wrote that comment, I don’t take as disrespectful, but I look at it like she should have given me a second chance instead of me giving her a second chance because I never did anything to her. I just don’t know her.

I’ve never been tempted to call her after she gave me her number back in 2002 because I felt like I would be lying to the man above. When I prayed that day, I told Him that I wasn’t going to do anything or ask her anything. I just wanted a chance to see her and I got that.

Plus, once I grew out of thinking about her all the time, I didn’t have any questions really. There was nothing I wanted to say. I didn’t want to say, “Why did you leave me?” because to be honest, I don’t care. I say I don’t care because it got me to the situation I’m in now and I became a better person. And, I can’t judge because at the end of the day, it could have been flipped where I’m looking at my dad the way I look at her if he hadn’t had come and got me or if she wouldn’t have left me. I’d be looking at my dad like, “Who are you? I don’t know you.”

Some people are fortunate enough to have two parents. I was fortunate to have just my dad.
Respect, Gil.

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