The Phenomenal Swag Of Agent Zero

By Carla Peay
Updated: January 23, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the closing seconds of a game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks a few weeks ago, Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas dropped in a 32-footer to win the game.

While the near sell out crowd rose to their feet, holding their collective breath to see if the shot would go in, Arenas may have been the only person inside Verizon Center who didn�t see the ball swish blissfully through the net. He had already turned his back, confidently strutting toward the bench.

He knew the shot would fall. A split second later, thousands of screaming fans confirmed Arenas� confident prediction.

�I don�t know why this is a surprise to you guys,� Arenas said to the crowd of reporters that surrounded his locker on that night, as with all other nights.

�My swag is phenomenal,� he said, his face erupting in smile that had his teammates and reporters alike laughing. Arenas, also known by the nickname Agent Zero, is perhaps the hottest player in the NBA right now.

His self described �swag� could be a product of the 11 shots he has hit this season to end a quarter or a game. It could be his 30 ppg scoring average, good for second place in the league behind Denver�s Carmelo Anthony.

It could be his three 50-plus point games: 51 against Utah on Jan. 15, 54 against Phoenix on Dec. 22, and a spectacular 60 point performance against the Lakers on Dec. 17 when even Kobe Bryant couldn�t guard him.

So �on fire� is Arenas, that he started yelling �Hibachi� after putting up a shot. Teammate Brendan Haywood actually coined the expression, saying that Arenas was on fire like a grill. Hibachi gave way to �Quality Shot�, which Arenas claimed he started saying after Bryant said Arenas didn�t take quality shots the night Arenas hung 60 on him.

Arenas� response?

�If you practice it, it�s a quality shot,� he said. And practice Arenas does. He�s a well known gym rat, a tireless workhorse who has been known to sleep at Verizon Center, and show up at all sorts of odd hours to practice his shots.

His rise into national prominence may be catching some people off guard, but it�s no surprise to Arenas. He always knew he was capable of playing at this level.

He�s finally hearing his name right along with Bryant, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade as one of the NBA�s best players, along with loud and appreciative �MVP� chants from excited Verizon Center crowds.

For the first time in a long time, it�s fun to be a basketball fan in the nation�s capital again.

A brief history lesson

Not too long ago, the Washington Bullets used to advertise their games with this phrase: Come see the stars of the NBA. That�s right folks, they advertised the visiting teams. It was the only way to fill the old Capital Centre.

The Bullets had no marquee player, the team was mired in mediocrity, and you couldn�t give away a ticket. The franchise�s last championship was during the 1977-78 season. Then, a few changes came about.

Sensitive to the negative connotation of the word �bullet�, team owner Abe Pollin changed the name of his team from Bullets to Wizards. A spectacular new downtown arena was built. Michael Jordan became a part owner, eventually coming out of his second retirement to play for the team.

But despite the excitement and buzz that surrounded the team due to the very presence of His Airness, somehow, a past his prime superstar trying to will the Wizards into the playoffs just had a feel of desperation to it. The business partnership between Pollin and Jordan was also an unqualified failure.

Pollin found another Jordan, Eddie Jordan, and hired him away from the New Jersey Nets as the team�s new head coach. And when former general manager Wes Unseld stepped down for health reasons, Pollin replaced his long time friend with a general manager with a proven track record in Ernie Grunfeld.

But the most exciting change of all was a lucky coin flip by a quirky young superstar in the making which gave us Gilbert Arenas.

After the 2002-03 season during which he was named the NBA�s most improved player, free agent guard Gilbert Arenas was trying to decide where to go after two years with the Golden State Warriors.

As the story goes, Arenas was deciding between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Washington Wizards. The coin flip came up Clippers, so naturally, Arenas came to Washington. It�s just one of those quirky little stories that we in D.C. like to call part of the lore that is �Gilbertology�.

Arenas doesn�t deny the story, although admitting now that after growing up in Southern California, the idea of coming East was appealing to him, because there would be fewer distractions. It seems to be working.

Arenas told a group of reporters at the beginning of the season that this would be a takeover year. Whether it was those two missed free throws in last season�s playoff game versus LeBron James and the Cavaliers, being passed over for a spot on the Olympic team, or the fact the he wasn�t drafted until the second round,

Arenas admittedly plays with a chip on his shoulder. One thing is certain. His prediction about his play this season was as dead on target as one of his thrilling game winning shots.

Along with the solid leadership of forward Antawn Jamison, and the outstandingly consistent play of forward Caron Butler (who also deserves a little all-star love), Arenas has the Wizards in first place in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of the Cavaliers.

He�s a lock to make his third all-star team, but will likely be a reserve, behind current Eastern Conference leading vote getters Dwyane Wade and Vince Carter.

Now, Arenas can add coming off the bench in next month�s All-Star game when he�s the second leading scorer in the league as yet another chip on his shoulder, something which seems to bring out the �phenomenal swag� in this talented young superstar.

Hey NBA, don�t say you weren�t warned.