Stevenson's Loyalty to Arenas Is Admirable
DeShawn Stevenson should take a bow for blood-is-thicker-than-water loyalty. The world needs more of it today.
While Gilbert Arenas continues to plummet, while the Washington Wizards quickly try to erase his memory and his mention, while the NBA left him on indefinite suspension and authorities prepare to lead him away in handcuffs, Stevenson stood up for his embattled teammate Sunday night.
Good for him. It takes courage to stand alongside a fallen comrade.
While everyone else kicks Arenas while he's down, or at least distance themselves from his gun-waving, locker room crime, Stevenson did the right thing – he made people think about what it means to be a team.
You stand and fall as one.
Like everyone else, Stevenson knows Arenas is guilty of terrible judgment, and punishment should fit the crime, but Stevenson also understands Arenas better than most. As Arenas was described in a profile a few years ago, "he is more like a puppy who pees all over your couch,'' than a dangerous thug.
"He's my brother,'' Stevenson told reporters in Washington Sunday night. "I'm going to stick to him through rough times.''
Stevenson paid tribute to Arenas by taking the court Sunday with the words "AGENT'' and "ZERO'' written in red letters on tape above his ankles,'' alluding to Arenas nickname.
The Wizards have removed almost all mention of Arenas from their Verizon Center home. No more "0" jerseys to buy, no more Arenas highlights on the big screen, no more banners on the building. His locker stall has been emptied, and it's likely to remain that way through this season. Security personnel confiscated at least one "Free Gil,'' poster that turned up this weekend at the Center.
He has put the franchise through ridicule, and embarrassed it badly. Teammates and coaches last week were being put through interviews by law enforcement authorities regarding Arenas' locker room incident that sparked this nightmare.
Yet those who know Arenas best feel more sorry for him than mad at him for what he has done. Stevenson made that clear Sunday night, even in the face of a franchise that is desperately trying to wash its hands of him.
It's all kind of sad for a guy who once made us smile.
Stevenson and Arenas have shared a lot for the past four seasons, forming a bond that few outside an NBA team can understand. You don't spend a good portion of eight consecutive months together, in hotels, on flights and buses, in locker rooms, without developing some close relationships.
Like Arenas, Stevenson often marches to his own tune. Both are free-spirited souls. When he played in Orlando, Stevenson earned his nickname "Nutso,'' for some of his actions, yet teammates liked him.
He and good friend Drew Gooden later spent an entire season on different teams competing to see who could grow the longest beard. As much as anyone, Stevenson enjoyed the endless and often zany practical jokes that Arenas enjoyed playing on those around him.
Stevenson wasn't about to abandon Arenas last week, even when everyone else was. Sports today often take a what-have-you-done-for-lately theme. Patience is lacking. Attention spans are short. Instant gratification is all that matters.
Teams move, coaches change, players jump at the next contract. Everyone wants their own. Even the NBA's premature suspension of Arenas last week was just another show of self-preservation.
Rarely is real loyalty displayed like it should be.
Stevenson showed it Sunday night.