Three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas nearly ended his career with the Los Angeles Lakers but the former guard recently admitted he “sabotaged” his workout with the team. Kobe Bryant wanted the Lakers to add Arenas in 2012, but the former guard told Dan Le Batard he “botched the meeting” in Los Angeles.
“I tried out for the Los Angeles Lakers, did very well,” Arenas said on the South Beach Sessions podcast, per Audacy.com. “…I botched the meeting. I sabotaged it. They’re asking me, ‘When can you be ready to come?’ Maybe a month? It’s March. …To be honest, you don’t really need a player like me. You just need to tweak the second unit, make them a little faster and you guys are perfect.”
Instead, Arenas later ended up signing with the Grizzlies and had the worst season of his career averaging 4.2 points, 1.1 assists, 1.1 rebounds and .6 steals in 17 games. It would be Arenas’ final NBA season before playing briefly in China.
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Kobe to Lakers: ‘I Want Agent Zero’
Arenas detailed the pressure he received from Kobe Bryant to sign with the Lakers. The former NBA All-Star noted he was no longer the player he needed to be mentally and only signed with the Grizzlies after his agent Dan Fegan urged him to join the team.
“I’m not coming to L.A., you guys are going to crucify me,” Arenas recalled. “I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, the guy in the locker room and this and this.’ And that’s when Kobe came out and said, ‘I want Agent Zero.’ And I’m like, with all due respect, Kobe wants a player that no longer exists mentally. He’s looking for the guy who was mentally battling him from 2001. Watching him pre-game at 3 o’clock, was there every time we played at 3 o’clock. That’s the guy he wants, I’m no longer that guy. So, I’m going to reject this.”
Bryant’s Death Inspired Arenas to Make Changes
During a December 2020 interview with NBC Sports Washington, Arenas recalled a conversation he had with Bryant prior to his death. The Lakers legend inspired Arenas to get back into basketball through training and coaching.
“‘Shouldn’t you be doing something besides being an internet troll?’” Arenas recalled Bryant’s words. “’Why are you letting your brain go to waste on your couch, on the internet, when you can be putting it into basketball?’…Once the tragedy happened, I was like I’m going to go full bore.”
Arenas and Bryant had a friendly rivalry on the court. Arenas’ former Wizards teammate Brendan Haywood recalled the guard talking trash to Bryant after he scored 60 points against the Lakers. Bryant had a message for Arenas the next time they squared off against each other.
“Kobe said, ‘Keep that same energy when [I] come to D.C.,’” Haywood explained to NBC Sports Washington. “I thought Kobe forgot. Two months later, I’m not even thinking about it, I put my hand out, [Kobe] walked right past me. He did not shake anybody’s hand, he walked up to Gil, slapped him on his butt and said, ‘Remember you asked for this, and make sure you guard me the way I’m gonna guard you.’ He gave us 45, the meanest points I’ve ever seen. He pulled the 360 dunk with the airplane, he did everything.”