1 Cardgame, 5 Guns: The sketchiest event in NBA history

Zimran Jacob

It started as a routine spat between teammates. It erupted into one of the most infamous incidents in NBA history.

Anyone who witnessed Gilbert Arenas in the mid-2000s knew that he was a force to be reckoned with. He had hit his stride when he joined the Washington Wizards.

He became an All-Star for the first time in 2005, and dazzled the world with his scoring ability. He was nicknamed The Hibachi, due to his ability to heat up and catch fire regularly. He would often duel with the best of the NBA such as Kobe Bryant or LeBron James.

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His career took a hit when his 07-08 and 08-09 seasons were shortened due to a number of knee injuries, and he looked to bounce back in the 09-10 season. That’s when things began to get surreal.

The Wizards were coming home from Phoenix after a loss. Arenas and several other players on the team were involved in a card game in which tempers began to flare. One of the teammates involved was Javaris Crittenton, a young player looking to make a name for himself in the NBA. Caron Bulter reported the following dialogue between teammates.

“My eyes popped open when I heard Javaris say, “Put the money back. Put the [expletive] money back.”

“I ain’t putting [expletive] back,” Gilbert replied. “Get it the way Tyson got the title. Might or fight or whatever you got to do to get your money back. Otherwise, you ain’t gettin’ it.”

Butler tried to convince Arenas to give Crittenton the money. It was only $1,100. Gilbert refused and the teammates continued to argue as the flight descended.

“I’ll see your [expletive] at practice and you know what I do,” Gilbert said.

“What the [expletive] you mean, you know what I do?” replied Javaris.

“I play with guns.”

“Well I play with guns, too.”

The next day in the locker room, Gilbert Arenas brought four guns to the locker room and asked Crittenton which one he wanted to be shot with. In one of the most dramatic twists in locker room history, Crittenton had his own gun cocked and loaded before he pointed it at Arenas.

The locker room fell silent. Butler calmly explained to Crittenton that his whole life and career would be affected if he pulled the trigger. Eventually, Crittenton put the gun away. Someone called 911 and the news broke on December 24th, 2009.

After the incident, the Wizards front office knew it was time to blow up the team. That group of players could not exist together and their public image was destroyed. Arenas was suspended, and was never the same superstar he was before the incident. Crittenton was released and never played in the NBA again. He was convicted of manslaughter in 2015 and was sentenced to 23 years in prison.

The whole matter was a stain on the Washington franchise and turned a team with potential into a team desperately rebuilding. It was a dark time in NBA history, but it seems to be a vestige of the past. With all the friendships between players on different teams, it seems like an incident involving guns in the locker room is unlikely to occur again. One can only hope.

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