Gilbert Arenas spent millions on his 25th birthday party. But the investment paid dividends in the long run.
Areans' over-the-top celebration wasn't just a show-off, nor a PR attempt to boost his celebrity status. Well, the latter is true in some sense, but there's an entire back story to why then-Wizards star opted to go such extremes.
Unprecedented media coverage was just a byproduct of Gil's much broader plan to secure him a generational wealth outside of the NBA salaries. Don't let the goofiness of his character fool you; what Arenas pulled off in 2007 is nothing short of impressive.
The background story
"At this point in time, I'm not a clubber," Gil said in the recent episode of “No Chill with Gilbert Arenas. "I'm in the middle of negotiating for Adidas. I'm a 2x All-Star on a $100,000 shoe deal, and they're trying to get to $500,000. I'm like, 'No, I'm worth $2 million.'"
Arenas' performances were in line with his self-assessment -- he was a legitimate 30-point scorer, coming off a season of averaging 29.3 PPG. But according to Adidas, his numbers didn't result in publicity that would justify Arenas' ask price. In other words, Agent Zero wasn't famous enough.
But the German company knew that at some point, Gil's stature might catch up with his on-court performances. So they decided to give him an ultimatum: "If you start in an All-Star Game, you get your $2 million."
Easier said than done.
Arenas thought about all the guys he's up against -- Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James -- and knew right away he doesn't stand a chance. So he came up with an alternative.
"I'm gonna throw a birthday bash because I head Vince Carter's mom used to throw parties and have everybody and have everybody fill out the ballots. So I was like, 'I can do a party and have people through the ballots at the party,'" Arenas said.
Gil's plan worked
Once he developed a plan, the only thing left for Gil to do was to bring the right people. And he aimed high.
Lil Wayne was the first guy he called, but he said no. He then tried with Jay-Z, but he also said no. Next on the list was Puff Daddy, and after a bit of persuading, he was in.
"Once I got Puff P, everybody became easy. So I hit Wayne back, he confirmed. I hit T.I., he confirmed. Me and Game was tight, so Game confirmed. I hit Busta, and Busta cost more than everyone else. He was like, 'For my price, I'mma be the best show.' And then I got Doug E. Fresh."
At that point, Gilbert's only job was to create buzz. He decided that private invites were the way to go, and he contacted American Express and got them to create Black Cards -- the ones that cost nearly $40K to make and another $20k to send out via FedEx. Once Arenas started sending them out, word-of-mouth kicked in. Then, suddenly, everyone wanted to attend the party.
As a result, 7,500 or so people, almost exclusively celebrities, were there to celebrate Arenas' birthday. But more importantly, they were there to fill out the ballots. But was it enough?
"I think I was down like 200,000 votes behind Vince and overnight, took him."
Arenas kept his end of the bargain, and Adidas did the same thing. Only instead of $2 million, they ended up signing him to a $40 million deal. But that's a story for a different article, and it's coming up.
Trust me when I say it's another Arenas classic.