Why Gilbert Arenas was scared to join Kobe Bryant on the Lakers
"I wasn't the player he was looking for"

Why Gilbert Arenas was scared to join Kobe Bryant on the Lakers

In February 2012, while the Lakers were finishing off their six-game road trip in Toronto, the team’s general manager Mitch Kupchak held a private workout with a 30-year-old Gilbert Arenas.

Lakers hit me up, and I had a tryout. I’m in there; I probably took about 400 shots — missed 5. I was flamin’.

Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports

Arenas was coming off a 49-game season with the Magic, averaging just 8.0 points on 34.4 percent shooting. Orlando waived the veteran point guard via the NBA’s amnesty clause provision during the preseason, taking his $62 million contract off of its salary cap.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were in pursuit of a point guard option to bolster their championship hopes. They had their eyes on Arenas, who was looking to make his NBA comeback after going through procedures on both of his knees and hips. But despite his incredible workout in front of the team’s representatives, Gil didn’t feel ready for LA’s spotlight.

This was right after the gun thing, so my mind, it ain’t really settled yet. So when I’m thinking about the LA market, the media, and I’m like, ‘Man, everything I do there they’re gonna be like, you are a problem in the locker room,’ and that’s all that went to my brain, so I talked myself out of a job.

Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports

The fact it was mid-season didn’t help Gilbert’s case. He felt there wasn’t enough time for him to get into game shape, especially in the environment where Kobe Bryant was the one setting standards. Gil knew he couldn’t meet those so quickly, and he decided against joining the Lakers.

I wasn’t the player he was looking for. I wasn’t Agent Zero, and I was afraid that he was gonna push me like that. You gotta remember Agent Zero was a whole different person, and I didn’t wanna be that person because that person got me in trouble.

Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports

Kobe also didn’t want all the extra stuff that went hand in hand with Agent Zero at the time. Locker room shenanigans, pranking teammates, gun incidents — none of those would’ve increased the Lakers’ championship chances. However, Agent Zero’s impact on the court would. But unfortunately, the Lakers couldn’t have one without the other.

You challenge me; I want the smoke. In a game, they tell me I can’t do something; I want the smoke. That’s what drove me. What got me in trouble is making me good too. You ain’t gonna hit the game-winner — I’m ’bout to hit this one and tomorrow’s game-winner. That was the confidence of that. So once I got in trouble, I didn’t want it no more. So when he was like, ‘Yo, I want Agent Zero,’ I’m like, ‘Oh, no. I don’t wanna be that guy.’

Gilbert Arenas, Fubo Sports

The NBA’s bad boy decided it was time for a change, and that was great. It’s just a shame his professional transformation conditioned the one on a personal level. The upstroke was a calmer version of Arenas, both on and off the court and that wasn’t the player Kobe wanted on the team. He didn’t know it at the time, but Agent Zero sure did.