Both he and Tracy McGrady (and to some extent Allen Iverson) all were forced out of the league despite a willingness and, perhaps an ability, to still contribute to a team. Perception and reputation has ruled and ruined their chances at playing in the league as few NBA teams believe guys like Arenas can play a complementary role.
That certainly seemed the case in Arenas' last roles in the NBA with the Magic and then the Grizzlies. Nagging injuries perhaps kept him from reaching that level, but so too did his poor shooting and lack of explosion.
Arenas may never be what he was both on and off the court, where he was also a social media superstar for his irreverent humor and his lack of inhibition sometimes.
And so Arenas went to China. And China embraced Agent Zero in a big way.
As he told Karan Madhok in a recent Q&A with SLAM, Arenas has found joy simply in playing again:
SLAM: But it does seem like the joy in your game is back. Being back on the court, back with teammates . . .
GA: You know, that’s all basketball is. If someone loves something, and you take it away, it’s like, what does he do now? What does someone do? That’s what happened with me in the last couple of years in the NBA when I went to Orlando, and then I got benched. And I was in Memphis and I wasn’t playing. It was just like, why do I wanna keep doing this? So then when I got the chance to come to China to play…OK! As long as I get to play.
Even with injuries continue to haunt Arenas late in the career and keep him from playing the way he knows he is capable, Arenas has had a rebirth in his first season playing in the CBA in China. Arenas recently completed his season with the Shanghai Sharks. Arenas averaged 20.7 points and 7.3 rebounds per game while shooting 50.0 percent from the floor.
More than that, Arenas embraced the love of the fans once again. He joined China's version of Twitter and began interacting with fans, doing some of the same things that made him immensely popular in the United States.
Arenas took to the people, visiting electronics stores and giving out tickets using Weibo. Arenas was himself again. Or at least pretty close to it.
Gilbert Arenas may never have the lift he once had. He may never be able to score at the incredible rates he was in his prime in the NBA. But Arenas can still play basketball if given the chance to do so.
Arenas has not decided whether he will continue playing in China or whether he will attempt to comeback to the NBA. All Arenas can do is keep playing and doing what he loves. Arenas has finally found a way to be himself and that is when he plays his best.