Agent Zero Busted: The NBA Has Reached Its Breaking Point

Ben AikeyCorrespondent IJanuary 14, 2010

PHOENIX - DECEMBER 19:  Gilbert Arenas #0 of the Washington Wizards hanldles the ball during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on December 19, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Wizards 121-95. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

According to ESPN , Washington Wizards (formerly the Bullets, and that does indeed have ironic relevance to the news) guard Gilbert Arenas has been formally charged with felony gun possession.

This is exactly why I don’t watch the NBA.

Athletes today think they’re above the law. They don’t see a problem with publicly admitting to smoking marijuana, cheating on or abusing their significant others, or committing violent crimes. They think their celebrity status, quite literally in some cases, allows them to get away with murder.

Worst of all, it’s more common that NBA players break the law. Jayson Williams got drunk, murdered his driver, and then tried to cover it up. Allen Iverson crippled a woman with a steel folding chair in a bowling alley, and countless players are guilty of rape and driving under the influence.

A simple Google search for “crimes committed by NBA players” reveals that 40 percent of NBA players have police records.

Who else is alarmed by that number?

It honestly makes me sick to my stomach to think of what athletes get away with. Sure, a lot of people get away with breaking the law, but not all are expected to be role models. Most athletes fail to realize that kids look up to them and that they’re setting the wrong example.

The charges against Arenas carry a maximum five-year prison sentence. For bringing guns into the arena, concealing them in his locker, and brandishing them at a teammate, the punishment is far too light for the crime.

Basketball has reached a breaking point and this could be a pivotal event for NBA commissioner David Stern.

On one hand, he could just roll over and play dead like he always does. Stern has been highly criticized for corruption involving the draft lottery and the first retirement of Michael Jordan (but those are other stories), and the smart money says he’ll do the same thing. He could let Arenas play again as soon as the end of the league investigation or the start of next season.

However, if commissioner Stern chooses to channel his inner Roger Goodell and suspend Agent Zero indefinitely, it sends a message to the rest of the league. By suspending (or banning) Arenas, it would tell the rest of the league that the NBA is trying to change its image.

But I really don’t expect that to happen.

The NBA is all about money. The league didn’t suspend Kobe Bryant while he was fighting rape charges, and oftentimes, he would play a few hours after a court appearance.

Why didn’t they make a stand?

Because Kobe is one of the top-five most popular players in the league. His games are almost always televised and receive high ratings, his jersey is among the best-selling in the league, and because the fans want to see their star player.

Gilbert Arenas holds the same position for the Wizards—the most popular player on the roster and the team’s leading scorer.

In his book Uncommon , Tony Dungy urges athletes (and fellow readers) to do several things—be active in the community, set a good example for people around you, and don’t put much stock in unnecessary possessions among them.

Try finding more than a small handful of NBA players that live their lives in such an unselfish way. Try finding NBA players that don’t worship the almighty dollar.

Commissioner Stern, do the right thing. Crack down, send the message, and restore respect to a league that has long since lost its way.