Speaking in depth about the situation for the first time, Arenas told The Action Network that he and Crittenton were playing a cross between poker and spades called bourré (also spelled “booray”) on a team flight when things got heated.
Crittenton was already losing hands when Arenas joined the game, and the leader of the team saw a chance to take advantage of the younger player.
“I mean, this man was bleeding. I’m already hyped because there’s $1,100 in the pot,” Arenas said, according to the website. “I smell the blood. … I came in on my deal, and already he’s f—ing livid. He’s all heat. ‘This is bulls—! How you gonna get in the game now?!’ He’s upset because he started thinking about the odds, and he’s the last person to get the cards.”
Like he did on the court, Arenas started needling the other players.
“I’m talking my good old s—. ‘Ooooh yeah, baby, don’t fall asleep now,'” he said. “When anyone was getting killed, I’d hit the stewardess button. ‘Oh no, we have a jumper. Tell the pilot! We have a jumper, people!’ And Javaris is 1,000 degrees hot. But everyone knows my style. I’m gonna keep poking. I want you f—ed up.”
Arenas figured out that teammate JaVale McGee had a big hand and got out, but Crittenton was rattled and hung around to get beat again. Crittenton was angry that McGee wouldn’t give him a chance to get his money back, and Arenas joined the argument.
“I was like, ‘Javaris, I will burn your car, while you’re in it. Then we’ll find an extinguisher to help ya ass out,'” Arenas said, according to the website. “And he says, ‘Well, I’ll just shoot you then.’ I said, ‘Man, I’ll bring you the guns to shoot me!'”
Two days later, Arenas brought four guns to the locker room.
“It was about me calling his bluff,” Arenas said. “You say you’re going to shoot me? Fine, I’ll bring you the guns to do it.”
Crittenton pulled a loaded gun of his own and cleared the locker room. Ultimately, nobody was injured, but Arenas, Crittenton and the Wizards were never the same again.
Both players were given probation on gun charges and suspended for the rest of that season. Crittenton never played in the NBA again. In 2015, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison for the gang-related shooting death of a mother of four.
The Wizards traded Arenas to Orlando the season after the incident. He had averaged close to 30 points per game in his prime, but he stumbled to an injury-plagued finish. He was out of the league after the 2011-12 season.
Arenas finally wanted to set the record straight about the gun incident, though. He had plenty of money, so reports that the confrontation was rooted in a gambling debt were not right, he says. It was about the game and the competitiveness of NBA players that spills off the court.
“It was about the s— talking while I was losing,” Arenas told The Action Network. “It was like someone scoring on you every time down. I’m the designated s— talker. I could be down $40,000, but if I irritated someone so bad they feel like they lost $20K? I’m happy. I won. I don’t feel like the biggest loser of the night.”