Credit: Gil’s Arena

Former NBA star Gilbert Arenas was never known for his defense, but he recently shared a rather shocking and dubious theory on how the NBA can fix concerns about defensive intensity in the current game.

While NBA defenses have been hamstrung in recent years due to rule changes and a surge in scoring, the solution to the issue is likely more nuanced and complicated than people want it to be. That didn’t stop the three-time NBA All-Star from proposing that the solution is as easy as banning a specific group of basketball players.

“I know what they can do. Get rid of all the Europeans,” Arenas said on the most recent episode of Gil’s Arena.

The comment was initially met with laughter but the former NBA star seemed surprised by the reaction.

“You go to college and learn defense. What college do Europeans go to? They don’t go to college whatsoever. They have no athleticism. They have no speed, no jumping ability. They are a liability on defense. They are 150 Euros in the league today… name the top defenders. None! Just Rudy [Gobert] and the Greek Freak. Other than that, they are offensive players. They’re not defensive players.

“The NBA took away aggression. They took away aggression to open up the EuroLeague. When they first started getting here, it was too rough for them. They didn’t make it. Eventually, they softened the rules. They didn’t soften the rules for the Americans. They softened the rules to open it up international.

“So when they say the Euros are going to run the league in the next five years, why do you think that? More threes, passing, cutting — this is not our league, this is not the American style, this is the Euro style. Drive in, suck the defense in, pass the ball to the three-point line.”

Arenas’ argument was met with pushback pretty quickly and in a lot of different ways.

One fan noted that, along with three-time winner Rudy Gobert and Giannis Antetokounmpo, Spaniard Marc Gasol won NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. Another pointed out that Victor Wembanyama, who arrived in the NBA this year from France, currently leads the league in blocks, is a top-10 player in various statistical categories, and is a leading candidate to win DPOY this year.

As for the claim that American basketball players learn defense in college, Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler were both named DPOY but both jumped straight from high school to the NBA. Meanwhile, reigning DPOY Jaren Jackson Jr. spent one season at Michigan State before going pro. 

Euro Hoops pointed out that many European players play in professional leagues before coming to the NBA, something that provides them with defensive fundamentals in a way that American college players never get access to.

“18 or 19-year-old (or younger if you are named Luka Doncic) players in Europe are actually taught the defensive fundamentals in practice but also in action while dealing with the pressure of professional basketball, which is unlike anything college players face. Their defensive baptism of fire takes place against older, bigger, and more experienced players – sometimes including former NBAers – in demanding situations.”

Others, like Deadspin’s DJ Dunson, even went as far as to say that Arenas’s rant was xenophobic, not to mention ironic, given his own playing style.

Arenas was the precursor to Damian Lillard and Trae Young’s taking logo shots on one end and playing phantom defense on the other. His amateurish take on NBA defenses is the norm not the exception. Everything he says from mocking Giannis Antetokounmpo working on his post-game with Hakeem Olajuwon to supporting Draymond Green slapping Europeans who are “takin’ the league from our people,”  should be taken with a grain of cyanide. He’s a deeply unserious troll at best or a xenophobic half wit — or both.

All of this is to say that we don’t expect to see a lot of buy-in at the league on banning European players anytime soon.

[Gil’s Arena, Deadspin, Euro Hoops, NBA Central]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to