By Brett Fera
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Wednesday July 17, 2002
LONG BEACH, Calif. ų The players have met somewhere before, but on completely different circumstances.
Not even two years ago Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Mike Dunleavy were bitter college rivals, fighting for a NCAA Championship.
Now they are teammates for the Golden State Warriors of the NBA and all three are playing together for the first time in the NBA Pro Summer League in Long Beach, Calif.
„This sport is just crazy,š Arenas said. „Your worst enemy in college is your teammate and friend when you get to the NBA. Who would have thought it?š
In April of 2001, the future Warriors were in the NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis, where Arizona was to face Richardson and defending National Champion Michigan State in the semifinals and eventually meet up with Dunleavy‚s Duke in the final.
In the semifinal game, Arenas and current New Jersey Nets forward Richard Jefferson were given the daunting task of covering Richardson.
The tandem held the Spartans‚ best player to just 6 points on 2-11 shooting from the field. Arenas‚ defensive efforts helped guide the Wildcats past MSU 81-61, and on to the final.
Arenas and the Wildcats would end up losing 82-72 in the championship game, mostly thanks to Dunleavy, who exploded for 18-second half points.
During that off-season, Richardson and Arenas both decided to pursue their dream of NBA stardom and were drafted No. 5 and No. 31, respectively. Dunleavy was not too far behind his future teammates, leaving the Blue Devils just one year later, foregoing his final year of eligibility.
Fast forward to the present, where the Golden State faithful are looking to Arenas, Richardson and Dunleavy to bring the Warriors back to respectability in the NBA‚s loaded Western Conference.
While they have put aside their former allegiances for the good of their current team, there will always be playful moments where the player‚s old school colors will bleed through.
„When Jason and I got here, I used to talk trash to him all the time about how we beat (Michigan State),š Arenas joked. „Now we‚ve got Mike, the big superstar coming in and he‚s throwing it at us about how he beat us, so I have to look first before I mouth off about that again.š
„Gilbert got on me all last year,š Richardson said. „But now, me and Mike have something in common. We both have championship rings, and Gilbert never won one.š
While these three may joke about past championships with each other, one realization is certain. Arenas, Richardson and Dunleavy each want to make sure that they have the opportunity to talk about championships again sometime in the near future. Only this time it will be on an entirely different level ų the NBA.