Lamar Odom was a perennial NBA All Star and one of the most versatile players to ever play the game. He averaged a triple double and won four NBA Championships. On top of that he gave a tremendous amount of money and support back to the community of Los Angeles where he retired.
Well, not really, this is what could have been.
I competed against Odom as a teen in high school & AAU tournaments. Playing against Odom in high school was like having an NBA player play against 16 and 17 year olds. He was as agile as Connie Hawkins, with the court vision & ball handling skills of Magic Johnson. He single-handedly destroyed my high school basketball team the year we completed a back-to-back LA City and California State Championship season. He was that good.
Unfortunately, there’s more to life than basketball. At the age of 12 Lamar had to endure the passing of his mother due to colon cancer. At the time Odom’s Father was a drug addict and subsequently he would be raised by his Grandmother. He may have never recovered from the trauma of losing his Mother, being estranged from his Father and the transition to being completely in his grandmother’s care.
Good thing for him at what would be a difficult time for anyone the world was discovering his talent as a basketball player. The adoration basketball prospects received from shoe companies & coaches in the early 90s has been well documented and Lamar at the forefront of the movement was no exception. This adoration was an easy way to cope with an otherwise tragic home life. He rode the wave of stardom but never steered too far away from trouble. The rumors of uncoachability at LA City College, the recruitment scandal at University of Rhode Island, the marijuana usage in the NBA all were signs of something. Was it that Lamar had some skeletons in his closet stemming from unresolved issues during his childhood? Were these signs all precursors for the reality we now know?
In the face of adversity, Lamar was one of those talents who always came out on top. Becoming an NBA Champion with the Lakers and playing alongside two future hall of famers is undoubtedly his crowning achievement as an athlete. He was extremely lucky throughout his career but in 2011 that luck seemed to have run out when the LA Lakers decided to trade one of their key players to the Dallas Mavericks.
Lamar was crushed and for the first time the city that was good luck for him in junior college and his first few years in the NBA had come to reject him. Lamar fell into a depression and he would never recover. He created an amazing life in LA and all at once the center-piece to his whole existence was taken away. Being a Laker in Los Angeles is like being a movie star. The stardom has made and broken careers but for Lamar, the acceptance and admiration of the City of Angels was the perfect stage. Lamar married into Reality Show Royalty and owned a posh restaurant in Los Angeles. Did those feelings of disappointment bring back the trauma of losing his Mother to cancer and losing his 6 month old son to SIDS? Did Lamar ever learn to deal with the trauma of those events properly? Too often in our sensationalized world athletes and celebrities cope with problems in their lives by indulging in sex and drugs. We know that path leads to destruction, not redemption.
As for now, Lamar is still in the hospital unaware of the events that led to his brain injury. He’s only able to put a few words together at a time but hopefully the strong support network he has around him will boost his recovery. I hope Lamar recovers so that we can embrace him once again. I just thought someone should tell his story so the masses can know who he was before the Kardashians.