Lamar: The Complicated Star
While morbidly fascinating to those imbued in the world of TMZ, Lakers fans don’t want to remember Lamar Odom cooped up in a Nevada brothel about to die from an overdose, with the illustrious Khloe Kardashian admirably coming to his emotional rescue. We don’t even want to think about the Kardashian show, where a bevy of Kardashians gossip and fight about absolutely nothing in their palatial Calabasas home. As Khloe’s ex-husband, occasionally Lamar would appear on the show.
Near-death experiences in Nevada and Kardashians aside, Lamar Odom has led a difficult life. He grew up in the tough neighborhood of South Jamaica, Queens, the origins of former Lakers player Metta World Peace. He was estranged from his father Joe Odom who was a heroin addict. Then his mother Cathy passed away from cancer when Odom was only 12. He had to transfer high schools his senior year due to poor grades, then he got ousted from UNLV before his freshman year even began.
Odom transferred to the University of Rhode Island and life got a bit easier for Lamar. When he was finally allowed on the court, after having to sit out a year because he had been admitted as a non-matriculating student, he played excellent ball. He averaged over 17 points a game. He was so good, that when twisting an ankle during a critical game, his teammates would literally carry a hobbled Odom down the court, so that he could run their offense.
After his year at Rhode Island, he was selected by the Clippers as the fourth overall pick in the 1999 NBA draft. He spent four years with the Clippers, averaging 17 PPG in the 2000-2001 season. Unfortunately, he was suspended for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy in his third season with the Clippers and played a limited role in his final year with the team. He was then traded to the Miami Heat.
As a member of the Heat, he carried the team along with Dwayne Wade, averaging 17.1 points and just under 10 rebounds a game. Due to his efforts, and because of the fallout between Shaq and Kobe, Odom along with Brian Grant were traded to Lakers in exchange for Shaq.
As a member of the Lakers, Odom mirrored Scottie Pippen’s game in a number of ways, serving as the Lakers Point-Forward. He could handle the ball, facilitate the offense, and score when needed. When Andrew Bynum got injured, Odom stepped up his rebounding, and as a result, the Lakers transitioned into a more up-tempo team with Odom running the break after securing the ball on the defensive end. When Pau Gasol joined the Lakers, Odom further stepped up his production as an enforcer, and played a critical role in the Lakers two latest Championships.
Odom famously ate candy before games; the media joked around with him about his addiction to sweets. Often described as the ultimate teammate, a pass-first guy, there was pain behind his smile and solid demeanor. In 2006, his son died of Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and he admits that this fueled his tendencies to embrace drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism.
After a great run with the Lakers that ended in 2011, his career took a tumultuous nose-dive. He ended up bouncing around from the Mavericks, to a second and unsuccessful run with the Clippers, and concluded his NBA career with a contractual obligation to The Knicks. He had gained weight and lost his zest and passion for the game.
There isn’t necessarily a happy Hollywood ending here. Addictions and feelings of pain have the capacity to revive themselves. Take care of your loved ones, cherish them, and seek professional help when necessary.
Written by James Winston