“I just want to be Lamar Odom,” said the 6’10 New York high school basketball prodigy, addressing the media during a practice back in 1996. “Not anyone else.”
There’s a reason people were calling him the ‘Next Magic.’ He always made it look effortless. Just like the Los Angeles Lakers Hall of Famer, Odom was a center with the fluidity and grace of a point guard. He could shoot on you, drive on you, rebound over you, dish it out with the best of them, and he always kept a great attitude about himself.
The game of basketball was easy for Lamar. Unfortunately, not much else was.
Odom’s mother died when he was 12, his father was a heroin addict, he was constantly jumping schools, his original college scholarship was revoked almost immediately, had all kinds of trouble with the NBA Draft process, had multiple drug violations once he finally hit the pros after being drafted 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers—one of the worst franchises in professional sports at the time—got clean, and then had to bury his aunt and six-month-old son.
I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in.
Through all of this, Odom had basketball, the one thing in his life that always seemed to go well, maybe even perfect.
Odom was a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2000 with the Clips, averaging over 16 points and four assists along with nearly eight rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. He would go on to spend the next three years of his career there as well.
In 2003, the Miami Heat brought in Odom to play alongside their new, young talent in Caron Butler and Dwayne Wade. In South Beach, Odom had the best scoring season of his career, putting up over 17 points per game while still grabbing almost ten rebounds.
Odom was then traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the deal that sent NBA All-Star and Legend Shaquille O’Neal to the Heat. With the Lakers, Odom’s career and fame really took off.
Odom spent seven seasons with the Lakers as one of the key contributors on the team alongside greats such as Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant. Even with other high-profile big men on the roster such as Andrew Bynum (bet you haven’t heard that name in a while) and Pau Gasol, Odom always managed more than his fair share of play time, points, and rebounds, averaging a double-double two season with the Lakers and coming a few rebounds a game away in the other five. The Lakers began using Odom as a sixth man in 2008 backing up Gasol and Bynum.
Of course, playing for the Lakers came with tons of perks for the big man. Dating a Kardashian, back-to-back NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010, and then the Sixth Man of the Year Award for his efforts coming off the bench in 2011.
Through all of this, there were more hardships. Odom was involved in a terrible traffic accident in 2011 which took his cousin’s life as well as a teenager on a motorcycle. The Lakers tried to trade him to the New Orleans Hornets later that year for Chris Paul. The NBA vetoed the trade, but Odom felt extremely “disrespected” by the team he had done so much for that he requested a trade to a contender.
The Dallas Mavericks took advantage of the opportunity, sending a first round pick and about $9 million in trade exception the Lakers way for the big man.
That’s about the time everything for Odom started to go downhill.
Odom began missing games for personal reasons, struggled on the court to the point where the Mavs he to demote him to the D-League, and eventually was traded back to the Clippers at the end of the season. Odom played in all 82 games between 2012 and 2013, but that’s about the only notable thing he did on the court.
A stint with Spanish ACB League Laboral Kutxa and the New York Knicks later, Odom was a free agent.
A spin-off reality TV show, a divorce, the death of two of his best friends due to drug overdose, and a few alcohol and drug abuse stories of his own later, Odom was found unconscious at the Love Ranch South whorehouse in Nevada.
He was reportedly planning an NBA comeback, too.
Thoughts and prayers go out to Odom and his family during these trying times. Things aren’t looking great in the hospital, but hopefully he can pull through.