As of this writing, Lamar Odom is out of his coma but still is in critical condition after being found unresponsive in a Las Vegas brothel. After originally being reported by multiple outlets that Odom took herbal Viagra and consumed cognac, it is now being reported that cocaine was found in his system.
This article is not being written by a Brooklyn’s Finest writer, but by a fan of Lamar Odom. A fan who looked at Odom as being a real basketball prodigy who was blessed by God with tremendous skill and ability. I remember the last second three-pointer to upset Temple when he was at the University of Rhode Island back in 1999 to win the Atlantic 10 title. The man put Rhode Island on the map when he led the team to the Sweet 16 that same year. I remember when his Los Angeles Clippers rookie jersey was the hottest-selling jersey in the NBA (I have the blue one). I mean, who rocks his own jersey in a Jadakiss rap video?!
Lamar Odom’s high school career was well-known when he played for Christ The King Regional High School in Queens, New York. When he transferred, Odom was named the Parade Magazine Player of the Year in 1997. He was also named to the USA Today All-USA First Team as a senior. He was respected and revered all over New York, and was affectionately known in Rucker Park as “The Goods” because that is what he always delivered. To people who don’t know, not everyone who rolls into the Rucker always get nicknames (just ask Kobe Bryant, who walked into Rucker without a nickname and left without one, too).
People look at the Los Angeles Clippers today and think “Lob City”, but when Lamar Odom was drafted by the Clippers it was “Sob City”. The Clippers selected Odom with the fourth selection in the 1999 draft, amidst a long line of lottery picks. Anyone who can survive scoring 17 points and stock the stat line on a Donald Sterling-owned team (the team was in turmoil long before the racism scandal) and escape with his career intact deserves much praise.
When Lamar Odom arrived in Miami as a free agent in 2003, the Heat had only won 25 games the prior year. With Odom in the power forward spot he became an up-and-coming star, averaging 17 points per game with 9.7 rebounds. After opening the season losing seven games in a row, Odom helped turn things around and the Heat made the playoffs before eventually losing in the second round.
The Miami Heat era showed the essence of how good Odom was. Do you realize how much complaining players do about playing the power forward spot (i.e. Paul George)? Lamar could play any position on the floor and play it well. There were times when Odom could slide over and handle the ball as a point forward. At the time, with a young Dwyane Wade and Caron Butler, he was the glue that held that Heat team together, along with veteran Eddie Jones. Odom played well enough to catch the interest of the Los Angeles Lakers as they fielded Shaquille O’Neal trade offers, and was the centerpiece of the trade that would bring O’Neal (and a championship) to Miami in 2004.
The Los Angeles Lakers era showed the essence of what Odom was about: the team. When Pau Gasol was brought into the fold via trade, Odom was relegated to the bench. Odom was not initially content with his new role, and let it be known at the time. However, he adjusted and trusted the “Zen Master”, Phil Jackson, and his methods. It ultimately paid off, as the Lakers went on to win the first of their back-to-back titles. In between those title seasons, the Miami Heat wanted him back, but despite pleas from Dwyane Wade, he stayed with his L.A. teammates to win his second-consecutive title in 2010. The next year, Odom became the only Lakers player in history to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. Not bad for a guy that did not want to come off the bench.
Lamar Odom was part of the DNA of what Jerry Colangelo now implements in the Team USA program. He was involved with the bronze medal fiasco in 2004, yet he was invited back in 2006, 2007 (he declined due to the loss of his son in 2006 and injury in 2007), and 2010. In 2010, he served as a mentor to the young players while playing CENTER for the tournament and led the team in rebounding as the first player to win NBA and FIBA titles in the same year.
I feel that Lamar Odom was wounded a little deeper than the “disrespect” he felt in being part of a vetoed trade to the New Orleans Hornets for Chris Paul. At that point, even though none of us knew it at the time, Odom’s career was over. He never recovered, and was absolutely awful in Dallas. How awful? There is an unwritten rule in Dallas about players behaving badly. After Cuban sent Odom home and listed him inactive during the 2012 season, it got out that there was a clash between Odom and Cuban.
Does this remind anyone of how Rajon Rondo disappeared from Dallas during the playoffs? As an Odom fan, I knew that “back injury” Rondo supposedly had was a crock.
When Phil Jackson waived him in New York, deep down I knew that Lamar Odom was in trouble. Reportedly, he didn’t even show up to work out. For Jackson to dismiss him after their history together told me that Odom was done with the game of basketball. It hurt because the Knicks could have used him in that mentor role to which he was so effective. If Odom was clean, he could easily contribute to the New York Knicks bench.
The biggest tragedy is to look at the E! channel and see Lamar Odom’s story at the bottom ticker every 15 minutes. If Lamar Odom somehow does not survive, and I pray to God that he does, he should be remembered for his great accomplishments to the game of basketball, and for his versatility and sacrifices as a two-time NBA champion and gold medalist, and not for his reality show exploits or the shadow of his celebrity.
A damn shame.
The staff of Brooklyn Finest send their thoughts and prayers out to Lamar Odom and his family.