On the 14th of October, Lamar Odom was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in ‘The Love Ranch’, a legal brothel in Las Vegas. Recent reports have stated that the former Los Angeles Laker is currently fighting for his life at the Sunrise Medical Center, after having spent four days in the brothel, ingesting a potentially lethal combination of cocaine, alcohol and a variety of herbal Viagra. It seems so long ago now that Lamar Odom was a star in the NBA, having fallen so far from the spotlight, with many casual fans only knowing Odom as a one-time basketball player for the Lakers, once married to reality star Khloe Kardashian and having made several appearances on the TV series Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Through all the reality TV appearances and reported battles with demons, it is easy to forget just how good the former NBA Champion was.
The consummate ‘rags to riches story’, Odom was born in Queens, New York in 1979. Having suffered the loss of his mother early on his life to cancer, he was raised by his grandmother as his father battled a heroin addiction. After moving around several local high schools and showing much promise as an athlete, Odom moved on to college and spent a year at Rhode Island University, in which he was named the Atlantic 10 rookie of the year before declaring for the NBA Draft in 1999.
Averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds in his only college year, the promising forward was drafted 4th overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Showing that he could live up to the hype, Odom proved he could fill all areas of the stat sheet his NBA rookie year, averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists, including a monster 30 point game in his NBA debut. Despite being a solid contributor in his first two seasons, Odom was suspended for marijuana use and would only play a further 68 games over the next two seasons. Becoming a restricted free agent, the Miami Heat made an offer for which the Clippers would not match and Odom would be heading off to South Beach.
Looking to rebuild and become a solid contender once again, Miami Heat President Pat Riley believed Odom could compliment there newly drafted stars in Caron Butler and Dwyane Wade for the 2002-2003 and 2003-04 seasons. Odom thrived, starting at the four spot and managed to record his first career triple-double with the Heat. The rebuild process worked for Pat Riley and Miami, as Odom got his first taste of playoff basketball, before being eliminated in the second round by the Indiana Pacers. After a short single season stay, averaging 17 points and 9 rebounds, the Heat shipped their budding forward to the Los Angeles Lakers along with teammates Caron Butler and Brian Grant for Laker legend, Shaquille O’Neal.
A depleted roster. coaching changes, injury and inconsistency derailed Odom’s first few seasons in a Lakers uniform as the franchise missed the playoffs entirely in 2005 and were dumped out of the in the first round to the Phoenix Suns the following year. With Pau Gasol arriving in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies during the 2007-2008 season, Odom would begin the role he became most well-known for, as the sixth man off the bench for a stacked Lakers front court.
Backing up Gasol, as well as former Lakers center Andrew Bynum, Odom thrived under Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, proving capable of starting when one of the former mentioned big men went down with injury. It would be in 2009 that Odom would earn his first NBA title, as the versatile forward would add 12 points and 9 rebounds off the bench throughout the playoffs, as the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. Odom would go on to win a second title with the Lakers the following year before making franchise and NBA history in 2011, being the first Laker awarded the Sixth Man of the Year trophy.
Unfortunately, after being at the pinnacle of the NBA, Odom’s career would take the tragic turn it would never come back from. Having suffered the horrific loss of his son to sudden infant death syndrome in 2006, death would strike his family again as Odom’s 24-year-old cousin was murdered in New York City. In a shocking turn of events, Odom witnessed another death just days after his cousin's murder, as he was riding in the passenger seat of an SUV which struck a motorcycle. The collision resulted in the cyclist losing control and hitting a 15-year-old pedestrian who later died from his injuries. Odom was quoted in the LA Times stating “Death always seems to be around me, I’ve been burying people for a long time. When I had to bury my child I didn’t start grieving until a year and a half later.” Further describing his mental state he was quoted, “I consider myself a little weak. I thought I was breaking down mentally. I’m doing a lot of reflecting.” Before proceeding to discuss his possible need to see a psychologist with the publication.
After considering stepping away from basketball due to a fragile mental state, Odom would decide to take the court again for the 2011-2012 season. However, with Lakers coach Phil Jackson having stepped away from the team, being replaced by Mike Brown, Odom was the subject of much trade talk. The Lakers sixth man was infamously part of the vetoed three team trade package that would have seen Chris Paul sent to Los Angeles, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets, while fellow Houston players Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic, along with Odom would be sent to the New Orleans Hornets.
Then-wife Khloe Kardashian confirmed that her husband was extremely emotional about the situation. ESPN writer Arush Markazi was quoted as saying Odom had “cried for days” after hearing of the trade. Markazi continued that the situation with the Lakers was “one of many heartbreaks in a life filled with them.” As previously stated, the trade was vetoed by then NBA Commissioner David Stern for still to this day, unknown reasons, but feeling betrayed by the Lakers, Odom demanded the they pursue a trade to a contending team, resulting in the former reality TV star being sent to the Dallas Mavericks for a first round pick.
The less said about Odom’s stint with the Mavericks, the better. Odom lasted four months with the defending NBA champions, marred by poor performances and perceived lack of commitment to his new squad, Dallas placed their new acquisition on their inactive roster for the remainder of the season, with intentions of trading him again. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban publicly asked Odom if he was ‘in or out’ leading to a heated exchange between the two. The former Sixth Man of the Year averaged 6 points and 4 rebounds over 50 games, shooting an abysmal 25% from behind the arc which at the time was a career-low.
Watching Odom during that period, it was clear that his heart and mind both seemed no longer in the game. He was no longer the ‘X-Factor’ type player off the bench the Mavericks were hoping for. Dallas would send Odom back to the Clippers where his career began, but was waived after only a handful of games. Shortly after a brief stint playing overseas, Odom was signed and waived without an appearance by the New York Knicks. The former champion’s career had fizzled out.
Over the past two years it would seem that things had gone from bad to worse with Odom’s personal life. A very public split with now ex-wife Khloe has put his demons into the spotlight. Like much of the tragedy that has followed Lamar Odom, it is truly sad that we may be witnessing the final tragic event in the two-time NBA Champions life. It is important that Odom is remembered for his achievements on the court and not overshadowed by his personal demons off it. As his good friend and former team mate Kobe Bryant sits by his bedside, and Twitter fills with well wishes from NBA stars and personalities around the league, we here at VAVEL ask you to join us in praying for Lamar Odom as we wish him the strength in the current fight he is facing ahead of him. Get well Lamar.