Despite his talent and ability to play basketball, Lamar Odom’s legacy will sadly be for what he did off the floor. He was incredibly gifted, talented and smooth. He won two NBA titles, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, and despite his considerable achievements and production, he will be remembered for “the other stuff.”
Considering his past, this should not be too much of a surprise. The minute Odom no longer had basketball, everyone who knew him should have been worried. Odom was the portrait of the athlete that was going to hit bottom when ball was gone.
It is sad - this is a sweet man who was just far too impressionable and malleable, and a person who simply could not escape his well-documented upbringing.
Fans of the Dallas Mavericks do not recall Lam-Lam well. The Mavericks acquired Odom in a trade before the 2011-’12 season, during which Odom mailed it in. He clearly hated being here. He wanted to be in L.A., and with his then family - the Kardashians.
He was then married to Khloe Kardashian, whose brief presence in Dallas caused a commotion unlike anything I had previously experienced. Her toy-drive event at Dallas City Hall in December of 2011 remains one of the most mystifying events I have ever seen.
Not long thereafter, Odom got into it with owner Mark Cuban, and head coach Rick Carlisle called him out - something he does not often do. Odom’s career lasted only 50 games with the Mavs before he was dumped.
The trade from the Lakers to the Mavs pretty much ended his career. He had one more blah year with the Clippers, and played two games for a club in Spain.
His pro sports career concluded the way most do - the phone doesn’t ring, and that’s it. Then it’s time to figure out what to do with the rest of your life.
What happened with Odom is not entirely atypical when ball is gone - they get divorced, they get bored, then they are broke. Before they run out of money, the outlets they find are often destructive.
I had three previous interractions with Odom, and all of them were positive.
The first was in 1995 at a high school basketball tournament in Springfield, Missouri when Odom’s Christ the King High School in New York was the feature team in the field. On that team was future St. John’s point guard Erick Barkley. Odom was on a great team, and he never looked like he was trying as he dominated games. That was Odom’s problem throughout his career - he never looked like he was trying, even though he was.
I interviewed him after the game, and he was well spoken, quiet and polite. He was just a kid.
Everyone there knew this was the most talented player in the building, and that he would be a lottery pick. After a one-year career for Jim Harrick at Rhode Island, Odom was the fourth overall pick of the Clippers in 1999.
In 2004, he was with the Los Angeles Lakers where I interviewed him after practice in the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. It was just the two of us, and we spoke for 10 minutes. This was not a dumb guy. He was just quiet, but well spoken and quite thoughtful.
By the time we talked after a Mavs’ game in 2011, he was a pop culture hit as well as an NBA name. He was still quiet, polite and soft spoken. After the interview, he asked, “What’s your name? I’m Lamar” and he shook my hand.
Considering our two previous interractions, this wasn’t an act. It was just his way.
His apathy towards playing with the Dallas Mavericks turned a lot of people off, but clearly now there are far greater concerns now than ball.
God willing, he gets through this and then finds a new outlet.