A few weeks ago, retired NBA basketball player Lamar Odom was found unconscious in a brothel outside of Las Vegas. Odom overdosed on a mixture of cocaine and herbal viagra after a three-day party binge. Most people either know Lamar Odom from his marriage to Khloe Kardashian and his many appearances on Keeping up with the Kardashians, or from his professional basketball career. And if these are the few things you know about Lamar Odom, you don’t really know Lamar Odom.
Odom was drafted in 1999, but his route to the NBA was not the smoothest. His father left him at the age of six due to issues with heroin. Odom also lost his mother at the age of 12 due to cancer. Throughout his high school years, Odom was a hot commodity among scouts, but also received harsh media scrutiny. He transferred to three different schools during his senior year of high school. He then went on to commit to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas with rumors floating that he received cash and free dental work from a university booster. He then proceeded to leave the university before ever attending a class when his standardized testing scores came under investigation. After leaving the university, Odom received several offers to play in Europe, including one offer worth one million dollars to play in Greece. Instead of playing overseas, Odom decided to enroll at the University of Rhode Island for one year. After that year, he then proceeded to enter the 1999 draft, where he was selected fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Odom’s NBA career was not all so glorious either. He was suspended and fined twice in his first four seasons for violations of the league’s drug policy. In 2003, he lost his grandmother, who took care of him for most of his childhood. Three years later, Odom lost his six-and-a-half month old son, Jayden, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) while Odom was in New York at his aunt’s funeral. Also, throughout his career, he seemed to always be in trade discussions and ended up playing for six different NBA teams across his entire career.
From when Odom was born, to late in his NBA career, his life was full of losses and struggles. All he had was basketball. Basketball was one way Odom could cope with all the losses and struggles he went through in his life. When Odom’s NBA career came to an end, he was a lost man. This is when he entered the “air-kiss nothingness of reality TV.”
For Odom, entering the world of reality TV seem to be just an act to get away from himself. It appeared he was just trying to mask his pain and suffering he was going through with drugs, women, and fame. He hid all of his scars of pain behind his big smile and warm eyes to make sure no one from the outside really knew he was hurt.
Scott Van Pelt, an ESPN SportsCenter host, does a great job of summarizing the way this incident is shown in the light of reality TV by saying “Passed out in a brothel makes for a hell of a headline and I am sure quite a juicy episode of TV, but stripped to the foundation. It’s just incredibly sad… His name is Lamar Odom.” You can hear the rest of what Scott Van Pelt had to say about the matter in this video.
People close to Odom often describe him as a funny and outgoing person with a big heart. ESPN recently published an article in which they talked to an old friend of Odom’s, Anthony “Mac” McNair. During Odom’s time with the LA Lakers, Mac was Odom’s cook, driver, and wake-up call. Mac said he never knew anyone more gracious then Odom, which Mac thought was part of his problem. “I never heard him say no. Never got upset about anything. Non-confrontational.”
Mike Wise, the author of the article, also talked with the master barber at Chuck Taylor’s barber shop, where Odom got his hair cut for eight years. After news broke about Odom’s incident, the barber told ESPN, “Of all the athletes I’ve had in here — and I’ve had them all — none brought the rookies by to be taken care of. Every year he was with the Lakers, Lamar brought all the young guys by and took care of their tabs. He was just a . . . I mean, he is just a wonderful human being that people just love being around.”
Many people close to Odom had been extremely worried about Odom even before this incident occurred. Between him getting traded from the Lakers, the end of his NBA career, his breakup with Khloe, and knowing his family history, his friends knew that things were in a downward spiral again for Odom.
Odom has woken up from his four-day coma, but has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Doctors are hoping he will be able to regain his cognitive abilities. If he does make a full recovery, hopefully he will see all the great people supporting him, and know he has people who care about him and his well-being.
Cover photo: Bridget Samuels via Wikipedia/Flickr.