Learning from Lamar Odom

We should never stop learning in every stage of our life. I’ve been through and seen many things in my decades of existence but this opportunity of co-owning my brother’s sports team, Mighty Sports, is proving to be a great learning experience.

Our team will be the Philippine representative to the highly popular 30th Dubai International Basketball Tournament where the strongest Middle Eastern teams compete for the crown.

The dynamics of owning a sports team is no easy task, even for a team like ours that sporadically joins one-off tournaments. From the acquisition of players, to the finances, marketing and all the jazz that comes with it.

It made me appreciate sports teams on another level because I simply could not fathom the amount of time, resources and effort to manage such dynamic and diverse organizations.

However, one of the most fascinating things in this endeavor is the story of Lamar Odom’s resurgence.

‘Done in the dark’

Most of us have an idea where Lamar Odom’s been. To those who knew him personally, he was a 6-foot-10 package of positive energy and was known for being an NBA star, consummate professional, the perfect teammate, celebrity to the public; and a great father, friend and brother to those close to him. He came from all that to near death.

It was neither just a Hollywood thing nor a laughing matter. All of us have reached (or will eventually reach) low points in our personal lives.

Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images

In an article he wrote to the Players’ Tribune two years ago where he shared his entire story, one particular quote that his late maternal grandmother had said to him stood out:

“What’s done in the dark… will come out in the light.” -Mildred Mercer

And that’s exactly what happened.

Lamar’s story is telling us to stop dwelling in the dark. In a cliché sense, once you’re down, there’s nothing else to do but rise.

The most important takeaway is how he quietly and patiently built himself up, showing the world that if one wanted, one believed and one had faith, one will rise back up — and that’s precisely what Odom did.

For someone who’s only 39 years old now, he’s already been through a lot.

The resurgence is real

Odom has been actively sharing his workouts via his Instagram account over the past year. But his resurgence goes way beyond what our eyes are able to perceive thanks to the benefits of modern connectivity.

One may think that he would have that ego being a two-time NBA champion and undoubtedly a star, a vital cog in a Lakers team with the legendary Kobe Bryant and once a part of the biggest household names in Hollywood. No, not Odom.

Meeting him in person, Lamar the human, is different from what one would expect. He is very down-to-earth and carries an infectiously positive demeanor that people are able to relate to.

“Meeting him in person, Lamar the human, is different from what one would expect.”

Probably the most fascinating aspect of the Lamar Odom we see before us today is how he is apparently at peace with himself and everything that transpired in his life. He talks about it freely, with a wise man’s tone and definitely far from a know-it-all.

What it shows is how big his heart is. He is unfazed by all the negativity. His attitude evokes that negativity is just a fact of life and nothing to dwell on, rather, we should work hard, be optimistic and genuinely appreciate all our blessings.

Lamar Odom and Mighty Sports

His desire to return to basketball was no secret. In fact, Odom had eyed a stint with the Chinese Basketball Association but acknowledged that he wasn’t confident with his physical state at the time prompting him to continuously workout over the course of six months.

Meanwhile, my brother Caesar Wongchuking and I were seeking a resurgence of our own in the Dubai International Basketball Championship this 1–9 February 2019. Fortunately for us, Lamar Odom’s desire to return to basketball became very timely — providential, even — for our endeavor.

Thanks to the efforts of player agent Sheryl Reyes, Lamar’s manager Zoul El Fassi and the recommendation of coach Charles Tiu, we now have the former Lakers forward on our team, representing the Philippines.

Of course, we’re also equally thankful and honored to have Roosevelt Adams, Gab Banal, Jason Brickman, Justin Brownlee, Juan Gomez de Liaño, Jeremiah Gray, Justin Gutang, Jett Manuel, Randolph Morris, Troy Rike, Santi Santillan, Angelo Wongchuking and Joseph Yeo on our team as well.

I’d also like to thank our coaching staff led by Charles Tiu, Jong Uichico, Dean Castano and TY Tang.

Upon his arrival, Lamar instantly made a good impression to everybody involved in the Mighty Sports-Philippines team. He was purely absent any trace of a star mentality despite being unarguably the most accomplished ‘baller’ in the team.

“No wonder he is one of the most loved figures by his NBA peers.”

I, my brother, the players, the coaches and the staff felt the enormous positive “LO” energy. No wonder he is one of the most loved figures by his NBA peers both on and off the court.

Lamar Odom at the Mighty Sports’ first team practice — Photo by Mac Arillo/Mighty Sports

Through a few practices and a tune-up game, head coach Charles Tiu is liking what he sees from Odom as he is “getting better and better” physically. He also made special mention of Odom’s basketball IQ and most importantly, attitude.

What I liked about Odom was he offered no excuse as he strove to keep up with the pace. But don’t get me wrong, he’s no slouch. But he himself acknowledged it.

“Just gotta keep getting in better shape. Just gotta keep pushing and pushing myself,” he said in a post-game interview against Blackwater.

Undoubtedly, he is the nominal leader in this Philippine basketball squad that features a milieu of imports, up-and-comers, current and former local pros who in their own respects are an essential piece to the team.

Another invaluable asset Odom brings to Mighty Sports is a wealth of experience having played at the top echelons of basketball. Like he said, there’s nothing he hasn’t seen on the basketball court. I definitely agree.

In addition, I watched how Lamar listened attentively and constructively interacted with his coaches and teammates. Again, no semblance of a bloated ego or a me first attitude.

Odom listens to head coach Charles Tiu as the latter is giving out instructions — Photo by Mac Arillo/Mighty Sports

What’s evident, in my perspective, is Odom’s flaming passion to play the game, his enormous positive energy and his genuine love of life.

While he may still be on the road to his full resurgence, we’re simply ecstatic to be a part of his wonderful journey. For Lamar Odom, this is simply just a new beginning.

Photo by Mac Arillo/Mighty Sports

Thank you, Lamar! Now let’s win this tournament!

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