The Reality of Lamar Odom
Contributor: Emma Peplow
Former NBA star Lamar Odom is reportedly making significant progress in Los Angeles according to his family. Odom was found unconscious last Tuesday at a Nevada brothel and spent several days in a coma at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas. Odom’s family thanked the Las Vegas hospital for their care and support in a statement released Tuesday.
As the media has closely followed Odom’s journey from his collapse to his current condition, it seems as if Odom’s accomplished NBA career has been all but forgotten. Headlines plastered across the web for the past week have referred to Odom as a “reality television star” and “estranged husband of Khloe Kardshashian”, neglecting to label him by his more appropriate titles of “two-time NBA champion” and “former Sixth Man of the Year”.
When Odom wed Kardashian in 2009, his four-year marriage was closely documented on the reality TV show Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Since then, the media has kept the focus on his struggles with substance abuse and his declining professional basketball career, and most outlets consistently related his off-court issues to his relationship to Kardashian.
But, Odom isn’t just a reality star and his struggles didn’t just begin when he became associated with the Kardashian brand. Odom deserves to be portrayed as who he truly was, a beloved teammate, friend, and father who endured immense tragedies throughout his childhood and troubled adulthood.
Odom was raised in a rough area in Queens, New York and when he was just 12 years old, his mother passed away from colon cancer. His father was a heroine addict, and with him out of the picture, Odom was raised by his grandmother.
Odom found an outlet in basketball and became nationally recognized by the time he reached high school. During his senior year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Odom was awarded “Player of the Year” by Parade magazine and was named to USA Today’s All-USA First Team.
After a controversial stint over his high ACT grades while at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Odom transferred to the University of Rhode Island and declared for the 1999 NBA Draft. He was chosen as the fourth overall pick by the struggling Los Angeles Clippers.
Odom had an impressive rookie season and was named to the 2000 NBA All-Rookie First Team, but in the following year, he was suspended for the first time for violating the NBA’s drug policy. Less than a year later, Odom was suspended again for drugs and admitted to using marijuana.
In 2003, Odom tragically lost his grandmother. Despite his challenges with drugs and personal issues, the Miami Heat offered Odom a $63 million contract, a testament to Odom’s natural talent and presence as a teammate. Odom continued to progress as a player in Miami and won the bronze medal with the United States team at the 2004 Olympic Games.
In that same year, Odom found a home with the Los Angeles Lakers when he was traded there after the 2004 season. Over seven seasons with the Lakers, Odom meshed perfectly with Kobe Bryant and was a key part to the franchise’s continued success.
Only three years after the death of his grandmother, Odom lost his six-month-old son to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. With the names of his three departed loved ones written on his sneakers, Odom won two NBA titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010 and a Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011.
Odom was loved by his teammates and coaches because he was the type of player, on and off the court, who had his teammates’ backs. Odom’s former teammate Pau Gasol told the Los Angeles Times “He was a great teammate, full of joy, a guy you want to have in your locker room. He’s very unselfish, an incredible guy. I had a lot of memorable moments with him.”
Odom felt the true Hollywood spotlight when he married Khloe Kardashian in 2009, after just a month of dating. Millions who had never heard Odom’s name before now watched as his relationship with Kardashian was followed closely by cameras on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and subsequently on the spin-off show Khloé and Lamar.
Odom and Kardashian’s marriage began to crumble under the public eye by 2013 when Odom’s NBA career ended. He was arrested on charges of driving under the influence, meanwhile the media ruthlessly questioned Odom about his alleged issues with drugs. In December, Kardashian filed for divorce, only fueling the media’s narrative of Odom’s troubles.
Odom struggled to find stability away from basketball and was hounded by paparazzi to seemingly no avail. In June of this year, he lost his close childhood friend Jamie Sangouthai in a drug related incident. Odom’s personal life continued to be constantly scrutinized until he was eventually found unresponsive at the Love Ranch brothel in Crystal, Nevada.