Welcome to another edition of The Blog About Nothing. As we slowly move through the month of October, I’m here in New York listening to a classic New York hip hop mix. It’s a mix I created of songs that used to bang out the boombox from 1994-1997. It’s my golden age of hip-hop and the soundtrack to my early teenage years. So as I listen to some Heltah Skeltah, and bobbing my head slow to Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka off that Nocturnal album (R.I.P. Sean Price, a real Brooklyn OG) I can’t help but dedicate this blog to another New Yorker who also came up in that era: Lamar Odom.
I’m not much younger than Lamar. I’m about 2 years younger than him. He grew up over in Queens, and I’m from Brooklyn, but other than him being a 6’10” maestro with the basketball, and me being 5’6″ and having no sports skills whatsoever, we really weren’t much different. We’re both products of New York, and we both came of age in the 1990s. I’d imagine that Lamar, Ron Artest, Stephon Marbury, and the many New York basketball players of that mid 90s era, would listen to the same music and had the same experiences of the time that I did. Those guys are my peers, yet they aren’t my peers. If you understand what I’m trying to say.
Anyway, I remember following Lamar’s high school years when he was balling over at Christ The King high school. Thanks to MSG network, and the reporting of high school sports in the New York Daily News, I was able to keep tabs on a guy who lived less than 10 miles from me although we never met. So I remember Lamar’s recruiting saga, and how he ended up at UNLV, and eventually over Rhode Island and finally the #4 overall selection of the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1999 NBA Draft.
A draft I watched on television and felt real personal to me due to the fact that my high school graduation was held at the Theater in Madison Square Garden just days earlier. The fact that Lamar, and others that night, achieved their lifelong dream in the same room, where I accomplished one of mine just days earlier was not lost on me. Then again, I’ve always been the sentimental overthinking type. Of course, I’d be excited about something like that.
Back to Lamar though. I’ve been a Lakers fan since I was young. I was seduced by the Magic Johnson led Showtime, as many kids were in that era of the 1980’s. However, Lamar was drafted by the other team in Los Angeles: The Clippers. The Clippers weren’t on my radar at that time but that draft started a process that would end with me rooting for them. A couple of years after the 1999 draft, the #1 overall pick in that draft, Elton Brand, was dealt to the Clippers. Later on the team picked up guys like Darius Miles, Tyson Chandler, and there I was at the Garden for the 2001 NBA Draft buying a Clippers hat. I bought in to what the Clippers were doing. I bought in so much that I treasured the Slam Magazine cover that had Lamar, Elton, and Darius on the cover. The Clippers were really Rock La Familia as that cover called them.
They were a young team full of promise. Problem is that it was promise unfulfilled. Even though I had that Slam Magazine cover on my wall for years, that team would be broken up long before I took that cover down. Lamar signed with the Miami Heat as a free agent, and not too long after that he was dealt to the Lakers for Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq would win a title with the Heat, Lamar would win a couple of rings with the Lakers and eventually his career would come to an end with more of a pathetic whimper instead of the bang that a man of his talents should have generated.
Odom was a 6’10” baller that can handle the ball with both hands. Lamar at Christ The King high school had ball skills that screamed the next Magic Johnson. Problem is he didn’t have that same desire. His skills made him a great fit for all of the teams that he was on, and those skills made him an Olympian, but instead of becoming a superstar like Magic, he became nothing more than a good glue guy. There’s an element of feeling like this guy with so much promise, just threw the shit away. Like he didn’t value it.
Most of us know how Lamar’s career in the NBA ended, but I’ll give you the quick version. He was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks after the Chris Paul trade the Lakers had orchestrated was killed by former commissioner David Stern. Odom’s inclusion in the Paul trade, and subsequent trade to the Mavs hurt him. He was happy in Los Angeles. It’s where he made a home, it’s where his kids were, it’s where his wife was, and where he wanted to remain. His time with the Mavericks, Clippers (again), Knicks, and a team in Spain all felt like one personal setback for the man after another. His career effectively ended when the Knicks released him in the summer of 2014 without him ever suiting up for the team.
He may now only be 35, but his career was over. Knowing that shouldn’t shock anyone knowing what we know now. This week Lamar Odom was found at a brothel in Nevada, foaming from the mouth and unconscious. He was rushed to a local hospital, where reports reflect that he is on life support. Early reports made it sound like he wasn’t going to make it, and early press releases read more like an obituary instead of a report on the situation. At his bedside, are his friends and family, and some reports I have read reflect that there could be some improvement in his medical situation.
Press reports also state that Lamar had herbal viagra, cocaine, and other drugs in his system. The man definitely had his demons. He lost his mother at the age of 12, his father has been in and out of life due to a heroin addiction, he lost one of his children to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and a limousine he was in killed a youth in Queens a few years ago. Add into all of that a high profile relationship with Khloe Kardashian, that has ended in divorce, and has also been highly televised due to the reality show, then you can see this man was truly spiraling out of control.
Forgive me. You thought I outlined all of his problems? Nope. I forgot to mention that two of his closest friends, lost their lives this year to drug overdoses and that Lamar himself has tested positive for drug tests during his NBA career. Knowing all of this, I can’t sit here and be surprised at the situatuion that Lamar is in right now but I damn sure feel sad for him. To go back to where I started all of this, the man is my peer. He’s 35. I’m 33. He’s someone I’ve followed for close to 20 years now. I may not have known him, but I practically feel some sort of kinship to him and it hurts to know that this man may lose his life due to the fact he couldn’t stay out of his own way.
I also wonder how many people in his life truly tried to help him? Lamar Odom abusing drugs definitely is not a recent devlopment. Thanks to all of the media exposure of the past few days, there have been reports that he’s been a user of drugs since at least his high school days. You would have to think that at some point of time in his life, and his sporting career that the signs of abuse HAD to have shown itself. So, why did no one help him? Why didn’t SOMEONE say: this guy has a problem? I could blame Lamar Odom all day, but I am not going to sit here and say “well no one knew, he just hid it that damn well”. Nah. Someone had to know this man had a problem. Someone.
I’m praying for you Lamar. I hope somehow you beat this thing. Yes you overdosed, and yes you had multiple strokes, and as difficult as it is to come back from where you are right now, I’m praying for you. Just as much as thousands if not millions are right now. #PrayForLamarOdom
Thanks for reading. Peace.
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