What we can learn from Lamar Odom
2011 was the last year that we talked about Lamar Odom solely because of his play on the basketball court. That year, Lamar was a crucial part of a Lakers team that won the Finals. The Lakers leaned heavily on Odom throughout the season largely due to the injuries that plagued troubled center Andrew Bynum. With an increased role, Lamar finished with 14.4 points per game, 8.7 rebounds per game, and the highest three-point percentage of his career with 38.4%. That year, Lamar won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. This year, well, things have gone very differently.
For those who don’t know by now, Lamar Odom was found unconscious last Tuesday in a Nevada brothel. According to employees of the brothel, Odom had been seen using drugs at least once, and found himself in the brothel as an attempt to get away from things that were troubling him in his personal life. Thankfully, Lamar reportedly woke from his coma on Friday, supposedly talking and interacting with those at his bedside. The figurative nadir of a life that has gotten progressively sadder with time, this story exemplifies the troubles Odom has faced in recent years. So, how did we get here?
Following the best year of his career in that 2011 season, a close cousin of Odom passed away during the offseason, a loss that affected Lamar greatly. While away for his cousin’s funeral, Lamar was the passenger of a vehicle that struck and fatally killed a teenage boy who was riding his bike. Tragedy on top of tragedy. To make matters worse, Lamar was traded by the Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks. Being forced to uproot your life at the drop of a hat is a danger all athletes must face during their careers, so there is little to sympathize with on this front. However, as we saw through his many televised appearances as a member of the Kardashian family, Lamar is not like all athletes.
Without getting into too much detail, Lamar had always been a troubled person. Throughout his life, Lamar was locked in a constant battle of self-identification, dealing with familial issues stemming from a poor relationship with his father. This would eventually lead Lamar down paths towards drug abuse and infidelity, culminating in the termination of his relationship with Khloe Kardashian. Say what you will about the Kardashian family, but it genuinely seemed that Khloe was a positive influence on his life, being there for him as he struggled to rekindle a connection with his father. In fact, it’s been the Kardashian family as a whole who have been at Lamar’s hospital bed throughout his recent ordeal. Lamar would have found himself in that Nevada brothel regardless of his Kardashian ties, but he may have been even more alone without them.
The question for the rest us now becomes this: what can we learn from the Lamar Odom saga? For me, the answer is clear. In recent years, sports media consumption has exploded. Now, one can know all there is to know about all of our favorite or hated athletes with swipe of a cell phone screen. With this proliferation of information comes many positives as we are all more knowledgable on the sports that we love and are passionate about. However, something crucial was lost in this process.
For many years, athletes have often been viewed as something that is almost otherworldly. We love to attach terms such as “heroic” and “legendary” to their actions, placing them on pedestals that most of them never asked to be placed on. Our opinions on these athletes are greatly shaped by whether we view them as good role models, often ignoring or discounting their on-the-field achievements if they don’t meet our standards off of it.
Lamar Odom thankfully seems to be out of the woods at this point and is hopefully on his way to making a full recovery. The Lamar Odom saga tells a story of someone who is unquestionably flawed, deeply troubled and, most of all, very human. Perhaps this is what we can all learn from Lamar that, just like all of us, these athletes are human who deserve the same sympathy and understanding that we would all want if found in similar forms of distress. Let’s send our thoughts to Lamar and remember that, at the end of the day, he’s no different than we are.
Kyle Kirby covers the NBA for MFST, you can follow the site on Twitter @MyFntsySprtsTlk
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