The Lamar Odom saga is a terribly sad one. There’s one part of it that is so intriguing to me. Anyone who knows Odom, or just knows of him, realizes he was dealt a bad hand growing up. He overcame such a disastrous childhood because of his size and basketball skills. As far as a player, he was nothing short of amazing, considered by many to be the next coming of Magic Johnson. And, having seen him as a prepster, I can honestly say that the comparison wasn’t all that far off. However, while Johnson had a strong family support, i.e. people he could trust, the group guiding Odom might not have always had the ballplayer’s best interests at heart. Another major difference between LO and Magic lay in the area of academics (as in “attitude toward”). Although Magic left Michigan State early and never did graduate, reports of his academic work were positive, as opposed to Lamar, who truly took advantage of the “one-and-done” rule.
Full disclosure: I know neither man – so in other words this is a “two degrees of separation blog.” From what close friends of mine who know and/or have worked with each guy say, though, both were great “locker room guys.” In that regard, Odom and Johnson were near equals in that both absolutely loved the game and were loved by their teammates. Also, both players won NBA Championships, although, for lack of a better comparison of the two, Magic led his teammates while Lamar followed his. Each of them were extremely popular but, other than both guys being “big guards” and womanizers, the similarities ended there. Magic speaks out against such care-free, dangerous conduct (granted, he did experience a rather sizable scare), while Lamar continued to embrace such conduct (let’s see what path Odom takes from here on out, assuming he can continue with a relatively normal way of life). Ultimately, what separated the two stars was that Magic understood how to be a pro better than Lamar did. Or, at the very least, knew how to have fame and fortune work for him instead of destroy him.
As a player Odom had the reputation of competing at a high level – and partying at a higher one. Once, when asked if his wife, Khloe, was going to be joining the team on a road trip, LO allegedly said, “Why would I bring sand to the beach?” As is blatantly apparent now, Odom’s off-court habits included many activities that, while they were a helluva lot of fun at the time, were basically nothing other than destructive. What’s so shocking to me is that, of all the people who knew him, none of them were remotely astonished. His friends and teammates were well aware of the big fella’s lifestyle and the choices he was making – maybe not to the excess he was living, but no one expressed shock when he was found in that Las Vegas brothel. Grief-stricken, yes, but not shocked.
I was a member of the basketball staff at Fresno State when Chris Herren played for the Bulldogs. When we discovered he had his demons, we did what we could to get him help. After his return from a facility in Utah, we truly thought he’d beaten his addiction. The primary reason was, as Chris says now in the speeches he gives throughout the country, because he was such an accomplished liar. That was not at all the case with Lamar Odom. His lifestyle was transparent.
So here’s what I need someone to explain to me. With all the outpouring of love and the number of prayers that have been sent Lamar Odom’s way in the past week:
“Why didn’t SOMEBODY intervene to keep him from doing what, for all intents and purposes, everyone who knew him had more than a sneaking suspicion he was doing?”