September 2, 2013

LIAO | The Tragic Tale Of Lamar Odom

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This past week, some tragic news hit NBA circles. Clippers forward Lamar Odom was arrested at 4 a.m. on Friday morning for a DUI charge after being missing for over 72 hours on an apparent cocaine-fueled bender. Since then, there were rumors of his wife Khloe Kardashian kicking Odom out of their house because he refused to go to rehab. Stories like this are usually very difficult to process; it’s very depressing to see anyone fall this deep into despair and really puts me at a loss of words. It’s even sadder for Lamar Odom because of the hand he was dealt in life. Despite his clear talents as a basketball player, the amount of tragedy he has gone through is enough for an entire city.

Lamar Odom grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, a crack-infested area in the 1980s and 90s. He grew up ingrained in the drug world and it took his mother’s best efforts to keep him away from it. When Odom was 12, his mother was diagnosed with colon cancer; she died later that year. His grandmother took him in and raised him for the rest of his childhood. He never had a true father figure, as his biological father was a heroin addict and never a part of his life.Despite his tough surroundings, his talent on the basketball court — he was All-USA First Team as a senior in 1997 — was never in doubt. After graduating from high school, he accepted a scholarship to UNLV, but a small hiccup — when compared to the rest of his life — prevented him from attending school there. After a Sports Illustrated column questioned the validity of his test scores (nothing was definitively proven), UNLV withdrew his scholarship, so he attended the University of Rhode Island, where he had to redshirt a year before he could play. In his first season of college basketball, he blossomed, averaging 17.6 points per game and leading the Rams to the NCAA Tournament. After the season, the Los Angeles Clippers selected him fourth overall in the 1999 NBA Draft; it seemed as if the heartbreaking portion of his life was over, but it was just the end of the first chapter.Odom has success out of the gate in the NBA, earning NBA First Team All-Rookie honors while becoming the captain and face of the franchise. Being surrounded by minimal veteran guidance may have been tough on him, as he was suspended in 2001 for violating the NBA’s anti-drug policy for marijuana twice in eight months. Despite his solid play on the court, everyone expected more of him; he seemed to have the immense talents to be one of the top 10 players in the world, but never even earning an All-Star nod.Despite consistently being called a slacker and waste of talent by critics, his life off the court was improving until three grave tragedies struck him one after the other. In 2004, the grandmother who raised him died. Almost exactly three years later, he lost his infant child to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome overnight without warning. Later that summer, he was robbed at gunpoint. These events are enough to make the most optimistic person depressed, but Odom bravely fought on; he renewed his faith in god, remained upbeat and positive according to anyone saw him and continued with his career on the court.A few years after these tragedies, he appeared to be getting better, marrying Khloe Kardashian after knowing her for just one month, adjusting to the city of Los Angeles, and having unparalleled success on the court by winning back-to-back NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010. Then in 2011, tragedy struck again. A close cousin of his died in July 2011 and while in New York for the funeral, the car he was in struck and killed a 15-year-old cyclist. Even when he’s not directly involved, death just seems to follow him.To make matters worse, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in December 2011, uprooting him from his home of seven years. At the time, he seriously contemplated retiring, but his wife convinced him not to. On the court, it appeared as if he should have; after winning the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011 averaging 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game, he averaged just 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds a game for the Mavericks, even leaving him inactive for the last 10 games of the season.The saddest part of it all is that everyone who meets him loves him; in a recent ESPN article, he was described as “a sweet and popular dude who’s held in high regard by almost everyone he encounters.” At just 33-years-old, many close to him fear for the worst; it’s just not reasonable to assume someone can take all these terrible tragedies in stride and live a normal life. Alike most of the NBA world, I hope Odom finds help and can fight through this latest saga like he has in the past. After all the tragedy he has gone through, it’s about time he finally finds some happiness and peace.

Original Author: Albert Liao