LOS ANGELES – In both accurate assessment and understatement, Lamar Odom said the individual recognition, any individual recognition, has been long in coming. Correct. It has been a long time. As in forever.
Until Tuesday, when the Lakers forward was announced as the landslide winner of Sixth Man of the Year, one of the league’s most versatile, unique unusual and most skilled players had never been singled out for official praise. Through all the important roles on very successful teams, Odom had never won an award or made an All-Star team.
So the honor had special significance even for someone who has reached the ultimate heights of championships, the last two seasons with the Lakers and in summer 2010 with Team USA at the world championships. Odom did not take being named the top reserve for granted. If anything, he was deeply touched by the moment, choking up with emotion in his acceptance speech at a hotel ballroom in Los Angeles as he appeared to reference family members he has lost through the years, including an infant son.
This is no ordinary player, and this was no ordinary trophy presentation.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Odom said. “I just kept at it, you know what I’m saying. I’ve learned so much from the dudes in my locker room, Derek (Fisher) and Kobe (Bryant). At the end of the day, I’m blessed. Just being around you guys, playing with so many great kinds of players. Pau (Gasol) and Shannon (Brown). I’m looking at ya’ll. You’re my boys, man. There’s a couple people that I wish that were here to see it, you know.”
He had to stop.
“Basketball has given me everything I love,” he said a few minutes later, asked to expand on the wave of emotions. “It’s taken me so many different places, brought me across so many different people, that I’m just blessed at the opportunity to be with the guys I’m, playing with the organization I play for, living in the city that I live. At the end of the day, I’m doing what I love to do.”
Odom, the first Laker to win Sixth Man, received 513 of a possible 585 points and 96 of the possible 117 first-place votes from a panel of 117 writers and broadcasters who cover the NBA in the United States and Canada. Jason Terry of the Mavericks was second with 244 points and Thaddeus Young of the 76ers was third with 76.
“There was a point in my career where people called me an underachiever,” Odom said. “I think winning an award like this is kind of right at those people that were ready to call me an underachiever. There’s still some goals I want to set. I would love to play in the All-Star game. I feel like I can keep getting better and better, and I guess the better I get, the more I can help this team continue to win.”