With Promising Career In Limbo, Friends, Family Rally to Pull Odom Out of Spiral

As Twitter messages of support go out to a spiraling Lamar Odom, his career in the NBA is on indefinite hold.

Multiple reports in recent weeks depict Odom in the grip of drug use. In the early morning hours last Friday he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after a California Highway Patrol officer pulled him over on the freeway for driving too slowly. Odom was unable to complete a field sobriety test and later refused to submit to chemical testing. His driver’s license, the CHP says, will probably be suspended.

Lamar Odom (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

Lamar Odom (Rocky Widner/NBAE)

His team last season, the Los Angeles Clippers, appeared to be waiting as long as possible to bring back the 6-foot-10 unrestricted free agent. But as more grim reports surfaced, the Clippers instead turned to veteran free agent Antawn Jamison. After 14 seasons, 12 spent with either the Lakers or Clippers, Odom’s status, on and off the basketball court, seems to be the worst kind of day-to-day.

Personal tragedy has long been inseparable from Odom’s life. He lost his mother to cancer when he was 12. The grandmother who raised him through a rugged childhood in Queens dies in 2004. His 6-month-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome in 2006. Two summers ago, in the fateful summer of 2011, he watched over a young cousin who passed away in a New York hospital bed, and then a day later Odom was a passenger in a car involved in an accident that killed a 15-year-old boy.

Odom, 33, has always been a deeply emotional and sensitive sort constantly seeking approval and acceptance. But he also seemed capable of staying a step ahead of the sadness. A self-destructive path had never seemed to lure him before.

But that summer of 2011, and into the fall as the NBA season was postponed by a labor dispute, may have served as a trigger point, a time when a swirl of personal and professional chaos collided.

We obviously don’t know all the intimate details, but before the summer of 2011, Odom was soaring at the height of his basketball career and presumably his personal life. He grew from something of an aloof talent to an integral contributor to back-to-back championships with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and 2010. And in 2011, although a three-peat bid ended abruptly for the Lakers, Odom was recognized as the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year. He got married in 2009 to celebrity Khloe Kardashian after a brief romance, and the newlyweds publicly celebrated their L.A. lifestyle on reality TV.

Also revealed on the show was Odom’s shock when his agent, Jeff Schwartz, called to tell him the Lakers might trade him. Then they did, to the New Orleans Hornets. Khloe couldn’t get in touch with Lamar, but heard her husband’s somber voice on the radio talking about the trade: “He is so passionate, emotional, wears his heart on his sleeve,” Khloe said on the episode. “Hearing him on the radio and how heartbroken he sounds, it’s now sinking in that Lamar’s not going to be a Laker anymore. It’s sad.”

The trade, however, was never approved. Yet the crestfallen Odom told Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak to trade him anyway. Schwartz called Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who was fresh off winning the 2011 championship but who had not re-signed key players from that team. Cuban quickly made the deal believing it was a steal, acquiring one of the game’s most versatile forwards to solidify the reigning champs’ revamped roster.

Odom arrived in Dallas noticeably out of shape, and from the moment he took the podium at his introductory press conference, he appeared sullen and gave the impression that his heart was broken. His sluggish play through the early season suggested the same. Although he often spoke of turning a corner, he revealed little zest to compete.

Cuban and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle defended Odom for months, remembering the player he was the season before. They had his back through a bizarre, 10-day absence bridging the 2012 All-Star break. Finally, Cuban reached his breaking point in early April. He confronted Odom in the locker room in Memphis and soon after dismissed him from the team.

By the end of June, Odom seemed to get the reprieve he needed to rediscover his spirit. The Clippers traded for him. It wasn’t the Lakers, but it was a return to the comforts of L.A., to the team with whom he started his career. He would move back into his home with Khloe, be close to friends, reap the full $8 million on the final year of his contract and, of course, join forces with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin on a contender.

Odom still struggled offensively, his numbers (4.0 points, 5.9 rebounds a game) well below expectation, but he served as a 20-minute-a-night reserve who got crunch-time minutes for his defense.

What’s happened since and where Odom goes from here is a mystery. Odom has always been well-liked, and he will get another shot with another team if he can escape whatever is dragging him down. His reputation had never been that of a troublemaker, at least before his short time in Dallas.

Hopefully, family and friends can lift Odom and push him through the issues that now prevent him from starting a 15th NBA season. Hopefully, a career on indefinite hold will not become permanently closed.

23 Comments

  1. Yohann Philip says:

    I am rooting for you Lamar, I wish you well and a quick recovery. Lakers would be the best place for you to make a come back, so get up, get well and be that strong Lamar that we know for so long. Lakers needs you this up-coming season.

  2. Yves valdez says:

    your basketball style was the best as a backup 4 especially during the 2008 finals against celtics…the most versatile forward offensively and on D. I hope you find your path to return in shape. Best of Luck L.O. #7 purple and gold

  3. Dee says:

    Come on Lamar you can do it!

  4. J says:

    he will play next season believe

  5. Paolo says:

    We’re praying for you,Lamar!You can beat this!!!! :)

  6. NorwegianViking says:

    Well written article.

    “When going through hell, keep going”

    Wish you the best Lamar.

  7. G.TERERO says:

    KARDASHIAN CURSE!!!

  8. M. James says:

    One of the most talented. It’s just a DUI.

  9. SIMONE says:

    Good story about what seems like a good guy I always admired his play with the lakers.
    Hope he can beat those demonds best off luck and my God be with him.

  10. Lexius says:

    Take Care Lamar Odom, drugs obviously is not the answer and thats just an escape route to not face the problems, sooner or later we all have to stand up and face our problems.

    The biggest enemies we face our within ourselves. Learn from your mistakes and pick yourself up and move on.

    33 yrs old is still young , still have a long life ahead.

  11. Concerned says:

    Hopefully he’s been making those 401k contributions.

  12. lol says:

    well he should retire, he stoped playing basketball when lakers got their last ring, all the focus of his is on his personal life, hes a bench player at best now.

  13. t.camp says:

    I guess all the press and tragedies caught up to him. Hope he can get over whatever he is going thru. Never good to see people and out especially good guys like Lamar

  14. OKC2014 says:

    This is a decent basketball player we are talking about. Maybe not an all-star, but certainly the type of player who can contribute off the bench. Teams like OKC, Atlanta, of of course the Lakers, could really use a guy like this. But why do I have a gut feeling, that the family he has married into, including his wife, just seem to ruin all prosperity for him? I think he should make a clean break and leave LA, the cameras and that dumb reality show. Total foolishness.

  15. Alex says:

    I had no clue about the stuff that happened to him. I hope he seeks help for it and gets his life back on track. Unfortunately his career is probably over.

  16. slider821 says:

    I feel as bad for him as I feel for Royce White. I’ll leave that open to interpretation.

  17. Tom Pittman says:

    Great writing. Great article. Good job.

    Hopefully Lamar makes a comeback — in his personal life especially.

    We’re cheering for you!

  18. Akeem Asante says:

    He’s done, … unfortunately.

    • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

      What a waste of talent .. at only 32 years old he could still be productive as a role player on a playoff team …

      • Kobe24 says:

        Odom is 33. But he is still one heck of a player. Hopefully the Lakers pick him up and he agrees to sign with the Lakers. If lakers can also pick up camelo and some good back up, another championship may pull Odom back together…

      • B Radd says:

        Odom needs a change of scenery, G’bye LA hello Miami!

      • LBJKIN6JAMES says:

        I think he’s pretty much done … and so are the lakers, even if the lakers get melo they are not just going to win a championship in the 2years that kobe has left, kobe will be 36 years old next season, & even if he doesn’t get re-injured or is not the same kobe the fact that the chemistry might take time, time that kobe doesn’t have because he’s getting older. Melo is not going to lead the lakers to a championship in the west with just him and a 36/37 year old Kobe, there are much better teams in the west Melo cant even take his knicks out of the 2nd round in the east.. I think Kobe and the laker days are done for a while. kobe needs to do what pierce is doing for the last 2-3 years of his career and go to a championship contending team

  19. Hmm says:

    Best luck Lamar , get well