At this point, Odom stands as much for that flicker of humanity, that trace of sympathy or identification in the climate of pro basketball, as he does one of the most memorably gifted players of the last decade. Odom doesn’t have baggage. He’s the one who, simply by walking into a room, reminds us that we all do. It’s not the portend of reality show drama, but the right he has earned to take things personally in a sport where business conquers all.
Odom isn’t quite a tragic figure. Mostly, he’s guy who just can’t catch a break. He played AAU ball with Elton Brand and Ron Artest, a documentary just waiting to happen. Odom was supposed to suit up for UNLV, until he was implicated in a players-getting-paid scandal (or, as some would say, was one of the few who got caught). Instead, he enrolled at Rhode Island, taking a year off before taking a single year to prove he was lottery pick material. Of course, he was drafted by the Clippers, where his obvious on-court brilliance was offset by a series of weed-related suspensions (again, just one of the few dudes who got caught) and a strange inability to exert the full extent of his talent. Between Magic and LeBron, there was Odom; sentimental hyperbole, maybe, but he could handle, make plays, rebound, drain threes, penetrate, and do everything other than assume that leading man role.
Nathaniel Friedman/Bethlehem Shoals broached the ongoing trials of Lamar Odom. Although I think the reactions to Odom’s weird circumstances have been a bit more negative than is implied, Friedman somehow found a way to both trace the outline of Odom’s tale while digging down into its core — all with his usual (and much appreciated) eloquence. Worth a read in its entirety.