Below is a feature we published last summer after Lamar Odom failed to catch on with the New York Knicks. On Tuesday, he fell into a coma following a collapse in Nevada, and we thought it appropriate to share some backstory on just how tough things have gone for Odom throughout not just his career, but his life as a whole. While former teammates and NBA players send condolences and prayers for Odom’s well being, it’s helpful to track all the various catalysts that led to his recent troubles, so we’re not stuck on the more odious elements of the story.
During an episode of Keeping up with the Kardashians, Khloe opened up about filing for divorce from her estranged husband Lamar Odom, whose well-documented downfall has been the subject of endless controversy and speculation.
“Lamar stuff will weigh on me for the rest of my life. The marriage didn’t work out, not because of me, it wasn’t what I wanted. So for the rest of my life I’m going to deal with that, worry about him, think about him and want just to protect him.”
We’ll always have a soft spot for Odom here at Dime as well. He’s been through a lot. More than any one person should have to endure, in fact. Death and heartbreak have haunted him and his family his entire life.
Before each game, he would write a small tribute on his shoes to the loved ones he’s lost. When Odom was just 12 years old, his mother Cathy died from colon cancer. After that, his grandmother Mildred Mercer assumed guardianship of Odom and raised him as her own. She passed away in 2003. Then in 2006, his six-month-old son Jayden died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In the summer of 2011, Odom’s cousin, whom he had a close personal relationship with, was murdered in New York City. While Odom was in town to attend the funeral, the SUV he was riding in was involved in a fatal car accident that killed a 15-year-old pedestrian.
“Death always seems to be around me,” Odom told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve been burying people for a long time.”
To make matters worse, his absentee father Joe is apparently a heroin addict. A rather sad encounter between Odom and his father was chronicled in an early episode of the reality show Khloe and Lamar, during which Joe shows up unannounced to one of Khloe’s book signings and later asks his son for money. Here’s what Odom had to say about his father in a Twitter post last fall:
“He wasn’t there 2 raise me. He was absent ALL of my life due to his own demons… His own demons may be the ONLY thing he gave 2 me.”
So it was just another depressing chapter in the Greek tragedy that is his life when he was waived by the New York Knicks last month, after presumably squandering what was likely his last chance at NBA redemption.
Phil Jackson, since taking over as president and GM of the Knicks, has aspired to levels of nepotism rivaled only by the Kennedys and Coppolas of the world, and signing Odom last spring to a non-guaranteed contract was justifiably met with widespread skepticism and/or outright derision.
But it was a chance for Jackson to express both his concern and his loyalty to his former Sixth Man of the Year with the Los Angeles Lakers who has been in a dangerous tailspin for the past three-plus seasons. Jackson was one of the few allies Odom had left, and it’s clear that bringing him onboard had more to do with altruism than anything basketball-related.
Odom’s career first started spiraling out of control back in 2011 when the Lakers traded him to the Dallas Mavericks. Initially, Odom was included as part of the ill-fated trade the Lakers concocted in hopes of acquiring Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. Then-commissioner David Stern ultimately vetoed the transaction, but the damage had already been done. Odom felt betrayed, and two days later, his camp went to management and demanded that he be moved.
The Lakers eventually obliged, and that December he would join the Mavs for what would undoubtedly be his worst and most humiliating season as a pro. All this after being named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year the previous season and playing a critical role in the Lakers’ back-to-back championship runs, not to mention helping lead Team USA to the FIBA World Championship in the summer of 2010.