Lamar Odom’s return to professional basketball will take place this summer in the BIG3, where he’s a co-captain on Gilbert Arenas’ Enemies squad, one of four expansion teams in the league’s third season.
Odom hasn’t played professionally since 2014 and last played stateside in 2013 with the Clippers, famously battling issues of drug abuse and mental health over recent years. That he was at the BIG3 Draft in Las Vegas on Wednesday was, as he referred to it, a “miracle,” given his history in the city where he nearly died, being found unresponsive in a brothel and suffering numerous strokes and heart attacks while in a coma.
To be back to playing basketball is unbelievable, and he recently spoke with Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times about his past, present, and hopes for the future. For Odom, a lot can be traced back to the 2011 trade that sent him from the Lakers to the Mavericks.
Odom told Markazi that trade “hurt” a lot, and that he was “never the same” after it.
“That hurt,” Odom says. “I love that team. I love the people who own that team. That trade hurt me. I was never the same after that. I think back to where I was at in my life. My cousin had just been killed and the team knew about that and where I was at after the loss of my son.
“I’m not going to say that should have protected me but I was coming off a Sixth Man of the Year winning season. I couldn’t believe they would just trade me like that. It hurt.”
Trades in the NBA are almost always discussed in basketball terms, and somewhat understandably so. As fans or as members of the media, that’s the most important thing in a macro sense. How each team did in the trade, how players will fit in new places, and who set themselves up better in the short and long-terms. The personal side to being traded is often swept aside with catch-all phrases like, “a reminder that basketball is a business,” or something of the ilk, noting that, yes it’s unfortunate for players to have to move, but that’s part of the job.
That is true, but we often don’t know the personal situations of players fully. In the case of Odom, he was already dealing with a lot personally, having lost his son and his cousin, and felt at home in L.A. and with the Lakers, giving him a feeling of comfort in a difficult time. Being traded took that away, and as we know now, it began the spiral that saw him nearly lose his own life early.
Odom seems to be in a pretty good place now, with aspirations of one more run overseas before he retires. His game isn’t what it was, but considering where he’s been, it’s hard not to root for him to find some closure to his career on his terms.