SLAMonline Top 50: Lamar Odom, no. 39

by September 12, 2008

by Holly MacKenzie

Limitless potential. Lackluster performance. Ridiculous skill set. Chronic underachiever.

There have been a lot of words tagged to Lamar Odom’s game, not many of them positive. When a player is as talented as Odom with as much promise coming out of high school in New York, all eyes are on them and the pressure is there not to fail. Disappoint. Screw up. Lose their way.

When you lose your mother at 12 and are being raised by your grandmother and want to make her proud, you’d think it would be easy to block out distractions and focus on the end goal. Sometimes, it is just the opposite that happens. Sometimes, is what happened for Lamar.

With the distinction of being named High School Player of the Year by Parade Magazine, the stage was set for him to go to UNLV. Only, that didn’t quite work out for him. The thing is, guidance doesn’t always come when needed and lessons are not usually learned the easiest way when it comes to Lamar. After ending up at Rhode Island and piecing together a great year, the Clippers drafted Odom, where he was hailed as the next Magic by a certain basketball magazine. When he ended-up being suspended twice for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, it appeared as though he’d need wizardry to help him achieve his potential.

The thing is, regardless of his struggles, his talent is so undeniable he does deserve a spot on a list such as this. A 6’10” southpaw who can run the point with his court vision and game savvy will always find a way. Having the ability to put in back-to-back triple-doubles along with his unique make up also allows him extra chances – chances started making the most of as he has learned nothing lasts forever.

While he has dealt with death in his youth by losing his mother, the past few years have not been kind to Lamar. Losing both his grandmother (on her 80th birthday), and his own infant son (on the anniversary of his grandmother’s birthday and death), Lamar has endured challenges his critics couldn’t imagine. Having proven himself as a warrior by playing through physical pain, he has more than earned that title after dealing with the hand he has been dealt. When the game before brought pressure, it has now become the sanctuary that can begin to bring peace.

As the rest of the world was watching Pau Gasol slide into a vacancy left by Andrew Bynum, Lamar was finally getting a chance to breathe without the watchful eyes of the media observing his every misstep. While people wondered how he would adjust, he flourished with the freedom the new addition allowed for him and put together a solid season with the Lakers.

It’s taken Odom awhile to get comfortable both off court and on and now his best can begin to be shown on the floor. Yes, sometimes it looks like he wanders, but he’s still got a lot on his mind. While he creates match up hell for opposing coaches, what he needs more than most players is support. From everyone. That’s the only way to get him to play his best at all times and become the player he’s had the potential to be since the beginning.

With Gasol, Bynum and that guy named Bryant taking most of the spotlight, Lamar finally has the chance to truly shine. He has the combination of the right coaching staff, the supporting talent to help him and confidence from the best player in the game. Lamar Odom is getting there one day and one game at a time.

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