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The red string in Lamar Odom’s fingers (Part I)

The Basketball Disease is back with one of the most amazing stories of the National Basketball Association

The red string in Lamar Odom’s fingers (Part I) The Basketball Disease is back with one of the most amazing stories of the National Basketball Association

A few day ago, I was in Mao Hunan restaurant in Milan with a girl that had a red string tattooed around her wrist. While she was telling me about the meaning of it, with all the references to the Chinese legend of the “string of the destiny”, my mind was completely and immovably fixed of Lamar Odom.

The Chinese tradition tells that everyone brings, since the first day of life, an invisible red string, tied to the pinkie finger of the left hand, that connect him to his soul mate. The string has the characteristic of being indestructible: the two persons are destined, sooner or later, to meet and get married. The main character of the story, Wei, was a man that, after being orphaned of both parents in early age, wanted to marry and have a big family. Just like Lamar Odom, whose parents died when he was twelve.

His mother died of a colon cancer, while his father what a heroin addict. In fact, the boy who lived in South Jamaica Queens in NYC has been raised by his motherly grandmother, famous in the neighborhood because she applied for college at the age of 44. Anyway, the boy found in this orange, sliced ball he always carried in his hands, a shelter. But inside of the house, he was repeatedly reprimanded as he could bounce the ball on the floor, as he’d likely broke it. 

The school has never been his primary goal, also because his grandma enrolled him to the Christ and King Regional High School, inside of a Catholic diocese. I let you imagine the mood. Strangely though, many athletes, and also some former NBA players like Jayson Williams, Omar Cook, Speedy Claxton, and Khalid Reeves, came out of this school.

During his first season in this place where people fear God, he grows up by 20 centimeters and treats the ball with a heavenly touch. He sees things on the field that no one else can and he moves his feet better than Fred Astaire duetting with Ginger Rogers, even if Stephon Marbury ruined his show for the final year ball. At the playground, everyone used to call him “Little Lloyd”, just like the New York legend Lloyd “See’ Pea” Daniels, that had a lot in common with him.

In his second year, he led the team to the student championship with 36 points in the final at the Madison Square Garden, winning the “Player of the year” award by the New York Daily News. Unfortunately, he was terrible at school and his grades - when he had them - were bad as well, and the move to the Troy Academy was unavoidable. He least nothing and he ended up first at the Thomas Aquinas High School and then at the New Britain, where he met Jerry DeGregorio, the man who will literally become his stepfather.


So, well, but not so well. In fact, very bad. Because without the school he can’t play basketball and build a future. His grandma though has the same ball handling in his life that he has with his left hand on the ball. Since where he was a child, she used to put some candies in his pockets and for that reason, people start to call him “The Candy Man”.

Everyone knows that candies are bad for teeth, but its ones are probably the only thing in his life that never had a bloody problem. He had some physical issues, but they haven’t stopped him from winning the 1997 Parade Player of the Year, entering the AAU team, and sharing his sweat and bruises with Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) and Elton Brand.

He was invited to the adidas ABCD Camp, where he met Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, James Felton, Quentin Richardson, and Al Harrington for the first time. Sonny Vaccaro is the founder of this campo, and when Sonny calls, the answer has to be: “My baggage is ready, I’m taking the first flight”. We’re talking about the many that made Michael Jordan sign with Nike, so if right now you’re wearing a sneaker with the Jumpman logo, you owe him a thank. 

Sonny praises him with the press at the camp, and in Lamar’s pockets arrive several business cards of people that want him to become a pro. He wants to go to college, to prove his grandma that he can become someone even without help. He chose the University of Nevada of Las Vegas (UNLV), but a fixed result at the entrance exam and an illegitimate payment of $5,600 by David Chapman, won’t allow him to play a single game.


Jerry DeGregorio saved him and brought him to the University of Rhode Island, where he stopped for an entire season with the boarding cost paid by his father. Yes, the heroine addicted one, that used to receive a War benefit from the government. After two semesters, he’s allowed to play and he averages 17,6 points per game, he won the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award, and most of all, he scores the decisive shot from three to win the Conference title against Temple University. The New York word for that kind of shot is “Wet”, that is both a sexual allusion and the ball that enters the basket without touching the rim. Basically, an orgasm.

Just like the so-awaited debut in the National Basketball Association.