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

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

It’s surrounded by his teammates, under the spotlights. That shot at the buzzer was the beginning of a run, one of those that you know will be longer than 50 feet. There’s a funny saying in the NBA, used by the authorized personnel: “Tell me which team picks you, and I’ll tell you which player you will become”

Jeff-Jeff Schwarz is the manager that represents him trying to become a professional player. After some failures with Jeff Klein, he’s chosen with the fourth pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 1999 - collecting just 15 wins but averaging 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. The next year Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson - yes, the ones that knocked their fists on their heads - Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, and Keyon Doolin arrive, and the team almost gets to the playoffs. But Lamar got suspended by the league for use of drugs - with marijuana in his blood - and he plays just 49 games, also because of some injuries. And as “When it rains, it pours”, in the summer when he becomes a free agent, his beloved grandmother, the only family he had, dies after a sudden illness.

 

In Lamar Odom’s life, there has always been someone rescuing him from difficult times, and in that moment that person was Pat Riley, which brought him to the Miami Heat for a season. With a rookie Dwyane Wade, Pat teaches him hot to play at those levels, and the team reaches game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The turning point of his career, though, arrives when he’s traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, realizing a childhood dream. On July 14, 2004, Odom gets traded with Caron Butler and Brian Grant for Shaquille O’Neal. His first years were good, but the best comes with the arrival of the Catalan center Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. 

As Always, when you arrive in a team with “Coach Zen”, your life change completely. And so does your way of seeing the game and, in fact, in their “read-n-react” gameplay, Odom is just perfect and he often plays as a playmaker. Yes, in Kobe Bryant’s team and is 208 cm tall. Coach Phil Jackson sees Toni Kukoc, which he won three championships in the Jordan era in Chicago with, in Lamar. But Odom, in some ways, was much better and when he was on the field he really changed the equilibrium of the game. They play in three consecutive NBA Finals, winning two championships (2009, 2010) and he won the Sixth Man of the Year award (2011).

During his career, he was very close with a teammate from the AAU high school: Ron “The Warrior” Artest. At a party of his, suddenly two of the Kardashian sisters arrive, and one is Khloé, that crosses eyes with Lamar immediately. At the time, he had just got out of a difficult marriage with Liza Morales, which he had three kids with. Unfortunately, the last one, Jayden, died at just one. It was 2006, and the hit for Lamar was devastating.

The Kardashian sisters, for those who don’t know, are the heiresses of the famous lawyer Robert Kardashian and businesswoman Kris Jenner. Khloé and Kim always loved sportsmen, and in fact, many professional players “stepped” into their arms: Reggie Buss, Miles Austin, Derrick Ward (NFL), Kris Humphries e Rashad McCants (NBA) and Matt Kemp (MLB), other than our Lamar Odom. Well, now here’s how all these players’ careers ended up once meeting with one of the two Kardashian sisters: ended in the NCAA scandal, ended the career, halve performances, disastrous seasons, blaming Khloé for the end of his NBA career, two worst seasons of his career. And then, there’s Lamar.

He’s probably obsessed with her. In many dark moments of his relationship with Khloé, people told him that she was ruining him, but the answer was always the same: “Careful, you’re talking about my wife”. Yes, because he marries her in 2009, then starting a series of tv shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Khloé and Lamar, and he takes plane after plane in order to be on the set with his wife. I spent a dozen of minutes watching those realities and I saw a genius of basketball in miserable conditions. And in fact, after the two NBA championships, the Lakers sent him over to the Dallas Mavericks.

Many times he happened to fell asleep in front of his teammates during training, or even not to show up at all because his “wife won’t allowed him to go”. Justification? “Familiar matters”, but everyone knew what that was about. The downfall of his career began in that moment, because of Mark Cuban - owner of the franchise and smart businessman - sent him to the D-League, NBA’s minor league. The marriage with Khloé starts to fall as well and, trying to keep it together, Lamar tries to get back to LA. And he does it, coming back to the Clippers. The season is a disaster though, that he ends with 6.6 points in 20 minutes, with career lows for shooting percentage, rebounds, and assists. The iceberg is right in front of him, but he can’t avoid it. On December 13, 2013, Khloé demands the divorce and a year later his best friend, Jamie Sangouthai, dies due to OD.

He gets traded to the New York Knicks, where the president is Phil Jackson, former coach of his two NBA titles. His contract gets shred and he ends up overseas, at the Laboral Kutxa Baskonia. Here, his drug problems get back. He went to coma in the Love Ranch, a brothel in the city of Crystal, in Nevada. A genius of basketball shattered, fighting for his life for who knows what.

To see Kardashians’ cameras in and out of the hospital, framing him while he was in a coma, with a series of fake tears on his ex-wife's faces, has been a pain for every supporter of him. That red string on the pinkie of the left hand was gone, as he was alone, alone in that world of prostitutes and drug. Maybe he never had that red string, but an orange and black one, as the colors of a basketball. Because only basketball saved his life and maybe his supporters - like me - made him survive in that day.

He could have so much to give to basketball, maybe as a coach, but no one of us can tell just now. Maybe another one will come to save him, just like Craig Sager did with Dennis Rodman. It seems that his autobiography is on his way, and maybe it will te us something good or something terrible about his life. One thing is certain though, he taught us the meaning of a saying:

“Nobody’s immune to tough times”.