Firstly, I’d like to begin this with my best wishes for Lamar Odom and his family, and I wish him a speedy recovery. I want to echo the words of Scott Van Pelt, who came on ESPN recently and cut straight to the core of the issue that I have with the media coverage of Odom’s situation.
“Kardashian reality star? No, no, no no. Lamar Odom, unlike those for whom fame is oxygen, whose fame comes in the absence of accomplishment, his fame was earned. As a Sixth Man of the Year, as a multiple NBA champion, as the result of a significant role with the Los Angeles Lakers, as being a beloved NBA teammate and peer. Everyone across the league, it seems, loves the man. To read the tweets from the stars still in the league was to feel genuine anguish for a brother who has had an unspeakably difficult road, and who has struggled mightily to find his footing, post-NBA. “Passed out in a brothel” makes for a hell of a headline, and I’m sure quite a juicy episode of TV, but stripped to the foundation, it’s just incredibly sad. All of it. A man who’s dealt with so much loss, unable to find his way, who’s unfortunate reality becomes a plot line in alleged reality. I understand not everyone watches sport, but ‘Kardashian reality star?’ His name is Lamar Odom, and we knew, long before he got married on a TV show that we don’t watch.”
Ask any sportsman, and what they fear above all else is that their achievements shall be reduced, that their contribution and effort, their blood, sweat and tears is taken away. That’s precisely what the media have done to Lamar Odom. I want to bring back into perspective what this man has gone through, and what he has achieved.
His father was a heroin addict. His mother died of colon cancer when he was 12. He lost a son to SIDS while the family was at an aunt’s funeral, and then robbed at gunpoint. Tragedy and pain has haunted this man for most of his 35 years. Being picked fourth in the 1999 NBA Draft should have been a story about a man rising above loss, grief, and addiction. Instead, what we did was reduce him further because he was drafted by the Clippers.
This man, by the odds, should not have succeeded. He should’ve had his 15 minutes in the league before having it slowly drift away. Not so. His story is one of perseverance and resolution, when society dealt him cards that gave him barely a reason to live, let alone flourish.
Scott Van Pelt spoke about how not everyone views things through the prism of sport. For those who met Lamar Odom through the prism of E!, he’s an accessory. A footnote whose tragedy is only seen through the lens of the Kardashian narrative. Lamar Odom has been reduced to a storyline – it’s not reported that “Lamar Odom is fighting for his life”, but as “Kardashians rush to Khloe’s ex-husband’s bedside”. Not only this, but it’s been done by many who haven’t seen a minute of him on the court, for what he worked so hard for. It disgusts me, it offends me, and it should offend all those who hold sacred the value of hard work, determination, grit, and courage.
This isn’t about anyone else but Lamar Odom. Let’s stop making it anything else. This is about a man who became great when the world was against him. I’m not particularly religious, but when I pray, I’ll be praying for Lamar Odom. Not Khloe Kardshian’s ex-husband.