The Lakers’ recent playoff run impressed upon us some indelible moments:
Smush’s steal, Kobe’s jam over Nash, Raja Bell’s clothesline, and Lamar Odom’s glee.
It followed Kobe’s buzzer beater off a Luke Walton jump ball, and it was a moment of unbridled joy.
We are used to seeing athletes celebrate, but it is usually a muted or orchestrated celebration for fear or want of ending up on the continuous highlight reel that is cable TV. But not Lamar. He bounced, he pin-wheeled his arms, and he jumped on Kobe like he was Bob Barker and had just won the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right.
Following the team as closely as most of us do, we can’t help but become emotionally attached to players and their stories.
In fact, it is a big reason that we are lured to not just watching basketball, and not just rooting for laundry, but pulling for our guys. As much as we attempt in this space to always remain grounded, we all have recollections of times when that emotion over ran us.
We’ve all ranted on the cell, yelled at the TV, and possibly even rifled an object or two at it. But we’ve also jumped up and down on the couch, woke the kids up, and run out the front door into the street in celebration.
The point is that we’ve gone through things together. It’s the same reason why you and your brother are best friends. It’s shared history, it’s shared drama , it’s hello’s and goodbye’s and sometimes, it’s life and death.
We have watched Lamar strive in earnest and watched him desperately try to find his way. But because weâ€™ve watched, weâ€™ve realized that he is, simply put, a good guy.
He is not the typical sports figure. He is flawed. He is not bullet proof. He feels and has felt pain.
He is us.
In Miami, he gave courtside seats to a boy whose family of five had perished in a house fire.
“I’ve had losses in my life, so I understand the pain, even though theirs is different because they lost their family in a drastic, violent way,â€ Odom said. â€œFor me to get tickets or sneakers or jerseys for them is the smallest thing, and giving of my time is so simple, too, and it means so much to these kids. I’d do it 100 times over just to see them smile.â€
He has had losses. His father drifted out of his life at an early age, and more poignantly, his mother passed from cancer when he was 12. She is the inspiration behind Lamarâ€™s charity Cathyâ€™s Kids.
And in an even crueler twist of fate, he was in new York attending his aunt’s funeral when the tragedy occurred.
Lamar has made us laugh, Entourage and his calves, and made us cringe, Sacramento and a late game turnover. With the events of the past few days, he has made us realize that the hard knocks and tough lessons of basketball that he has been prone to since becoming a Laker are nothing compared to this.
In Loving Memory
Jayden Joseph Morales Odom
December 15, 2005- June 29, 2006