The Strange Sad Story of Lamar
Can we root for Lamar Odom even without liking him?
The long-time NBA player and former member of the Dallas Mavericks – a stint that counts among this franchise’s lowest points – was partying in a Las Vegas-area brothel and had taken cocaine and 10 doses of a Viagra-like medication before losing consciousness, law-enforcement officials say.
A woman’s call to 911 reported this: “They need to hurry, please, because he’s got blood coming out of his nose, white stuff coming out of his mouth. We can’t get him to wake up. He’s, like, almost not breathing.”
Odom is now more communicative and more responsive but may have sustained lasting brain damage.
He obviously has friends in the NBA community and in the entertainment community (I’ll get to that conflict in a moment). He was a star and a champion with the Lakers before slipping from favor there, and then in 2011-12 found himself in Dallas, where his dark and disinterested approach to basketball created a stunning contrast to the championship moment the franchise had experienced just months before.
And now, as we watch…rubber-necking, no doubt, because that’s part of what we do, but praying (or hoping for the best) for Odom, too, because that’s also what we do…we are being instructed as to how we should reflect on Odom’s career.
The very thoughtful Scott Van Pelt took to ESPN to insist it’s wrong to refer to Odom as a TV personality. “Kardashian reality star? No, no, no, no,” Van Pelt said. “Lamar Odom, unlike those for whom fame is oxygen, whose fame comes in the absence of accomplishment, his fame was earned. As 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.”
Yeah, but…he was also a “Kardashian reality star.’’ And there is no reason to un-write that historical fact just because the man is sick.
Lamar himself invited us all to view him that way because he profited financially from us doing so through his decision to attach himself to the Kardashians, to televise his marriage to Khloe, and to even capitalize on his struggles, all for the sake of celebrity.
Why isn’t it OK for me to discuss and detail his failings while also praying for the best as he is in serious peril? And why is signing on to be a TV star counted by sports people as being among those failings?
In fact, those who follow the Kardashians think you and I and Van Pelt, as obsessed with sports as Kardashian fans are with that family, are the ones in the weird bubble. That “Kardashian reality star’’ is no less a dignified label than “Lakers sixth man’’?
Who makes the rule that the thespian crowd is wrong? The jock crowd? What is this, some cornball movie about high school? This is real life…and almost death. Lamar Odom is sick, and that doesn’t make him more beloved. Lamar Odom was awful in Dallas, and that fact isn’t erased by his sickness. And Lamar Odom was a “Kardashian’’ – and still is. Indeed, he and Khloe are still technically married, meaning she is the supervisor of his medical decisions.
Meaning … Lamar Odom is less than universally beloved and is absolutely a Kardashian. We can grant him moments of hopes and our prayers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grant ourselves moments of honestly.