Lamar Odom: the Bittersweet Story of The Candyman

Lamar Odom: the Bittersweet Story of The Candyman

Eddie Goldsmith

Over the last week or so, there has been a lot said about the recent tragic incident involving former NBA star Lamar Odom.

The reactions have been widespread: an outpouring of sympathy in the sporting world, anger against reporters citing Odom only as Khloe Kardashian's ex-husband, and confusion about the widespread sympathy for someone who many accuse of being nothing but a drug addict.

But how did he get here in the first place?

As a player, he was nothing short of a matchup nightmare. A left-handed 6'10" forward with the ball-handling and passing skills of a shorter guard but with the strength and finish of a strong big man, Odom’s versatility as a player was his greatest asset. He thrived in then Lakers coach and basketball legend Phil Jackson’s triangle offense, which only works when each player is able to pass and shoot from almost anywhere on the floor, and it was Odom that often initiated these sets, especially when the bigger name superstars like Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol were off the floor. 

For the LA Lakers' 2009 and 2010 back-to-back championship teams, Odom’s importance cannot and should not be understated. There is a reason that the big man was always on the floor during the crucial moments of those championship squads. Not many players come off the bench and still play 30 minutes per game throughout the playoffs. In 2011, Odom won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. He was nicknamed 'The Candyman' for his well-known sweet tooth and also, in my interpretation, as when he was playing well he was fucking sweet to watch.

So this guy is on top of the world, right? He’s a millionaire with a reality TV show, a famous wife, and he’s pretty good at this sport thing called basketball; should be all gravy, right?

Well, maybe not so much…

Lamar was born in Queens, New York to Joe Odom, a heroin addict, and Cathy Mercer, who died when he was just 12 years old. His grandmother, Mildred Mercer, then raised him. Growing up, he bounced from high school to high school due to poor grades until he finally settled in at now-defunct St. Thomas Aquinas High School. There he was able to become a two-time Parade All-American.

In 2006, Lamar Odom lost one of his three children with Lisa Morales, Jayden, to sudden infant death syndrome. In 2011, after being traded from the Lakers to the Dallas Mavericks and reportedly feeling ‘disrespected’ and ‘crushed’, Odom thought about taking a break from basketball after a beloved cousin died. He was also the passenger in an SUV that fatally injured a cyclist. During all of this, Lamar’s NBA career was also spiralling out of control as poor play saw him bounce from the Mavericks to the LA Clippers and then briefly to Spain. Earlier this year, Lamar Odom’s best friend Jamie Sangouthai passed away from necrotising fasciitis, a rare flesh-eating disease that in this case was caused from using dirty needles

Holy shit, that is one depressing paragraph.

Maybe any of that has something to do with how we got here. Maybe we need to start looking more at why people act the way they do instead of just scrutinising them as if we are all perfect. I don’t know; I’m not friends with Lamar, but I was always a fan of watching him on those Lakers teams and I was sad when he couldn’t pull it together afterward.

The outpouring from the world was significant for a reason, and many decided to rally by his side and show their affinity for the former NBA star. Would someone who is just a reality TV star, or just another drug addict, garner such universal sympathy and concern for their wellbeing if they weren't at their core a good person?

Before Cathy Mercer passed away, one of the last things she told her son Lamar was: 'Be nice to everybody.' Words to live by, and words we should all consider right now, not just for Lamar Odom the NBA or reality TV star but Lamar Odom the caring man, husband, and father. 

On the 16th of October, Lamar Odom woke from his coma. He remains in a critical condition.

Real life Bond villain Eddie Goldsmith has a passion for photography, movies, basketball and speaking in third person. Like most other sleep deprived 20-somethings Eddie's managed to find a balance between calm and collected to being one coffee cup away from never sleeping again. Writer, Editor, Generous Lover, Photographer and part time funny man I'm always looking to try my hand at something new.