Shoot for It: With John Beneville ’16 and Alex Lee ’16

by John Beneville and Alex Lee | 10/22/15 6:30pm

What’s up, Dartmouth? “Shoot For It” is normally colorful and humorous (at least we hope it comes across that way), but given what happened to Lamar Odom over the last week, we decided this week’s column would be more serious than normal. For those who don’t know, former NBA player Lamar Odom was rushed to a hospital last Tuesday and is reportedly “fighting for his life.” Lamar was found unconscious in a brothel outside of Las Vegas, where he had reportedly been staying for several days while doing a variety of drugs. Word is that Lamar’s condition has improved over the last few days, and despite being in a coma with multiple vital organs failing, he is beginning to recover. When news of Lamar’s trip to the emergency room first became public, the basketball community offered an outpouring of support for their troubled brother.

John’s Take: When Alex asked me what I wanted to write about this week I had no trouble answering him. I grew up watching Lamar Odom play alongside Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest and respected Lamar for his game and his attitude on the court. He was a confidant and friend that Kobe could never be. Where Kobe provided the grit and the resolve, Lamar supplied enthusiasm, friendship and balance. It wasn’t an act, and the relationships he established in the League over the years became immediately evident when news broke that he was on death’s door.

There are a lot of “takes” to be made when something like this happens, just as there are a lot of questions. Why was Lamar all alone at a brothel? How did we get to this point? Why was his plight described as “Kardashian reality star in a coma?” SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt said it best: “His name is Lamar Odom, and we knew it, long before he got married on a TV show that we don’t watch.” Lamar’s tragedy is unfortunately mixed up in popular culture and “reality” TV, which many would argue contributed to his demise.

It’s great to see so many stars coming out in support of the man, but Lamar Odom needed help long, long ago. His ex-wife knew he was depressed, his dad knew he was depressed, but where have they been? “No one knew where he was,” they all say. “We tried to find him, but he didn’t want to be found.” I don’t buy it. If they cared enough about Lamar, if he was truly their “brother,” if an ex-wife really “loves” her ex-husband, if a father has actually “been there for his son,” things don’t usually happen this way. Now that’s harsh, and it might be too harsh, but only the people closest to Lamar know whether or not they did all they could to help him.

It’s easy to get caught up in the sensationalist aspect of stories like this. There’s something horribly fascinating about a celebrity that saw so much success sinking so low. And yet Lamar is a real person, just like the rest of us. He’s a man riddled by addiction and cut down by sadness, just as some of our peers have been or will be. If there’s anything to truly glean and gain from a story like this, it is a reminder that no one should be left alone to sit on rock bottom, and that people on their way down shouldn’t be afraid to ask or demand help.

Alex’s Take: Great points by John, and I agree with essentially every point that he has made, so in that same vein, I will focus my take on Lamar’s accomplished basketball career because that should be the primary focus in how he is remembered.

Lamar had a very successful basketball career from the onset. He won All-First team honors on USA Today’s best high school basketball players list during his senior year, and he spent time playing with other stars such as Elton Brand, Kobe Bryant and Ron Artest. He then attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, but due to some behavioral troubles that forced him to sit out the 1997-1998 season, he transferred to University of Rhode Island. There, he averaged 17.6 points per game and earned rookie of the year in the Atlantic 10 Conference.

The following season, Lamar opted to enter the NBA Draft, and he was selected fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. Odom had a fantastic rookie season averaging 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists, earning All-Rookie First-Team honors. After three more solid seasons on the Clippers, Odom signed with the Miami Heat as a restricted free agent and averaged 17.1 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Then came Odom’s golden years in Los Angeles. The first four years he spent representing the purple and gold, Odom started every game and averaged 15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists. These were very solid numbers, and he was a significant part of Laker Nation during this time.

Odom’s most significant transition, however, occurred when he transitioned to the Lakers’ sixth man role during the 2008-2009 season. He played fewer minutes but still put up strong averages, and more importantly acted as the Lakers primary scoring, energy and wildcard off the Laker’s bench. Odom’s sacrifice for the betterment of the team played a pivotal role in the back-to-back championships they won in ’08-’09 and ’09-’10. For these reasons, Laker fans like John fondly remember Odom for the great service he did for their team.

After brief stints with the Mavericks and then back to the Clippers the following two seasons, Odom retired from the NBA. In total, he played 14 solid seasons of professional basketball. Ultimately, John and I hope that when people think about Lamar Odom, they will remember his great play, team-first attitude and unbeatable smile.