Column: Odom defined by basketball success, not reality TV

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Like most, I was extremely saddened to hear the tragic news of former NBA player Lamar Odom, who is currently fighting for his life after an apparent drug overdose.

While Odom was never an all-star, he was a superb complimentary player whose unselfish skill set benefited every team he played for, none more so than the Los Angeles Lakers who he helped win two NBA championships.

During his time with the Lakers, Odom – a guy who could have easily started for most NBA teams – accepted head coach Phil Jackson’s decision to come off the bench, which was an unfamiliar role for the former No. 4 overall draft pick.

Not only did Odom accept the role, he flourished in it, winning the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award as the league’s top reserve in 2011 while averaging 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and shooting 53 percent from the field.

Despite his success on the court while in LA, life off the court seemed to eventually take its toll on the 6’10 forward from the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, New York.

As anyone could tell you, LA offers access to about everything one could imagine – both good and bad. In my opinion, Odom is one person who would have been better suited to remain away from that type of lifestyle due to his past.

Throughout his life, Odom has experienced a plethora of personal tragedies, including dealing with his father’s heroin addiction as a child.

Research has shown conclusively that family history of alcoholism or drug addiction is in part genetic and not just the result of the family environment. Millions of Americans are living proof of this, and Odom may very well be one of them.

After dealing with the death of several family members a few years ago, including his infant son, Odom said in an interview that thoughts of dark moments in his life had begun to consume him.

I’m no doctor (obviously), but I’m pretty sure that was a warning sign from a troubled man who was in serious need of help. Unfortunately, the way millions cope with this type of problem is with the consumption of alcohol and illegal drugs.

Since hearing of Odom’s recent condition, what I have chosen to focus on is the way the NBA community has rallied around one of its brothers who had trouble handling the lifestyle that can oftentimes come with fame rather than choosing to focus on what celebrity family he may or may not be affiliated with or what reality show he may have appeared on.

While it probably drives a great deal of traffic to some pointless website by labeling Odom a reality star and mentioning other celebrities who appeared alongside him in those shows, a man who represented his country in the 2010 FIBA World Championships and entertained millions with his God-given abilities throughout the years is sadly being discredited as he lies on his deathbed.

Malcolm Walton can be contacted at [email protected]    

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