There are some players that come to mind when you mention "spark to a team" or "plays for pure love of the game."
Out of the players that are popping up in your head right now, I sure do hope Lamar Odom is one of them. Given, he's inconsistent at times, but you can't overlook the passion and love he has for the game.
On June 29, 2006 as you might already know, Odom's son Jaden, lost his life to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)
Of course, Odom was shook up by this substantially.
"I didn't wanna play basketball. It took me months to even pick up a basketball. I thought about retiring, but the game means too much to me."
Odom could have very easily let his grief shut him down. He could have retired and given up the game. Nobody would have blamed him.
But there's a competitive spirit in Odom. One I see in just about every single Lakers game. I see that emotion, that love for the game he had to return even after all the grief.
Stepping away from the tragic story of his late son, examine Odom's attitude. At the beginning of the year, Phil Jackson said he would be having Odom come off the bench.
This being Odom's contract year, he could have very easily made a scene about it and whined like other NBA players (cough Allen Iverson.) But he's a team player, and does whatever is best for the team.
When Andrew Bynum went out with a torn MCL, it was Odom's time to shine. A good example came when the Lakers took down the Cleveland Cavaliers at home, the only time the Cavs were beaten at home this year so far.
Odom can be thanked by Lakers fan for that victory as he came up huge with 28 points and 17 rebounds. He had put-back after put-back and when it was his time to step up, that's exactly what he did.
Back in the Lakers down years, which were 2005-2007, Odom was clearly the only teammate that Kobe Bryant trusted.
Odom was always there, through the good and the bad, and it's good to see his determinacy and dedication is paying off now as the Lakers are making a title run.
Odom has been a role model, and an example for me on how to react to adversity and tough times in my life. You can have your time to grief, but you can't waste your life and your loves in life.
Every time I see Odom come in and hit that timely left-handed 3-point shot, I smile every single time, as does my heart.
It brings me, as well it should you, great happiness to see a genuine player who plays for the love of the game.