Game Seven of the NBA Finals could be the big stage upon which Lamar Odom finally steps into the spotlight.
Odom is arguably the most talented player on the Los Angeles Lakers team other than Kobe Bryant. Drafted into the league with the fourth overall pick by the cross-town rival Clippers, Odom was expected to be that rare player who would make a huge impact in the league as Lamar was a big man who could handle the rock and pass like a guard.
Odom’s star shone brightly in his first year in the league as he was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2000, averaging 16 points, eight rebounds, and four assists a game. The sky appeared to be the limit for Odom to become a star and collect a shelf full of trophies and awards for his individual accomplishments.
Would Odom lead the league in scoring or rebounding? Would Odom become a perennial all-star? Could Lamar win a most valuable player award?
The 10-year career résumé of Odom, however, is devoid of the individual accolades that many believed he would achieve on his way to becoming a star when he first came into the league.
While Odom has not compiled a staggering list of individual accomplishments, he is still considered by many to be one of the more talented players in the league.
For example, Lamar was invited to be a member on the United States Olympic Basketball team in 2004. Unfortunately, the United States 2004 Olympic team only won the Bronze medal and will be long remembered for being the first team made up of NBA players who failed to win the Gold medal.
Odom’s career has never fully blossomed, at least not in a way in which he was viewed as the leading man. Lamar does not get to run out onto the court and get the attention of having his name called out when the starting lineups are announced.
Maybe Odom does not like being the center of attention.
In September of last year, Odom married reality-television star Khloe Kardashian. The marriage to Kardashian brought Odom a whole new level of fame yet at the same time made him the second banana in the public eye.
Suddenly, Odom went from being a known commodity in NBA circles to someone who is known by the broader public as Mr. Kardashian.
When asked if he was ever bothered about being referred to as Mr. Kardashian, Odom said, “I take that more as a compliment than an insult...I stay grounded. I don’t expect for people to know me everywhere I go.”
While, Odom comes off the bench, the second most talented player on the defending World Champion Lakers does generally get starters minutes.
During the regular season, Odom made the most of his “starters minutes" on the court posting respectable numbers—11 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists. As a result, Lamar is a very strong candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award this year.
During the finals against the Boston Celtics this year, however, Odom has faded into the background.
Against the Celtics, Odom is only averaging eight points, seven rebounds, and two assists per game. While his field goal shooting percentage has increased over the regular season, his free throw shooting percentage has dropped from 69 percent to 56 percent and his three-point shooting percentage has plummeted from 32 percent to 14 percent.
The knock on Odom among some commentators is that he has not lived up to his potential as a basketball player. His critics will point to Odom’s performance against the Celtics in the finals as further proof of their position.
Of course, a big game tonight against Boston and a second NBA Championship ring will silence many critics.
Odom doesn’t need to score 20 points tonight for the Lakers to win. Lakers Coach Phil Jackson will be pleased with a solid double–double offensive effort and good defensive pressure on the ball to keep Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rasheed Wallace from having a good game.
Odom has the skills to get the job done, it is just a question of whether the job will get done.
Very few players in league history can lay claim to playing on back-to-back NBA Championship teams and Odom would be in very select company.
Some players play for individual glory while others play for Championships. Odom appears to play for Championships.
When asked what changed for him after winning the NBA title last year, Lamar said, “I no longer play games for personal accolades. I play for wins. You do it one time and it’s something you want to keep continuously doing. For me, in my career, winning is how I want to be remembered.”
Boston will come ready to play tonight as they likely see their window of opportunity to win NBA Championships as a team rapidly closing.
The Lakers will need Odom to play well tonight if the Lakers are to win their second NBA title in as many years. Lamar will need to be in the glare of the spotlight and bright lights tonight.
If it is all about being remembered for winning, now is the time for Odom to deliver a big game performance to give Lakers fans something to remember and talk about for the ages.