Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals could be the big stage upon which Lamar Odom finally steps into the spotlight.
Drafted into the league with the fourth overall pick by the crosstown rival Clippers, Odom was expected be that rare player who would make a huge impact in the league as a big man who could handle and pass the rock 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 is scoring or rebounding? Would Odom become a perennial All-Star? Could Odom win a Most Valuable Player award?
The 10-year career resume of Odom however is devoid of the individual accolades that many believed he would achieve 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, Odom was invited to be a member on the United States Olympic Basketball team in 2004. Unfortunately, the United States only won the bronze medal and will be long remembered as the first team including NBA players that failed to win the gold.
Odom’s career has never fully blossomed, and as a sixth man, he does not receive the adulation and attention of starters when their names are called out in the beginning of games.
Maybe Odom likes not being the center of attention. However, 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 starter's minutes.
During the regular season, Odom made the most of his “starters minutes" on the court posting a respectable 11 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists per game. As a result, Odom is a very strong candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man Award.
However, Odom however has faded into the background during the Finals, averaging eight points, seven rebounds, and two assists a game. While his field goal shooting percentage has increased over the regular season, his free throw shooting percentage has dropped from 69% to 56%, and his three-point shooting percentage has plummeted from 32% to 14%.
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 2010 Finals performance 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 Head 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 good games.
Odom has the skills to get the job done, and it is just a question of whether the job will get done.
Very few players in the 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, Odom 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 rapidly closing.
The Lakers will need Odom to play well in the spotlight tonight if they are to win their second NBA title in as many years.
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 ages.