Lamar Odom’s tenure as a Laker was bookended by two surprising trades. He came to Los Angeles as the main prize of the Shaquille O’Neal trade, winning the hearts of Lakers fans despite replacing the lovable big fella. His Laker career ended with the vetoed Chris Paul trade, which subsequently led to him being moved to the Dallas Mavericks.
Even though Odom played out the final years of his career as a Maverick and then as a Clipper, it’s his time with the Lakers that was the most successful for him personally and for his team. He won a Sixth Man of the Year Award and two titles and became beloved as a member of the Laker family.
For Odom, part of that family still includes Kobe Bryant, who was not only a teammate and friend for him, but someone he considered a “father figure.”
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Kobe Bryant played a crucial role in my life. I have recently started to reflect back about my relationships and I'm so grateful for the people god gave me. His love and care was so deep I should have given you my 6th man award just because I feel you deserved it. My book, Darkness to Light wouldn't be my life story if you weren't in it. I hope you know that I'm extremely blessed to have you in my life not only as a friend, laker fam, but also as a father figure that I never had. Thank you @kobebryant #darknesstolight #letschangetogether #growth
Bryant had a reputation for being a difficult teammate to play with, but there is no denying that his intensity brought out the best in a particular set of Lakers, including Odom, Pau Gasol, and Derek Fisher. His mentorship has even outlasted his playing career, as he is consistently called upon by current players for workouts in the summer, such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum.
The relationship he had with Bryant clearly meant a great deal to Odom, especially considering Odom made the effort to attend Bryant’s final NBA game while he was still recovering from a drug overdose he had suffered about six months earlier.
As Bryant has stepped away from being a basketball player, Odom has attempted to revive his career. He will be playing this summer as part of the Big 3 and can likely count on the support of his former MVP teammate. Bryant was at Derek Fisher’s WNBA coaching debut in Las Vegas, and the Big 3 championship takes place at Staples Center, so it’s fair to assume he will attend if Odom’s Enemies team makes it that far.
There are few Lakers, especially among the non-superstars, who resonated with the fanbase quite like Lamar Odom. He overcame substantial personal trauma both before his professional career and during it, and played with his heart on his sleeve for this franchise. His unfiltered public persona, so deeply in contrast to Bryant’s, allowed fans to connect with his story and root for him to triumph.
Dealing with his demons has been a never-ending battle for Odom even after leaving the NBA, so it’s good to see that he made relationships during his career that have lasted beyond his time with this team. As Lakers fans, we’re still rooting for him.