For those unaware of the situation, on Oct. 13, former NBA player Lamar Odom was discovered unconscious at the Love Ranch, a brothel located in Crystal, Nevada. Reports from the nearby Sunrise Hospital claimed that “virtually every drug imaginable” was found in Odom’s system and that he appeared to have suffered an “ischemic stroke”. Odom married Khloe Kardashian in 2009 and has made several appearances on the E! network reality show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and even got his own spin off entitled “Khloe & Lamar”. Naturally E! news and TMZ picked up on the event, turning this unfortunate incident into a spectacle. In their eyes, this was the perfect story: troubled ex-NBA player turned reality star who is estranged from his celebrity wife goes to what might be America’s most famous brothel as it has been featured on HBO show and proceeds to pass out and go on life support due to “every drug imaginable” being in his system. Of course E Online’s headline on Oct. 15 read “EXCLUSIVE: Lamar Odom squeezes Kim Kardashian’s hand.”
Unfortunately, initial TV news coverage (at least where I’m from) was sensationalist and negative. This was a “celebrity disaster!” Buzz words like drugs, prostitutes and Kardashian were uttered time and time again. Some did cite his accomplishments on the basketball court; Lamar was a two time NBA champion with the Lakers, a Sixth Man of the year winner and a member of the NBA All-Rookie First Team. It seemed as if there were no depth to Lamar’s character, his moral fiber as a person. There was tremendous potential in the media for his life to be glossed over and boiled down to what happened on Oct. 13. Luckily these sensationalist accounts did not make up the entirety of the story.
Immediately, support poured out from across the NBA. Everyone from superstars to coaches to the most obscure players, past and present, teammates and strangers, hoped, wished and prayed for Lamar’s best. According to a blog from MySanAntonio.com’s Jeff McDonald, Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich, one of the best NBA coaches of all time and one of the most respected men in the league, stated, “I don’t concentrate on what kind of player he is. I feel all the other things, because I know him as a person. Warm-hearted. Good-humored. Wonderful guy to be around. Who cares about how he played? It’s about who you are and he was a good person.” This sentiment poured out from around the league and throughout the entirety of the digital world as well. Fans, non-fans, entire online communities even all have been wishing Odom their best.
What the sensationalizing media failed to present was this sentiment along with Odom’s past. Lamar grew up in South Jamaica, Queens. An article from last Thursday’s Sports Illustrated provided more thoughtful, compassionate insight into Odom and the situation at hand. His father was a heroin addict and his mother, who died of colon cancer when he was twelve, told him at her deathbed, “Be nice to everybody.” His grandmother, who raised him from that point on, died in 2003 and three years later to the day, his 6-month-old son died of SIDS. TMZ, E! News and other local outlets painted a shallow portrait and an inaccurate caricature of who Lamar Odom was. But it isn’t about exploiting and milking the tragedy for all it’s worth either. Sure there are articles revealing details about the night, who was there, who saved him, what exactly happened to his body from a medical perspective. But none of these things really matter. Luckily through the tremendous warmth spread throughout the sports world and other media outlets, Lamar’s character was revealed and the focus became not how many drugs he was on, why he was at a brothel, the other mistakes he has made in the past or the fact that the Kardashians were involved. Instead, it became a celebration of who Lamar Odom is and a hope for his recovery.