I have a 14 year-old cousin. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call him JJ. If he died today, I’m not sure what I’d do. However, I am sure of what I wouldn’t do: go to work.
Lamar Odom of the Dallas Mavericks, lost his cousin and witnessed the dying breaths of a thirteen year-old in June 2011. His reaction: not going to work. Lucky for Lamar, it was also the decision of all of his colleagues during that July Summer which saw him bury two bodies, while still grieving the infant child he lost years before. However, on a fateful Thanksgiving weekend, Lamar Odom would have to face his worst fears: an NBA season, the challenge of work.
Now, while most people would say going back to work is part of life. It’s a luxury that nearly 10% of Americans right now don’t, and wish they could, have. However, playing every night, city after city, haunted by the temptations and lures of NBA night-life, the pressures of constant on-camera appearances through a reality show, and now trying to win a championship are very different from the day–to–day grind of most American jobs. Yes, that’s why they get paid the big bucks. But, let’s not forget that athletes, like us are people. This is always a problem for the general population of sports fans. We’re the very fans who needed a reminder from one of the most successful running backs of the 2010-2011 year, Arian Foster as he encouraged people via twitter, to judge him based on the merit of his humanity, and not his fantasy draft value.
When you and I go through tragedy, we get off a week of at minimum to make arrangements and grieve for our loved ones. After this time, we’re usually given the option for more time off, and eventually we return to fruit-baskets, cards, well wishes and a united front of support. All of this helps us return to our daily routines of playing mom or dad, answering emails, returning phone calls, and sending faxes. Lamar Odom was heading back into the most taxing of occupational endeavors. The NBA involves nationwide scrutiny on a daily basis. Constant tirades from Skip Bayless, Tim Tim Legler, Jalen Rose, Dan Le Betard, Dan Patrick and anyone else we deem worthy to call you a “tin-man (a player with no heart – a term commonly used for Lamar throughout his career),” not to mention the many factors at play listed earlier including celebrity appearances, a celebrity wife, a Reality TV Show, and the grueling physical task of shoot-a-rounds, practices, games, weight room, on an incessant repeat, which make the NBA the most amazing event to watch in the world.
Today, I admitted to my boss I made an error in our most recent submission. He said “don’t worry,” and “thank you.” Shaquille O’ Neal won’t comment on my “turnovers,” and Kenny Smith won’t analyze how I should be sending faxes. But maybe I’m being too soft.
My final submission for review: Lamar didn’t get a fruit basket, a card, or a united front from the LA LA Lakers office he helped win back-to-back championships. He was the 6th Man of the Year in the NBA (The 6th Man of the Year award goes to the player who when your original five are spent, and you’re in most need of a talented, smart player to play with a mostly inexperienced, untalented second-team, he is your substitute off the bench). When Lamar, like us, needed the well wishes of his organization, after being emotionally drained in July and through a lockout, they substituted their United Front, for trade rumors.
Imagine the first day back from a tormenting event. You expect support and help in your time of need. After all you have been there to help your boss close two colossal contracts in the past three years, and have won awards for your helpfulness in times of need. Upon first seeing your boss, you get a hug and find out that night from distant friends, that your organization has decided to “shop you around.” You would do what I would do, and I would do what Lamar Odom did: leave. Knowing in full well he wasn’t mentally stable to play, he made an emotional decision to leave the L.A. Lakers. I’ll admit this was his one mistake. Albeit egregious, it was a single mistake, which now has haunted him for a season, and may continue to haunt him for the rest of his professional and post-professional career.
I’m definitely not condoning this behavior. All I’ll say is I know we understand. We would’ve done the same thing, and in most ways I’m sure we commend Lamar for standing up for himself. Because what was he really saying? His statement was that before basketball, before team, before championships, he is human. With all this said, I’ll admit I was somewhat surprised by the remarks of Mark Cuban, an owner who is respected and well-known for being a “players-owner.” I was quite surprised by his open belittling of Lamar Odom. His comments which reflect him as a seventeen – time failure who was basically insubordinate throughout his Dallas tenure were inflammatory, rude and insensitive to the unique and sensitive state of Lamar Odom mentally, which has affected Lamar’s physical production as a Maverick this season. I understand that in sports, like in all jobs, the bottom line is the most important statistic, but I would hope going forward we’d be able to understand that in our jobs: we wouldn’t be mentally “in” either. He should have been let go, but the comments were unnecessary. However, I hope that readers of this blog could be the substitute for Jim Buss and Mark Cuban which Lamar appears to desperately need right now. Hopefully, we can offer a little more support on behalf of the game he’s upheld, rather than critique his inability to mask his humanity in his time of struggle.
Kyle Keenan Williams
Contributing Writer on Comedic Prose
Follow Kortney Williams on Twitter @darealkwilliams