Lamar Odom squirmed in front of the camera’s bright light, wiping his forehead as beads of sweat trickled down his face, all the while trying to listen as FSN West’s Michael Eaves began his post-game interview. Eaves opened up by saying that Bobcats coach, Larry Brown, pointed to Odom’s contribution as the difference in the game. Odom shrugged upon hearing this instance of praise and was quick to explain, “I just tried to find my way to the offensive glass and make some plays… We’re a little beaten up right now… I just used my finesse and eye-hand coordination to get to the ball.”
He basically said, “I did what I had to do.” Odom didn’t break any records against the Bobcats, nor did he achieve any career stats, but just for doing what he had to do, the Lakers got what they needed — a win.
It is often noted and discussed, by basketball analysts, beat writers, play-by-play announcers, coaches and players alike, that Odom, at 6’10”, possesses a most unique combination of basketball talent, skill and ability. He is tall and lanky, able to reach over and/or across players to snatch rebounds, block shots, deflect or steal. He’s quick, with a signature play that has him grabbing a defensive board, going coast-to-coast and scoring on a fastbreak so swiftly that his defender is left wandering 60 feet away from the field goal.
His ball handling, for a player of his stature, can compete with the Chris Pauls and Tony Parkers of the league, over whom he has a clear advantage as he can see over most everyone on the court.
As a defender, Odom’s long arms and legs can hinder any opposing player’s opportunity to inbound, score or pass. He can literally play and defend any of the five positions on the floor. He is that talented.
Odom’s skills and talents, however, are often overlooked by the superstar-craving masses drawn to the cold-blooded clutch shooter, the grinning yet dominant big man, or the powder-flinging King of Cleveland. He doesn’t lead the league in any statistical category, he’s never been an All-Star, and he’s never received any regular season awards. He does, however, have that Championship ring, an honorable achievement few professional athletes can lay claim to, and he has it despite all the naysayers who have made him the poster child for underachievers.
Lamar Odom is no underachiever. One possibly cannot hope to reach this level of professional sports by expecting little from yourself. Odom expects much from himself. He just doesn’t feel the need to measure his success based on other people’s expectations of him. His own expectations are ever present. You see it in every rebound he fights for, every play he sets up, every scream he lets out when a shot falls in. You see it when he’s on the sidelines cheering his teammates on. You saw it in last year’s playoffs when, like fellow teammate Kobe Bryant, he refused to cite injury as a source of sub-par play and just vowed to play better, play harder in the next game.
Underachievers don’t promise improvement. They meander in mediocrity.
So Odom doesn’t plan on 30-point, 20-rebound, 10 assist games every night. So he’d rather help a teammate pad their stats. In the end, when the Lakers have the win, there is always one player whose box score jumps back and forth from little production to quite impressive.
Odom just plays the game and whatever is necessary to get his team a win, he’ll do it.
Against the Bobcats, he led in scoring. Other nights, he may lead in rebounds or assists. On many occasions, his +/- is the highest of the game, despite not having a box score to show for it. But what this stat essentially indicates is that the team produces when he is on the floor; they are better when he plays. He just often doesn’t get the credit for it.
So little fan fare. So much humility. This is Lamar Odom, but you can call him X-factor.