Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/20/2006 12:25:00 PM
My Sportsman: Lamar Odom
After an offseason of tragedies, Lakers forward Lamar Odom is off to one of the best starts of his eight-year career.
John W. McDonough/SI
By Arash Markazi
Sportsman. For the time being, let's focus on the second syllable of the word. It embodies what Lamar Odom became this past summer. It wasn't a transformation that the 27-year-old Lakers forward necessarily wanted to undertake, but he really had no choice. His options, much like his life this summer, seemed limited.
Odom was in New York in June when his life was turned upside down. He was back in his hometown to bury his aunt when he was slapped with the shocking revelation that he had lost his seven-month-old son Jayden in the middle of the night as he lay in his crib. Moments after laying his aunt to rest, Odom was cradling the lifeless body of his son in the hospital for hours, unwilling to put him down for the final time. A week later, while Odom was strolling through the streets of Queens, still trying to make sense of everything, he was robbed at gunpoint.
"When this kid robbed me, he shot a gun at me, and let's just say it was too close," he said. "When this happened to me, I said, 'Wow, we are so far from God as a people and as a community.' Somebody has to do something about this."
Odom took it upon himself to be that somebody, starting a religious clothing line called "Son of Man," which has paintings of religious figures and passages emblazoned on T-shirts and jeans. His hope is that the images and verses on the shirts will serve to inspire today's youth more than the Scarface and Che Guevara gear that has permeated through his old neighborhood.
"It's so crazy. When you think of rap and hip-hop, you think of young black men," he said. "Maybe if I give them something they can identify with a little bit more than the usually description of Jesus, which is far away from us. Maybe if these kids can identify with him, it will bring them a little closer."
It's the kind of words and actions that are light years from the child who tearfully admitted to smoking marijuana after violating the league's drug policy five years ago. Those days seems like a distant memory to the man these days.
"When you grow up as a man, it helps you as a player," said Odom, who's averaging nearly 20 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists for the Lakers this season. "When I went through what I went through this summer, basketball was the furthest thing from my mind. But just being here and running up and down the court with the guys, I've already seen how it's going to help me, whether it's dealing with officiating or dealing your teammates. It just so happens that we're a very young team, so I'm going to be called upon to be a leader."
Lamar Joseph Odom has made an incredible one hundred and eighty degrees turn in his life. From an L.A. Clipper, expecting to lose, to an L.A. Laker, expecting to win. First physically and now mentally. I lost a Brother this summer, so I know the pain of losing someone extremely dear to you. My hats off to Lamar Joseph Odom, this year's "Sportsman of the Year".
For all that Lamar Odom has gone thru and for all that he is doing for the troubled youth in his community, he is very much worthy of being Sportsman of the year... He is much more than that in my eyes...
I think for a man to WANT to inspire people to lead a better life is truly remarkable, I think that Lamar Odom's accomplishments transcends numbers, stats and championships. Lamar is a person that inspires people beyond sports.
i always kind of believed in Lamar - i mean he is probably one of the most talented players in the league but he never got his had straight til he was that close of even loosin the opportunity... Now he has the chance to be the rolemodel kids r lookin for when they search their identity... if a player is mentally strong you cant beat him on court - think about that!!!
Lamar Odom is not perfect. He is the most gifted and all-around player in the LA Lakers team if not the whole NBA, but he has not used his talents until lately. But he has not been playing selfishly like his teammate Kobe Bryant. He has his sins like smoking marijuana. But he has been sincere and childlike when crying over his mistakes. He has been over trying times in his life this year. But in the midst of grief, he has seen the eyes of God. And he wants to share his vision to the depressed and oppressed.
I have always been an Odom fan. Even though he had his troubles, he always came across as a humble man. Since coming back to L.A., Lamar has proven my assumptions to be correct. I cheered for him during his tour with team USA, and was excited when he was chosen to the team once again. After hearing the news about his son, I thought, why do terrible things happen to good people? I think Lamar Odom deserves the Sportsman of the Year award for actions as an athlete, and as a citizen. His recognition is long overdue.