Any reporter knows the first few weeks on the job can be eventful. As a newbie reporter at Newsday back in 1997, one of my first “real reporter” moments came when my editor told me to tag along with a veteran reporter checking up on a story about a Queens basketball blue-chipper, who got caught up in an undercover prostitution ring while on a recruiting trip to UNLV.
His dad was a heroin addict and his mom passed from colon cancer when he was 12. All he had was his grandmother Mildred, who lived in a house in South Side Jamaica, Queens—the traditional crime and drug capital of the Q-borough. We secured the address and headed over there to speak with him. I was hyped because I felt like I had finally made the big-time and could help break a story.
When we entered the house, the lighting was dim and there was this long, lanky kid sitting on a tattered coach with the old school plastic covering, kind of sinking into the center like he was sitting in quick sand. He had on some baggy sweats and kicks the size of duffle bags.
It was rising star Lamar Odom, another descendant of the rich history of college and pro players to come out of New York’s Catholic High Schools. It was bugged, because the 1997 Parade Magazine Player of the Year thought we were there to get a basketball scoop from a future NBA star.
The social media suffocation hadn’t hit yet, so LO assumed the NY papers hadn’t gotten wind of his little slip up.
The Vet reporter I was with (who now works for ESPN radio 103.3 FM and covers The Dallas Mavericks) dropped it on LO real-live, bulldog journalist style.
I’ll never forget the look on the young L.O.’s bewildered baby-face when asked about his Sin City-indulgences. His eyes were bigger than baseballs and looking shook, he asked, “How’d you find out about that?” The reporter replied, “it’s something called a police report Lamar.”
Odom didn’t want to kick it, but we convinced him to give a quote and that it would be in his best interests to let us spin the story before the wolves (competing papers, tabloid media) get to it.
Odom made a wild decision that weekend in Vegas, and it didn’t fit what you’d think his M.O. would be. A 6-10 future NBA baller buying tail on a recruiting visit? It didn't add up.
It’s perplexing like the recent reports that LO’s been smoking crack for the past few years and even did a stint in rehab. If they are true, it’s beyond sad.
Here’s a cat that survived every stereotype known to ghetto youth and became an NBA champion, while marrying into the social media dynasty. Appearances with wife, Khloe on highly-viewed reality shows heightened his celebrity.
Beyond basketball, he had re-established a relationship with his dad and expressed that in Khloe and the Kardashians, he found the family he never had. Then this stinking bombshell drops. Why is he smoking crack anyway? Who does that anymore? And how much of Odom’s $32.8 million contract has he spent on rock during the past four years? No wonder he only averaged 4.0 points per game last season with Lob City.
Now, it’s being reported that Khloe gave son the boot and he’s been MIA for 72 hours. LO needs to get a grip and get it together. For the kids with Odom screen savers and the Queens shorties pounding balls on the broken concrete, in the back streets where ratchet behavior lays its eggs and spreads like meningitis. But also, where a come –up like Odom’s inspires a ton of kids trying to put the shakes on poverty, to do better.
Say it ain’t so, LO.