Lamar Odom's people skills will be his legacy
Throw out any number regarding Lamar Odom's seven-year tenure with the Lakers.
Two -- that's how many championships he won. Fifteen -- that's the franchise ranking he finished in assists (1,944). Seventeen -- that's the franchise ranking he posted in points (7,092). Eleven -- that's the franchise ranking he totaled in rebounds (4,906).
But the legacy of Odom -- traded Saturday to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round draft pick and a $8.9-million trade exception -- will be not in numbers but in how he interacted with the people around him.PHOTOS: Lamar Odom through the years
He remained the team's locker-room favorite for various reasons. Odom's playful personality and his life story -- including losing his grandmother and mother at a young age and then later his 6-1/2-month-old son -- inspired others. Odom willingly fit into any role and blended well on a team full of superstars.
Sure, there were some aggravating moments. Up until last season, people wondered if he could maintain flashes of brilliance on a consistent basis. But it's no surprise teammates packed the Sheraton Gateway last spring to see Odom stand teary eyed as he accepted the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. That honor celebrated his most consistent season, averaging 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. It also epitomized his selfless approach toward life.
Odom's refusal to practice the first two days of training camp could lead some to suggest otherwise. He surely should have understood that the NBA's decision to block a trade that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Odom to the Hornets involved nothing more than business. But it hardly jibes with how he usually acted with the team.
He had plenty of well-reasoned perspective. Odom accepted a bench role beginning in 2008 because he knew a superstar-laden team needed someone willing to adapt to any role. He always wrote the names of his deceased grandmother, mother and son on his shoe before every game, reminding him that more important things remain than basketball. And even if his abrupt marriage to reality television star Khloe Kardashian two years ago elicited eye rolls, all accounts show Odom has led a more balanced and complete life because he found the one he truly loves.
So as the Lakers open media day Sunday morning, they will surely feel a void on their team. But the reasons will go beyond missing frontcourt depth and a versatile player. It'll mostly center on losing a teammate that everyone enjoyed having around.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Lamar Odom of the Lakers ends up on the Laker bench after chasing the ball in first-half action of the Lakers-Clippers game at Staples Center on March 25. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times