Modern NBA fans have a much different image of Lamar Odom.
The former No. 4 overall pick has had a rather sad fall from grace, one filled with drug abuse and addiction issues. Odom is trying to turn things around and is training for a celebrity boxing match against Aaron Carter, so that’s a plus as he tries to get on the right track.
But regardless of his past issues: Odom could absolutely ball.
The New York native was one of the NBA’s fastest rising stars during his first few seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, though he made his most notable impact as a member of the crosstown rivals Los Angeles Lakers.
A 6-foot-10 point-forward, Odom’s ability to handle the ball and get to anywhere on the floor made him an intriguing offensive option. Simultaneously, he was capable of guarding multiple positions and switching, making him a key cog in the Lakers’ defense.
Odom was a less-heralded member of the Lakers’ championship teams in 2009 and 2010, but he was nonetheless one of the most important players on those squads.
As we look back at Lamar Odom’s journey with the Lakers in Episode 5 of Clutchpoints’ docuseries “The Final Ring,” we also assess where he ranks among the greatest sixth men in NBA history.
As previously mentioned, Odom’s varied skill set allowed him to stuff the stat sheet and wear multiple hats throughout his NBA career.
Odom finished his career with averages of 13.3 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He averaged a double-double in points and rebounds in the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons, and he also put up at least 5.2 assists in three separate occasions.
Moreover, Odom was a menace on the defensive end of the floor. He finished his career with 41.1 win shares, placing him in the Top 100 in that category. He also averaged better than a block and a steal per game in three different seasons.
Whether orchestrating the offense at the top of the key or switching out onto smaller and quicker guards on the perimeter, Odom was capable of impacting the game in numerous ways from the forward position.
Odom had been a starter for the majority of his career, including his first few seasons with the Lakers. However, the arrival of Pau Gasol changed matters somewhat.
Phil Jackson began deploying Odom as a sixth man in the 2008-09 season, though he still averaged nearly 30 minutes per game as a member of the second unit.
Odom was no longer required to be the second scoring option with Gasol and an emerging Andrew Bynum in the rotation. However, he still made a big impact.
The 14-year veteran averaged 11.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks per game as the Lakers returned to the NBA mountaintop in 2009. He continued playing at a high level the following season, averaging 10.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists while playing all 82 games as the Purple and Gold captured their second consecutive championship.
Odom became fully immersed in the sixth man role during the 2010-11 campaign. He averaged 14.4 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting a career-high 53.0 percent from the field, capturing the Sixth Man of the Year Award in the process.
In case Odom’s impact was not evident enough in the numbers, consider this quote from the late Kobe Bryant after Odom was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in December of 2011 (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):
“You’re talking about the Sixth Man of the Year last year,” Bryant said. “He played lights out. I don’t understand the criticism of reality shows and this, that and the other. I don’t get it. I don’t understand that. He had his best season last season, clearly wasn’t a distraction, and he played his ass off. I don’t get where that comes from.”
Lamar Odom might not have had the star power of a Kobe or a Pau; however, the Black Mamba himself understood just how valuable he was to L.A.’s championship formula.
It is hard to assess Odom’s career when it comes to ranking his place among the greatest sixth men in the game’s history.
As previously stated, Odom spent the majority of his career as a starter. He does not have the same gravitas as a John Havlicek, Manu Ginobili or Jamal Crawford, nor does he have the accolades of a Lou Williams.
Nevertheless, Odom’s willingness to come off the bench for those championship Laker teams most certainly should not go unnoticed. Kobe’s words are a testament to Lamar’s talent and capabilities as a basketball player, and he should be remembered as one of the most uniquely gifted NBA players in recent memory.