Lamar Odom's Rise And Fall: Where Will He Go From Here?

by Nigel Gordon

Remember when Lamar Odom was a really good NBA player? Remember when he was a beloved, respected teammate who won a championship under Phil Jackson? Those days seem like an eternity ago, especially since the New York Knicks officially waived Odom earlier this week.

The team cut Odom nearly three months to the day he signed (April 16). We never saw Odom take the court for the Knicks, so the only proof we have that it actually happened was an Instagram picture that Odom snapped just a few weeks ago.

Even some die-hard New York fans were oblivious to this, probably because they rolled their eyes at the thought of signing this perennial headache to their team.

When did it all go wrong? When did Odom go from Sixth Man of the Year, to social and NBA outcast?

Second Championship

In April of 2011, Odom was riding high. He and his team were doing great and the NBA named him the Sixth Man of the Year. He was the first Los Angeles Laker ever to win the Sixth Man of the Year Award.

In 2009, Odom won his first title with the Los Angeles Lakers. The next year, in 2010, he won his second championship, alongside Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant.

Things seemed to be going fantastically for Lamar, as he was finally bridging the gap from "underrated" to "solid role player" on a championship team. All of this was happening in the sunny skies of Southern California, where his wife and family also resided.

Everything seemed to be falling into place nicely for Odom, all until the announcement of a stunning trade.

The Trade That Never Was

In December of 2011, every reputable media outlet confirmed an agreed-upon, three-way trade. Chris Paul was coming to the Los Angeles Lakers and they didn’t even (at the time) have to trade prized young center, Andrew Bynum.

A core of Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum was sure to yield yet another banner for the purple and gold.

The Rockets would receive Pau Gasol and the last team in the deal was the New Orleans Hornets, which would receive four players, one of whom would be Lamar Odom.

This deal sent shockwaves throughout the league. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the NBA nixed the deal, leaving everyone scratching their heads.

Chris Paul returned to New Orleans and the Lakers faced the awkward task of welcoming home two players (Odom and Gasol). Gasol ended up staying with the Lakers for an additional three seasons and became a fan favorite, before leaving for the Chicago Bulls this offseason.

Things would not go as smoothly for Odom. Hurt, crushed and devastated that he was pushed out of town, he demanded a trade. He no longer wanted to be on a team that clearly did not want him. Later in that week, Odom got his wish.

The Dallas Experiment

On December 11, 2011, the Lakers traded Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a first-round pick and a trade exception, worth almost $9 million. This was regarded as a fresh start for Odom; he could join a championship contender in Dallas and once again prove his worth in the NBA.

Up until this point, Odom had done no wrong. He helped a legendary franchise to win two titles and won the Sixth Man of the Year Award. The Lakers just happened to see an opportunity to get Chris Paul and they made a business decision. Unfortunately, without Chris Paul, they were left with a disgruntled Odom.

Lamar and his wife, Khloe Kardashian, packed their bags and moved to Dallas, bringing along their reality show, “Khloe and Lamar.” Right off the bat, you could see Odom’s heart was just not in it. He struggled to get into shape and was a non-factor for the competitive Dallas Mavericks.

Less than three months later, Odom was assigned to play for the Dallas D-League affiliate, the Texas Legends. This move was later cancelled, but one thing was clear: The Mavericks were pretty much fed up with Odom. He had shown little promise and was not playing very many minutes with the team.

A month later, the Mavericks announced that, rather than cutting him, they were simply “parting ways” with Odom. Translation: We are still going to pay you, but please get away from our team.

In late June, after the season ended, Odom was done with the Mavericks for good. It was said that Odom and Mavs Owner Mark Cuban had a heated exchange in April and it was the “last straw.” Odom’s days in Dallas were numbered.

Back To The Clippers

In late June of 2012, Lamar Odom was given a gift: He was traded back to the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Clippers. He was also returning to Los Angeles for the third time, which made him and his family ecstatic.

Odom actually did a great job of staying in prime conditioning for the 2012-2013 season. He played in all 82 games and the Clippers had a great season, winning their first ever division title. Odom didn’t play outstandingly, but things appeared to be looking up. However, the run was short-lived.

The Clippers were bounced from the playoffs and Odom was once again a free agent. This was essentially where Odom’s professional days would end.

Missing In Action

In August of 2013, something fishy was going on: It was reported that Lamar Odom was legitimately missing for a solid three-day stretch. Rumors swirled that Odom had been using drugs and was hiding out from the general public.

Even worse, he reportedly did not think he had a problem and was not answering his phone, so no one really knew his whereabouts.

A few days later, he was found in a hotel in Los Angeles and his family and friends ordered him to seek help. Sadly, the roller coaster kept charging downhill for Odom.

A Bad Rap

On November 22, 2013, TMZ obtained a video of Lamar Odom and his close childhood friend, Jamie Sangouthai, freestyle rapping in a bizarre, incoherent and seemingly drug-riddled rant.

In this three-minute freestyle, Odom hits on two popular topics among rappers: drugs and money. However, he also rapped about cheating on his wife, Khloe Kardashian.

This appeared to be the last straw. With a bad drug problem and no signs of getting help, it appeared Odom’s playing career and marriage were both over.

Spain Adventures

In February of 2014, Odom signed a two-month contract to play professional basketball for the Laboral Kutxa of the Spanish ACB League. This was seen as yet another fresh start for Odom. He would be able to get away from the local media, and focus on what was really important to him: playing basketball.

However, this dream was extremely short-lived. A month later, Odom suffered a back injury. He played in only two games and was deemed unfit to play. Odom’s run in Spain was over, again, in disappointing fashion.

Divorce And One More Chance

In March of 2014, it was reported that Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian had officially called for a divorce. Now Odom can go back to his glory days and things will return to normal, right? Well, almost.

Phil Jackson signed on as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks. Jackson had a strong bond with Odom back in Los Angeles and they still kept in touch when The Zen Master returned to New York. Jackson had a series of meetings and discussions with Odom. It appeared Lamar was ready to make his way back to the NBA, by way of the New York Knicks.

Well, Phil Jackson gave Odom that chance. In April 2014, the Knicks signed Lamar Odom, on the last day of the regular season. It was seen as one last shot for Odom to be a veteran and reconnect with his old boss.

You would think that this was the right situation for Odom; he could return home to New York and right all of the wrongs from his past.

Unfortunately, this story does not have a fairytale ending. On July 11, 2014, the Knicks released Odom. The team decided to keep Cole Aldrich, instead. This was a predictable move, as Aldrich actually helped the Knicks last year.

Uncertain Future

So, where does this leave Lamar Odom? He is a single man and a free agent at 34 years old. That age is not exactly considered “ancient,” but the miles and baggage on Odom might seem too great and vast for another team to take a chance on him.

Fifteen years after the Clippers drafted Odom, he is officially in no man's land. It is hard to imagine an NBA team taking a chance on him now, given his track record. Despite his on-court woes, we can still hope for one thing: He gets his life together.

Sports are temporary; the shelf life for a professional athlete is very short. Let’s just hope that Lamar Odom can get it together so that the rest of his life can be less turbulent and filled with more positives. It’s no longer about basketball; we would all love to see Lamar Odom rebound from this and be happy once again.

Photo credit: Getty Images