Post to be accompanied by this.
(Hint: I'm lazy and could only think of the Queens connection. Leave a comment for the perfect Lamar song.)
You can learn a lot about someone by how they feel about Lamar Odom. His game can be deconstructed to show that he is an ovverrated, one-handed, can't finish slacker. He is constantly criticized for not being aggressive enough (fuck you very much, Mr. Plaschke). The totality of his presence on the Lakers goes far and beyond anything as simple as his stat sheet and his below average numbers from this year. Lamar, as a player, is best described as "human." If you have read the FreeDarko Almanac's chapter on Lamar, they express how he plays the game with his life's experiences always on his shoulders. When I watch the merciless tenacity of Kobe, I am amazed. I can admire the unwavering professionalism of Fisher. But with no other player do I feel a personal attachment like Lamar.
Lamar has played the game of basketball the same way his entire life. You can imagine his graceful moves to the left (always), his long rebounds and his handle up the court would dominate players in grade school, high school and college. For him, basketball is always a game. He is not going to do what you expect, he is going to do what feels right to him. He doesn't care what your expectations of him are, because those are yours. He will do right by him, because basketball is what it is to him, and him alone. He has no lofty goals of being the greatest ever, he just wants to support his family by playing this game. He does not turn into some superhero on the court, he stays Lamar at all times. There is no extra mode, instead he stays happy. That is what people like Bill Simmons miss when they predicted Lamar would sulk on the bench in his contract season. Lamar doesn't know how to sulk when he plays basketball. He goes with the flow, only slightly moving the flow when his will is brought on. He jokes around on the bench the same way he jokes around in games the same way he jokes around on the street. His personality is what allows players like Ariza to flourish: while they will never be able to satsify Kobe, Lamar will always be there to make sure they are alright.
"hey I'm Coby Karl!"
Which brings us back to the present. I predicted that Lamar would push for a contract against Boston and Cleveland as that would be the perfect time to change the flow and reap the most benefits, with the two most important road games on national tv of the season. In the first half of the Boston game, I couldn't have been more wrong. Quick fouls sent him to the bench with no impact at all. Then it all changed.
If a basketball player could have a nemesis, Lamar's would be Kevin Garnett. They have so much in common on the court with similar games and similar high expectations when coming to the league. But while Lamar is at constant peace with himself as a player and stays the same relaxed dude at all times, Garnett is his polar opposite. For Garnett, the intensity of the game never leaves him. He is always ready to explode and takes his court persona with him everywhere during the season. He is also one of the most insecure players, despite all his accomplishments, from being the centerpiece of so many losing teams, thus making his need to trashtalk at all times on the court. Lamar talks when he plays out of happiness; Garnett out of fear and anger. (Check forum for a better analysis of what I'm talking about.) Anyway, the ass-slap was the two personalities clashing. Lamar jokingly slaps Garnett and KG gets in his face; a classic expression of two men displaying their differences. When KG went at him, he was not putting down Lamar's act, he was putting down everything about him. He was getting in the face of being passive, of having fun on the court, of passivity. KG tried to assert his way of thinking on the situation to say that he is the epitome of the alpha dog and there would be no joking with the alpha dog.
Consciously or not, Lamar got under KG's skin. He insulted the alpha dog, but did not step down at all. He stayed in his face and talked shit back. (BTW, Lamar should be mic'd up for all games at all times.) The man is peaceful, but is not a pacifist. He cannot match KG's intensity, so he must use other tricks. His slap was a mindgame for KG where Lamar clearly showed that he will not sacrifice his soul for this game the way KG had. KG's mind could not handle the completeness of Lamar's cool during this game. You can see it on his way back down the court, as he brushes his butt and adjusts his shorts, as if Lamar's hand was still there, taunting him.
“Basketball is a humiliating sport, it can humble you right in the middle of the game,” Odom said. “But tonight I just left all that behind.” This statement by Lamar to KG ran through his play the rest of the game and into the Cleveland game. But he stayed himself. Making those two ft's in overtime in Boston further cemented his new outlook. He played confident that he could challenge the flow of the game and overcome it. But he never lost his personality. After the game, he said he game a prayer for his mother before sinking the ft's. Lamar never leaves his life from the game.
And so we have Lamar breaking out against Cleveland, basically fulfilling all the expectations any of his fans could have wanted from him. He was in complete control, played within the game, and dominated. He gives hope to everyone who has been labeled an underachiever because of outside expectations. If Lamar can change, then maybe we can all change for the better. There is no "got it" moment where Lamar had to give up his self to achieve all this and suddenly changed. The change was subtle and part of the evolution of one's self. Lamar showed that sometimes to achieve that next level, we don't need to change who we are, but rather need to reaffirm who we always knew we were.
(note: there has been no editing or rereading of this post. )