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NBA AM: League Rallies Around Lamar Odom

As Lamar Odom fights for his life, the NBA community is rallying around him and showing their support.

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League Rallies Around Hospitalized Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is currently facing the toughest battle of his life. The two-time NBA champion remains hospitalized in Las Vegas, and the reports on his status are not encouraging.

He was found unconscious on Tuesday afternoon and reports later revealed that he had multiple drugs in his system upon arrival to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. He was said to have suffered brain damage and at least one stroke stemming from events over the weekend at a Nevada brothel.

Although updates on his health have been scarce in the days since, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN in Los Angeles offered some positive news regarding Odom on Wednesday night.

“Lamar Odom is ‘not out of the woods’ yet, but sources indicate he’s made some small improvements today,” Shelburne said. “He remains intubated though.”

Since the news broke that Odom was hospitalized, the internet has been engulfed in conversations about Odom. The NBA community has rallied behind Odom and his family during this time of uncertainty.

Several players from the past and present have expressed their support for Odom. Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter, Allen Iverson, Pau Gasol, Willie Green, Tony Allen and Jamal Crawford among many others have offered up their prayers for Odom and his family. Miami HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra and New York Knicks head coach Derek Fisher have done the same.

“Lamar’s a beautiful person,” Spoelstra said. “It seems strange; it feels like he played for us for an entire career and it was only for a year. I think it’s time for the entire NBA family to give back and give our thoughts and prayers, and kind of positive group-think to him right now.

“He’s one of the most giving and sharing human beings that I’ve ever been around in my life. Any time any of us had ever been around him – I’m sure so many people have the same type of stories – you always feel better when you leave a conversation or an interaction with Lamar.”

Many people from around the league have offered words of encouragement for Odom, but perhaps the biggest gesture of support happened when Kobe Bryant reportedly left the Los Angeles Lakers’ preseason game early on Tuesday night in order to be by Odom’s side in the hospital. Bryant was joined by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, and they even delayed the team’s flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles by two hours so they could visit Odom.

Those that have spoken out in support of Odom have all had a similar message: that he is a truly great human being, despite all of the grief and pain that he’s dealt with during his life. Media members that have had the chance to cover him have all echoed those statements. Fans have recalled their favorite memories of Odom, from his dazzling behind-the-back passes to his clutch shooting.

Lamar’s tough life has been well documented to this point. His father was a heroin addict, and his mother died of colon cancer when he was 12 years old. He was left to be raised by his grandmother, who passed away 11 years later when he was 23 years old. Within years of his grandmother’s passing, his infant son passed away from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. He also experienced the death of his cousin, a motorcyclist who was hit by an SUV in which he was a passenger and, most recently, his best friend.

“Death always seems to be around me,” Odom infamously told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “I’ve been burying people for a long time.”

It seems almost impossible to endure that much tragedy in one lifetime. This difficult journey has caused Odom to struggle, particularly in recent months. The culmination of those struggles and demons seemed to be reached earlier this week. Somehow, through all of the tragedy that has filled his life, Odom was still able to be a genuine, kind person. Odom left his mark on the NBA, but more importantly he impacted many lives.

Odom played in the NBA for 14 seasons and was a part of the Lakers’ championship teams in 2009 and 2010. He was the Sixth Man of the Year in 2011 and also won a Gold Medal with Team USA in 2010. Many have labeled him as one of the best players to never be named to an All-Star team. He touched a lot of people during his time in the league, as evidenced by all of the teammates who are now speaking out and saying nothing but positive things.

“Lamar Odom was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known,” said Fisher, who played with Odom on the Lakers. “That’s the way I see him. I don’t see him through the prism of choices he has made. I view him through the heart and soul of the person he really is. I’m obviously hoping he can pull through this, [and] in some fortunate way, this becomes the beginning of a different ending.

“Everyone’s happiness and well-being was always more important to him. [It says a lot] that he was always willing to sacrifice his own opportunities, minutes, shots. At times, he sacrificed other things in life to do for everyone else. Sometimes it left him in last place. That’s the type of person he is.”

“We’re rooting for him,’’ said Sasha Vujacic, who played six seasons with Odom. “I think he will win this battle. He’s a guy with a heart of gold. Right now, he’s fighting the battle of his life and we should be all cheering for him.’’

While most recognize Odom as an NBA player, some only know him as a reality television star. As a result, he’s appeared on the homepage of many entertainment websites and other blog sites that have nothing to do with sports. He’s lived in that spotlight ever since he married Khloe Kardashian. But it’s been those same websites that have turned his situation into an attempt to obtain attention. They have sensationalized his story in an attempt to gain page views. They’ve written catchy headlines to lure people into reading juicy gossip rather than treating this as the tragedy it is.

Odom made a name for himself for being a great basketball player, and an even better teammate. He’s been through his share of adversity over the years, dealing with more loss than many can say they’ve experienced. As a result, he has unfortunately struggled to keep his life on track.

At a time like this, he deserves support and prayers. As Vujacic points out, everyone should be cheering for him. He’s earned that right. He doesn’t deserve to have his name dragged through the mud in an attempt to create a juicy story. Now, more than ever, he doesn’t deserve name-calling or hurtful comments.

“You never know what a guy is going through,” former teammate Dwyane Wade said. “We all think we know. No one knows what individuals are dealing with, especially someone who is deemed as successful and had the whole everything in the world, you think that their life is perfect. But he’s not a person who put their burden on you.”

SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt recently summed it up perfectly: “His name is Lamar Odom, and we knew it long before he got married on a TV show that we don’t watch.”

PODCAST: Preseason Observations, Veterans Nearing Retirement, More

If you missed it earlier this week, check out the latest episode of Basketball Insiders podcast featuring our own Alex Kennedy and Jessica Camerato. They discuss a number of their preseason observations, some veterans who are nearing retirement and much more. Listen here:

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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