Fame is intoxicating to the many who pursue it and can't imagine life without it. Fame bestows superhuman power to those who own it, knowing they can get the best seat in a busy restaurant, cut any line without a fuss and always, always force total strangers to gasp and point and treat the famous person better than they would a best friend.
Fame can convince a fading former child star to turn stripper and twerk on national TV and find a creative way to use a foam finger. And fame can tell a professional basketball player, who already had a small measure of it, that he needed love and something more and therefore should marry into the First Family Of Fame, a group of pretty people who are famous for, well, being famous.
Now we are left to wonder if fame played any role in driving Lamar Odom into a dark and troubled world, or if he's just sneakily trying to push Miley Cyrus off center stage. Is the latest from Lamar a publicity stunt designed to sell more supermarket tabloids or is it a cry for help? Either way, it's a bad move for Odom and will not revive a crumbling basketball career.
Depending on whom you ask and or believe -- has TMZ ever been wrong about these things? --Odom just resurfaced recently after being on the lam and zonked out of his mind on drugs. It's really hard to say for sure when you're trying to keep up with the Kardashians, hard to tell where reality ends and reality TV begins. This is what Odom signed up for when he married Khloe, even though she's considered the most grounded of the Kardashian gang.
"Lamar Odom - The NBA Drug Trail," blared one headline.
"Khloe Kardashian And Lamar Odom - SEPARATED," claimed another.
These "developments" involving Odom were enough to cause a concerned Magic Johnson to wonder, through Twitter, whether Odom was safe and sound. Former teammates did the same, just not through social media. The still-developing drama, be it truth or fable, is being consumed in heavy doses by the Hollywood press while a segment of the sports world is busy tsk-tsking and saying "told-you-so."
When your life is being dissected more by Inside Edition and the National Enquirer and TMZ than Sports Illustrated (and, OK, Sports on Earth) then something is amiss. Life is not normal. Maybe this is what Odom wanted, something the NBA by itself could not give him, but it's a level of attention he knew would eventually intrude too deeply into his life and reveal parts of it that he'd rather keep on the low.
Odom has always been smart and affable and considered a stand-up guy, and also a bit… different. He admitted in the past to smoking reefer (Odom has violated the NBA's anti-drug policy twice, although the nature of his drug wasn't revealed). A part of him was destroyed forever when his infant son died unexpectedly. He played for the Clippers before Chris Paul (the first time), and the Heat before the Big Three, and the Lakers immediately after Shaquille O'Neal left, the trifecta of being in the right-place, wrong-time. Then he scored a pair of championship rings with the Lakers by carving out a sixth-man niche for himself and marrying into the FFOF in the midst of it all.
Odom in his prime was no Kris Humphries. Odom was a player highly regarded by his teammates, most of his coaches and considered a solid and helpful player in international competition. At his best, Odom could pass for a (very) poor man's Magic Johnson, a 6-10 swingman who could shoot with range, use his length to defend and rebound in traffic, run the floor and handle the ball well enough to create plenty of mismatches in his favor. Odom was never a true star but a very useful role player, certainly one of the best, and an ideal fit in Phil Jackson's triangle offense.
Then things started to go a little hazy for Odom. He flipped out when the Lakers sent him to the Mavericks. Odom barely gave an effort in Dallas and was called out by owner Mark Cuban. Back to the Clippers he went, although Odom simply wasn't the same level of player last season, and played only 20 minutes a night, and wasn't re-signed this summer when he became a free agent.
At 33 he is not considered old, just not in demand. More than a few teams were turned off by Odom's disappearing act in Dallas and also saw Odom shoot 37 percent the last two years and look rather lethargic. With his basketball life all but kaput, at least in the NBA, Odom has had a few weird incidents. Two months ago he was videotaped getting out of his car in heavy LA traffic to confront the paparazzi, throwing camera equipment into the street. And now, hot off the tabloid press, comes tales of Odom dealing with marriage strife, Odom going AWOL, Odom on a drug binge, Odom seeking treatment, Odom basically losing his grip on life.
Maybe it's all true. Maybe it's only half-true. Or maybe Star magazine needs a cover story this week and the fix is in. Who really knows for sure?
The only question now is whether anyone cares (probably not, because fame does run its course after a while) and also if anyone in the NBA believes Odom's skills, or what's left of them, are worth any potential off-court drama.
"Khloe effectively declared separation when she threw Lamar out of the house … Lamar has had a crack addiction problem for at least 2 years, and Khloe simply couldn't take it anymore."
That's according to TMZ, hot on the case.
And you had to know that, sooner or later, Odom would go full-time from the sports pages to the gossip rags.
It isn't often a two-time NBA champion and former Sixth Man winner winds up on the street in a drug haze, and that's why this is news. Sort of. Kind of. There's no way of telling anymore, not in this celebrity-fueled society, where the truth can sometimes get lost in the process.
In about six weeks, NBA training camps will open, Derrick Rose will return to action, LeBron will defend his title and a restless Kobe at some point will bite off his repaired Achilles and play with one foot. It's another way of saying when the NBA officially opens for business again, nobody will rubberneck at the Odom accident anymore.
Because there is one thing Odom is about to discover about this sort of fame: It can't buy a 16th minute.