As an NBA chaplain I spoke to Lamar Odom several times. I always found him to be a very nice man who took time for his fans. He is approachable, kind, and gentle, always with a smile on his face and full of laughter. So I was surprised to hear of his activity near Las Vegas and the price he is paying for poor choices. The 14-year veteran was rushed to Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas on October 13 after being found unconscious at a legal brothel. The two-time NBA champion had spent several days on “herbal Viagra,” the subject of warnings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. He allegedly used cocaine along with the drug, leading to a medically induced coma. After a few days, his conditioned improved, for which we are all grateful. From the story of Lamar Odom we can learn some valuable lessons.
1. Lamar Odom is just like a man in the Bible. Perhaps the most famous man in the Bible who remained nameless was the prodigal son. Like the prodigal, Lamar Odom had it all: fame, fortune, and fans. But like the prodigal son, Lamar wasted his money in “riotous living.” And like the prodigal, it cost him dearly. We pray the second half of his story mirrors that of the prodigal, who “came to his senses” and returned to the father. If Lamar does this, he will find a Father who loves to receive his children back, with open arms of forgiveness and restoration.
2. Recovery cannot be done alone. Lamar Odom is blessed to have some pretty famous people in his corner. At his bedside have been Khloe Kardashian, his estranged wife, and Kobe Bryant, one of his closest friends. But dozens of other teammates, family members, and friends have stood with him as well. And if he continues to recover physically and seeks recovery from his bout with drugs, he will learn this long and winding road cannot be successfully travelled alone. Odom clearly has a problem, apparently tied to one or more addictions. The first step of recovery is admitting the problem and one’s inability to handle it himself. When Lamar Odom comes to that place, assuming he recovers physically, he will be on the road to sanity and true recovery. But it is a road that can only be successfully navigated with the help of God and others who are familiar with the terrain.
NBA players are like everyone else, just taller. Most are broke by age 30. Their fame has driven them into a necessary isolation. They have hundreds of friends, yet very few. Fortunately for Lamar Odom, he is getting help, and he is not alone. But true recovery is still in front of him. As with the prodigal son, some difficult decisions will have to be made. But by God’s grace, this story can still have a magnificent ending.