- Muhammad Ali’s Advice To His Daughters
Channel :- Rosy Minin Memorial Channel°1
Published On :- 2016-June-8th
I am Ali
What we have to look forward to
By: Chris Korman
June 3, 2015
Hours after finding out his father had been shot twice in the head and killed on the other side of the world, Steve Kerr sat on the bed in his dorm room at the University of Arizona and received teammates who came to offer condolences.
Lute Olson, the first-year coach who’d been desperate enough to give Kerr a spot on his team, sat there with him.
What most of Kerr’s old teammates remember is that he did not have much to say.
He had, upon hearing the news via phone from a family friend, gone running into the streets aimlessly.
He was calmer now.
It was the middle of the night. The players were bewildered. Their coaches had knocked loudly, pushing them from slumber toward a room where an 18-year-old boy they were just getting to know was dealing with the loss of his father far away from family; one brother was in Cairo, another remained in Lebanon with their mother and his sister was in Taiwan.
Malcolm Kerr, a devoted academic not even 18 months into his dream job as the president of the American University in Beirut, built his life around bridging the divide between Christians, Muslims, and Jews when, for most Americans, those matters were abstract and distant.
They weighed heavily on President Ronald Reagan, who released a statement:
“Dr. Kerr’s untimely and tragic death at the hands of these despicable assassins must strengthen our resolve not to give in to the acts of terrorists. Terrorism must not be allowed to take control of the lives, actions, or future of ourselves and our friends.”
Malcolm Kerr’s death, on Jan. 18, 1984, would become national news — a dispatch on terrorism in a land roiled by strife, another in a long scroll of warnings about how religious beliefs would lead to violence there for decades to come — but before the story spread it was a simple fact that a team of young basketball players found difficult to believe, let alone begin to comprehend.
Pete Williams, a junior college transfer who would lead the team in scoring, remembers the night as a blur.
“There was a commotion, so much commotion, but I don’t remember much beyond that other than how shocked we were, how unreal it all felt,” he said. “We didn’t think about terrorism then. Ever.”
Even Kerr, who was born in Lebanon and had witnessed the civil war tearing the country apart, would later say he never imagined this sort of thing could happen to his family.
Players lingered on the balcony outside – the building was once a hotel – and stared out into the night, unsure of what to say or how to help their teammate move forward.
Kerr didn’t fly to Beirut for services after his father’s death.
Instead, he attended practice and played against Arizona State. He hit 5-of-7 shots in a 71-49 win. It was Kerr’s best game of his freshman season.
The Wildcats would win eight of their final 14 games to finish 11-17. Arizona hasn’t had a losing record since.
“A bunch of us gave him a nickname, and I don’t really know if it’s out there much,” said Brock Brunkhorst a guard on the team. “We called him Ice. Because that’s just how he was.”
Four years later, when Arizona State fans chanted derogatory comments about his father, he hit six 3-pointers in the first half.
“He was just so [expletive] angry,” said Bruce Fraser, one of his best friends on the team and a current assistant with Golden State. “But that was Steve. He could turn it toward the court and win.”
By then Kerr had become an unlikely force in hauling Arizona from the bottom of Division I basketball to the Final Four, paving the path for Olson’s historic run.
Yet his teammates couldn’t imagine what was next.
Kerr’s 15-year NBA career, his five rings, the winning shot off a feed from Michael Jordan in the decisive game six of the 1997 finals, the career 45.4 percent shooting from 3-point, still the best in association history, none of that seemed remotely possible for the guard who’d used guile and a fierce competitive streak to fashion himself into a solid college player.
What they could have imagined, though, is Kerr as a head coach molding a talented team into a great one capable of playing for a championship. Kerr’s Golden State Warriors will do just that starting Thursday, when they face LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
He thought about the game at a high level and cared deeply about learning how to make disparate pieces come together. Coaching was his dream, too, he confided to teammates, though he figured he’d have to work his way through the college ranks after school.
But this is Kerr’s first season as a head coach, after two stints as a television analyst and one as the general manager of the Phoenix Suns.
The delay had everything to do with family.
“I think all along, Steve was waiting for his kids to grow up a little bit and spread out before he got back into coaching,” Fraser said. “He knew that being an analyst or even a GM didn’t really do it for him; it didn’t get him close enough to it. He had to have more at stake to feel fulfilled. He was right all along: He was made to be a coach.
“But he was never going to do that while his kids were younger and he could be around them. He had more chances than anybody knows about, and it never swayed him.”
Two of Kerr’s three children are in college in California now; the fact that his daughter, Maddy plays volleyball at Cal was a factor in Kerr’s decision to spurn mentor Phil Jackson’s offer to coach the New York Knicks, Fraser said.
“He’s a doting father,” Fraser said. “His kids are everything to him. And I think that says a lot about how he felt about his own dad.”
Kerr has not spoken frequently about his father, though he also has periodically used the league’s bright spotlight to echo Malcolm Kerr’s call for peace and understanding, as when he opposed the invasion of Iraq following the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Last month, he reflected on his father, telling the San Jose Mercury News, “I feel his full impact on my whole life. It’s there every day.”
Kerr’s sister and mother both wrote books about dealing with Malcolm’s death, and his brother, Andrew, worked in national security and eventually uncovered details about who killed his father. Though several factions initially took credit for the murder, the family eventually traced it to Hezbollah, the Iranian-funded Islamic organization within Lebanon.
Though Kerr’s basketball career made him the most recognizable member of the family, he dealt with his grief mostly silently, as was usually his way.
Fraser believes it changed him in two ways immediately, though.
“It feels strange to say this, but I’ve thought about it for a while and I believe it,” he said. “I think the death of his father helped Steve as a basketball player, because he realized it was just basketball. He was more worldly than most of us already because of his background, but this changed his whole outlook.
With shooters, it’s all about how you respond to a missed shot. And for Steve, who is the most competitive person I know, there just wasn’t anything to get upset about anymore. The weight of a miss, the weight of a loss, the weight of a big moment … they just didn’t mean anything to him anymore.
“That, and his father’s death made him turn to the team as family. He became really vested in the players there and what Lute was trying to do.”
The Wildcats weren’t a particularly close team during Kerr’s first season. Olson was the third coach in as many years, and he’d built his first squad around two junior college transfers and a promising young guard named Michael Tait. He added Kerr – who had little interest from other Division I schools – after noticing him while scouting younger players.
Kerr’s signing at first seemed to underscore how dire things had become. He could shoot the ball but do little else. Athletically he wasn’t anywhere close to being Division I caliber, and the other players knew it. Kerr struggled in the team’s earliest pickup games, unable to keep up on offense or defense.
“I went back to my dorm room the first time we played and told my roommate, a team manager, that I couldn’t understand why this new coach would ever sign this guy,” Brunkhorst said.
Within the confines of Olson’s team-oriented system, though, Kerr began to flourish. Off the court, he gained the admiration of teammates with his self-deprecating sense of humor and relentless honesty.
“He was just a great dude, in every way,” Williams said. “You can say something good about somebody because they’re nice, but it was more than that with Steve, it went deeper. He wanted the best in you, to help you find it. And he hasn’t changed at all. That’s the amazing part.”
When Fraser rejoined Kerr with Golden State – he’d worked for him as a scout in Phoenix – he and other former Arizona players scoffed at the notion that Kerr wasn’t ready to be a head coach.
“I knew Harrison Barnes wasn’t happy with his role last year, and was thinking that he maybe should move on,” Fraser said. “So I asked him recently what happened to get him to stay.”
Kerr had flown to visit Barnes during the offseason, and the meeting went well.
“But I wasn’t sure why,” Fraser said. “Harrison just told me, ‘I asked him every difficult question I could think of, and he answered honestly. That’s all I want.’ ”
Kerr let the Warriors keep some traditions left over from former coach Mark Jackson, and even adopted some of his on-court strategy while working his own ideas – he’d been the beneficiary of the Triangle Offense in Chicago – into the mix. League MVP Steph Curry has heaped praise on Kerr for the way he’s handled the team.
Fraser and Kerr passed briefly at the team’s facility on Sunday morning, where both men were trying to keep busy as they waited for the series with the Cavaliers to begin. They had little to say to each other.
“I told him that after 30 years it had turned into a bad marriage,” Fraser said. “But at least we’re comfortable with silence.”
Fraser can’t recall ever talking to Kerr about his father’s death, or hearing him say anything beyond how much he appreciated Malcolm Kerr.
There was one way it did change their friendship, though slowly. Without stating it, they started opting for comedies instead of action movies whenever they went to the theater.
That way Kerr could sit peacefully, instead of wincing each time a gun went off on screen.
By Mackey Craven
Published On :- 2017-July-17th
True leadership springs from a deep understanding of simple but profound tenets that can be successfully applied to any team scenario, whether the team in question is setting league records or building a company. Earlier this year, at OpenView’s CEO Forum, I had the chance to speak with one of the great leaders in sports today – Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors.
Kerr’s NBA career highlights reel features an impressive series of accomplishments. As a player, he was a five-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls (three rings) and the San Antonio Spurs (two rings). To date, his record for the highest career three-point percentage (45.4%) remains unbroken. Kerr’s winning streak continued when he transitioned into coaching. In his first season as head coach he led the Warriors to win the 2015 NBA Championship, in 2016 he was named NBA Coach of the Year as the Warriors set an NBA record 73-win season, and as of this article’s publication, the Warriors won another NBA Championship (congratulations!).
I talked with Kerr about his leadership style and philosophy given the parallels between his role and that of a startup CEO. Both coach and CEO work hard to get the most out of their teams – encouraging high-performing individuals to work together to win against an incredibly challenging field of competitors. Both are working in a fast-paced environment with high stakes, big personalities and many do-or-die moments.
My conversation with Kerr surfaced a number of insights that can help CEOs of expansion-stage software companies motivate and manage their teams more effectively so they can achieve the kind of dominance the Golden State Warriors see on the court.
Kerr’s first observation about the most important leadership lessons he’s learned from his experience with the Warriors combined two, seemingly opposite ideas: seeking out mentors and being yourself. After he explained, however, the combination made complete sense.
“One of the things I did for a couple of years before I got the head coach job with the Warriors was to visit as many coaches as I could – especially the ones I admired – and really pick their brains, ” Kerr recalls. He met with legendary coaches including Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Lute Olson, Lenny Wilkens and Pete Carroll. “I was able to get an in-depth look at their teams and staffs, and they shared with me the mistakes they’d made as young coaches as well as how they got better as they went along.”
But, even as Kerr was taking in all this wisdom from all these star coaches, he realized that no one person had all the right answers. “The main theme that came across over and over again in these conversations was be yourself,” he says. “There’s no point in trying to be someone else. You can emulate somebody else, but you can’t be someone else. As soon as you start quoting Vince Lombardi, players are going to know it’s fake.”
The bottom line is that while it’s wise to seek out and learn from mentors early on, you need to develop your own, authentic and genuine leadership philosophy and style.
One of the most important pieces of advice that Kerr received while he was visiting with different mentors was to take the time to clearly define his philosophy, values and vision for the team. “One of the biggest things for me, as a coach, was the opportunity to implement the things that are most important to me and reflect my values,” Kerr explains. “Sharing those with your team and making those values part of your everyday existence in a way that comes from your heart is where you’ll find traction.”
Kerr got some great tactical tips on how to identify his values when he went to Seattle to sit in on a training camp with Pete Carroll, coach for the Seahawks. “Pete told me to take a look at my own personality and write down the ten most important values in my life,” Kerr says. “Then, he told me to take those ten values and whittle them down to four by really thinking about what would be most important to me as a coach.” Kerr came away from that exercise with four clearly defined values that he has used ever since to guide the Warriors on a daily basis:
“We are the luckiest people on earth,” Kerr says. “We play basketball for a living. People dream of that, so we never, ever want to lose sight of the fact that this has got to be fun. We make sure that’s reflected each day – we joke around, make fun of each other and include stupid videos in our strategy sessions. Our guys laugh quite a bit.”
“Winning has to matter, and to win at this level, you’d better be competitive,” Kerr says. “It’s important to keep score constantly, to always keep track of who is winning and who is losing, even in practices. But,” he adds, with a nod to the value of joy, “do it in a fun way.”
“One of the trickiest things for a pro athlete is finding the balance between over thinking and not paying attention. There’s a sweet spot where you’re dialed in, but still loose,” Kerr says. “We’re always trying to find that balance and have found that mindfulness training can help.”
“Playing in the NBA is a dream job, but it’s a difficult one, relatively speaking. Our guys aren’t digging ditches, but they do get booed and traded and cut and injured. It’s not easy,” Kerr says. “Players worry about their careers. They lose sleep when they’re not playing well. So, compassion is a big deal.”
Another big element of Kerr’s leadership style is strong relationships – real, person-to-person relationships based on compassion, trust and respect. “As soon as I’d accepted the job with the Warriors, I called each of our fifteen players and in many cases traveled to see them,” Kerr says, recalling how he even flew to Australia to visit Andrew Bogut. “I wanted to make sure that I got to know each player on a personal level – find out about their families, who they are and what makes them tick.”
Kerr had learned this technique from coaches he’d played for and admired, including Popovich and Jackson. “I knew those guys cared about me because they went out of their way to find out about my kids and my wife and what I like to do in my free time,” Kerr recalls. “And once you know that they really care about you, then when they yell at you, it’s very acceptable.”
This initial “tour” to meet his players was a great chance for Kerr to spend quality time with his team, but it was also an opportunity for him to lay the initial groundwork for his vision. “I wanted to have my message really well put together for them, both individually and team-wise,” he says. “I wanted to be able to establish what we were looking to do as a team, our goals and where I saw each player fitting in before we even got on the practice floor.”
“It’s really important,” Kerr sums up, “for people underneath you to recognize that you care about them and that they are valued.”
Of course, an important part of getting to know your team is being able to assess their strengths and weaknesses. “In basketball, you try to be the best you can be based on your talent,” Kerr explains. “In the off-season you assess your weaknesses – which player can we get to fill that hole or to really strengthen a particular position. And then you play, and figure out how good you are.”
At the same time, you need to constantly assess the competition. “Each time you play a team, you are trying to find their weak spot and how do exploit it,” Kerr says. “And, on the flip side, you are also trying to protect your own weaknesses, knowing that other teams will be coming after you in those areas. It’s a constant process of evaluating where you are against the other teams.”
While evaluating your team is an important leadership role, it’s important to approach it with humility and respect. This becomes even more important when you’re heading up a group of high-performing individuals who are already extremely talented in their own right. “I was lucky to inherit a team that was skilled and talented, and it was important to acknowledge that,” Kerr says about when he initially joined the Warriors. “When I took the job, they had already won fifty games the previous year. We needed to come in as staff saying that we knew they were already good, but that we wanted to help them take the next step. The team appreciated that we came in with some humility.” And from there, the focus was on how they could all get better together.
This approach had a far-reaching effect not only on the existing team, but also in terms of recruiting. “One of the reasons we got Kevin Durant was that he had seen our culture from afar,” Kerr says. “He saw our desire to get better and work together. And he saw the fun we were having.”
In 2016, Kerr missed the first half of the season – approximately forty games – due to a serious back injury. Despite not having their head coach on the sidelines, the Warriors had the best regular season record of all time in the NBA. While Kerr wasn’t happy about having to miss those games, his feelings are mitigated by the pride he felt in his team’s ability and performance.
“It’s almost like being a parent,” Kerr says. “You’re kids are getting older and you’re no longer telling them what to do all the time, but they’re still doing well. That’s when you know you’ve done a good job as a parent; and that’s kind of how I feel about coaching in general. I actually took a lot of pride in the fact that the team was doing so well while I was out because I recognized that the process had really performed from the previous year, and we were able to carry that over. That’s ultimately what you want.”
Getting to that point of team strength and capability takes a lot of work. “At the beginning of the season, it’s the coach’s job to lay out the vision for the team, but by the end of the season it’s the players’ team,” Kerr explains. “I might call a timeout once in awhile, or draw up a play; but most games, I just sit back and the players play. It’s their team. It’s our job to empower them and get them on the right track so they are equipped to take ownership.”
That’s kind of the end game for any leader – getting the team to take ownership of the plays. It’s the leader’s job to deliver the right vision, create the right environment, and provide the right guidance so that each team member can reach his or her highest potential. Sometimes, that takes some cheerleading, and sometimes it takes some constructive criticism. “Some people need a pat on the back, and others need a kick in the tail,” Kerr says. “I ask my staff all the time what each player needs – a confidence boost or a sharp stick.”
For the Warriors, Kerr has the team meet to watch and critique film each day for ten minutes before practice. “We go over what we are trying to accomplish as a group in a very practical way,” he adds. “The cheerleading comes in behind the scenes. If I were to constantly tell the team how great they are, it would be almost patronizing. But, it’s good for me to tell an individual player when they are doing great work. You need to be able to recognize what each person needs to hear and when they need to hear it. Each person is unique and each day is a little different.”
Life gives a few the opportunity to speak about the consternation, wrath, and burden of leadership, Steve Kerr happens to be one of those that faith places in the crosshair of leadership.
Sunday September 24th, 2017
We knew it was coming.
After Steph spoke up at media day on Friday, we figured it was just a matter of time until the president responded. Then on Saturday morning my wife, Margot, woke me up. “Here it is,” she said, and showed me Trump’s tweet. Our invitation, he wrote, “has been withdrawn” because, “going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team” and, “Stephen Curry is hesitating.”
First off, I’m pretty sure Steph wasn’t “hesitating”. He made it clear he wouldn’t go. Second, as I joked to the media Saturday, it was like the president was trying to break up with us before we broke up with him.
Regardless, it’s a shame. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet President Reagan, both Bushes, Clinton, and Obama. I didn’t agree with all of them, but it was easy to set politics aside because each possessed an inherent respect for the office, as well as the humility that comes with being a public servant in an incredible position of power, representing 300 million people. And that’s the problem now. In his tweet to Steph, Trump talked about honoring the White House but, really, isn’t it you who must honor the White House, Mr. President? And the way to do that is through compassion and dignity and being above the fray. Not causing the fray.
Would we have gone? Probably not. The truth is we all struggled with the idea of spending time with a man who has offended us with his words and actions time and again. But I can tell you one thing: it wouldn’t have been for the traditional ceremony, to shake hands and smile for cameras. Internally, we’d discussed whether it’d be possible to just go and meet as private citizens and have a serious, poignant discussion about some of the issues we’re concerned about. But he’s made it hard for any of us to actually enter the White House, because what’s going on is not normal. It’s childish stuff: belittling people and calling them names. So to expect to go in and have a civil, serious discourse? Yeah, that’s probably not going to happen.
Look, I’m a basketball coach and what I do obviously pales in comparison to what the president does. But our jobs are similar in at least one respect: If you want to be an NBA coach, you need to be prepared to be criticized. You kind of know that going in. If I coach poorly and we lose the game, I hear about it. That’s okay. It’s really where we coaches earn our money, accepting and dealing with criticism and keeping the ship moving forward. There has to be an inherent understanding when you enter into any public position of power that this is what happens. People are going to take shots at you and it’s incumbent upon you to absorb those shots. Maybe you respond diplomatically, but you maintain a level of respect and dignity. What you can’t do is just angrily lash out. Can you imagine if I lashed out at all my critics every day and belittled them? I’d lose my players, I’d embarrass ownership, I’d embarrass myself. Pretty soon I’d be out of a job. It’s a basic adult thing that you learn as you grow up: People aren’t always going to agree with you. And that’s OK.
Instead, we get Trump’s comments over the weekend about NFL players, calling them ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the anthem. Those just crushed me. Crushed me. Just think about what those players are protesting. They’re protesting excessive police violence and racial inequality. Those are really good things to fight against. And they’re doing it in a nonviolent way. Which is everything that Martin Luther King preached, right? A lot of American military members will tell you that the right to free speech is exactly what they fight for. And it’s just really, really upsetting that the leader of our country is calling for these players to be ‘fired.’
The hard part is knowing what to do now. Margot and I talked for a long time Saturday morning about what to say publicly. I’ve probably been as critical of Trump as anybody but maybe it’s time to take a different course. There’s no need to get into a war of words. It’s about trying to hang on to the values that are important to us as an organization, a country, and, really, as human beings.
The fact is we live in an amazing country, but it’s a flawed one. I consider myself unbelievably lucky to live here, so please spare me the ‘If you don’t like it you can get out’ argument. I love living here. I love my country. I just think it’s important to recognize that we as a nation are far from perfect, and it’s our responsibility to try to make it better. And one of the ways to do that is to promote awareness and understanding and acceptance. Not just acceptance but embracing our diversity, which when you get down to it is not only who we are but truly what makes us great. And it’s not happening.
Remember, the president works for us, not vice versa. We elected him. He doesn’t just work for his constituents and his base. He works for every citizen. Once you take that office, you have to do what’s best for the entire country. Sure, you’re going to have policies that align with your party, but that’s not the point. Respectfully, Mr. Trump, the point is this: You’re the president. You represent all of us. Don’t divide us.
Bring us together.
Time out, you go that way, and you go that way, and then we come back together …
Here is the clip.
And, the things we choose to work on in LIFE……
Everyone has a ministry and there are obstacles that come along to take one off Living it!
I really like this story by Lee Jenkins as it captures the personhood of Lamar Odom.
Wednesday October 14th, 2015
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the March 23, 2009 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Lamar Odom was reportedly found unconscious on Tuesday at a Nevada brothel. He’s currently being treated at a nearby hospital.
The happiest Laker is the one whose father was addicted to heroin, whose mother died of colon cancer when he was 12, who attended three high schools, had his first college scholarship revoked before the fall semester of his freshman year, became a subject of three college investigations, declared for the NBA draft, tried unsuccessfully to pull out of the draft, was picked by arguably the worst franchise in sports, violated the league’s antidrug policy twice within eight months and after finally getting his life together, went home to New York City for an aunt’s funeral and wound up burying his 6 1/2-month-old son, then getting robbed at gunpoint.
“That’s my book,” says Lamar Odom. “That’s my movie. It’s a big bowl of gumbo.”
As he ponders working titles for his life story—“This is L.A., so you never know,” he says—he is wearing a white sweat suit and driving a white Mercedes down Interstate 405 to an autograph signing in Orange County, one hand on the steering wheel and another deep inside a bag of potato chips. Every few minutes, he turns and glances at the backseat, where his 10-year-old daughter, Destiny, and 7-year-old son, Lamar Jr., are occupied with their own snacks.
“My grandmother was always upbeat, a naturally happy person,” he says, chomping on the chips. “I think I got that from her.” His grandmother was Mildred Mercer, who raised him when his parents were gone. She died on June 28, 2003, three years to the day before his baby boy.
Maybe Grandma Mildred is to thank for one of the most irrepressible personalities in the NBA, a 6’10” forward who, at 29, has been in the league for 10 seasons and famous for nearly half his life, and yet still wears his mitt when he goes to baseball games in the hope of catching a foul ball, collects pro wrestling figurines as a hobby and asks the staffer behind him on the team’s plane for permission to recline his seat because “my legs are kind of long.” More than an hour into the autograph signing in Huntington Beach, Destiny spotted a bulge in her dad’s left sneaker. “What’s that?” she asked. Odom reached into his size-16 hightop and pulled out the crumpled potato chip bag. “I didn’t know what else to do with it,” he said. Destiny smiled and shook her head.
If you were going to build a basketball player in a lab, it might look like Lamar Odom, a broad-shouldered Stretch Armstrong. He’s a point guard in a power forward’s body, long enough to anchor the post but coordinated enough to lead the break. The problem with trying to engineer another Odom is programming what he’s going to say. After his best game of this season, when he scored 28 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Cleveland in February, capping a 6–0 road trip and dealing the Cavaliers their first home loss of the season, he said in a postgame interview, “I’m ready to go home and put my feet in the sand.” A month later, as he walked barefoot down Manhattan Beach, sweatpants hiked up to his knees, view clear to Catalina Island, he cooed, “This is the Laker lifestyle.” He is an unrestricted free agent after the season and cannot fathom a move inland.
While Kobe Bryant is the king of Staples Center, Odom is a gifted and versatile court jester. “I’ve heard fans yell to him in the middle of games, ‘Nice shot!’ and he’ll turn around and say, ‘Thanks, man,’” says John Ireland, sideline reporter for Lakers telecasts on KCAL 9. Before the Dec. 25 game against the Celtics at Staples, Odom was wishing fans in the courtside seats Merry Christmas when he stopped at Adam Sandler. “Happy Hanukkah,” he said. Topics in his interviews range from his favorite TV show (MacGyver) to his favorite tourist destination (“Paris,” he says. “I can smell the wine in the air”) to his alter ego (“There’s Lamar, who’s humble, and then there’s Odom”) to his unconventional wardrobe, including a Sergeant Pepper–style ensemble that prompted coach Phil Jackson to ask Odom if he had come to the arena straight from band practice. Says point guard Derek Fisher, “He’s our new Shaquille O’Neal.”
Odom carries himself with an ease and optimism reminiscent of O’Neal and before that Magic Johnson, but he is an original. The person he calls Dad is a 47-year-old white man of no relation. He signed with UNLV in part because he stopped in a Las Vegas nightclub on his recruiting visit and saw a rap group from New York City, which he interpreted as an omen. He would wind up at Rhode Island, where in his first meeting with coach Jim Harrick he asked for a backpack. “I don’t think he’d ever had a backpack before,” Harrick says. Odom declared for the draft after one season at Rhode Island, but he had such misgivings about the move that he hatched a plan to play for the Celtics while commuting to URI to continue his class work. “It would have been groundbreaking,” he says. After it became clear that the NBA is indeed a full-time job — Odom was taken fourth by the Clippers in 1999 — he hired a tennis agent who had never represented a basketball player before. Don’t question his intuition, though. That tennis agent, Jeff Schwartz, is now one of the premier agents in the NBA, with a client list that includes Paul Pierce, Jason Kidd and Josh Howard.
Before every game the Lakers lock arms and form a circle around Odom. He is an unusual centerpiece: not their captain, not their best player, not their second best player, and when center Andrew Bynum returns from his knee injury, maybe not even their third best player. (At week’s end Odom was averaging a career-low 10.6 points and 8.0 rebounds, though his adjusted plus-minus was fourth in the league.) But when the lights dim and the decibels rise and Odom starts bouncing up and down in the middle of the circle—“We’re the best team in the NBA!” he shouts—the Lakers bounce with him.
Lakers G.M. Mitch Kupchak says Odom is the most popular player in L.A.’s locker room, but he also might be the most popular player in the locker room next door. The Los Angeles D-Fenders are the Lakers’ developmental-league affiliate; they practice in the same gym and play on the same court as the NBA players but reap few of the other benefits. “Most guys at that level don’t have time for us,” says guard Brandon Heath. “But L.O. is always telling us to come over to his house, offering to take us out to dinner. We could damn near go over there in our drawers, and he’d probably take us to buy clothes.”
The Lakers are paying Odom $14.6 million this year, and he gives a fair amount back. “I saw him signing autographs after a game and told him to hurry up and get on the bus or he’d be fined,” says Robert Lara, the Lakers’ head of security “He told me he’d take the hit. He couldn’t say no to the kids.” Odom has a hard time saying no to parents as well. “I know one boy who doesn’t even play basketball, but Lamar pays his tuition,” says Joseph Arbitello, a former teammate of Odom’s at Christ the King in Queens, N.Y., and now the coach and athletic director there. “His mother was struggling, so she called Lamar and he took care of it.”
Sharing has long been part of his game. Growing up, Odom’s idol was Magic, not Michael. He preferred to dish rather than dunk. “When we had college scouts come watch us, he wouldn’t shoot,” says Arbitello. “He wanted to make everybody else look good.” Odom’s reluctance to score drove coaches crazy but made him beloved by teammates. “Lamar is not the kind of guy who will ever say, ‘F— this, give me the ball,’” says Gary Charles, who coached Odom’s AAU team, the Long Island Panthers. “He could not score a point and be happy as heck.” Of course, players change when they get to the NBA, where salary is often proportional to scoring average. “Lamar’s a pleaser,” says his personal trainer, Robbie Davis. “He wants to throw you an alley-oop and give you a pound on the way back down.”
Odom’s you-first mentality would not seem suited to showbiz, but Hollywood is drawn to him. He has appeared on HBO’s Entourage (Johnny Drama lusts after his calf muscles) and MTV’s Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory (Odom plays one-on-one against Dyrdek, who is wearing stilts for the showdown). He has his own clothing line (Rich Soil), his own record label (Rich Soil Entertainment) and is part-owner of a restaurant called East that’s due to open this spring in Hollywood. “He surrounds himself with cutting-edge-thinking people,” says Dyrdek, who’s also an investor in the restaurant. Odom has been romantically linked to Taraji P. Henson, the Oscar-nominated actress from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. There is a long history of athletes dating actresses, but few have been of Henson’s caliber. She is 38 and the mother of a 14-year-old boy, a star rather than a starlet. “I think about her sometimes on the court, about what she’s done,” Odom said. “It makes me want to play better.”
When Odom learned before this season that he’d be coming off the bench for the first time since ninth grade—in a contract year no less—he wondered aloud if Jackson had “bumped his head.” But soon after, Odom said he would accept the diminished role, insisting it was Odom who had balked and not his better angel Lamar.
“I sometimes have to stop and remind myself how much this guy has been through and how much he’s lost,” Fisher says. “I’m sure there is anger and disappointment inside of him, but to have his spirit, to have his approach to everyday life, I don’t know how he does it.”
He may have inherited his good nature from Grandma Mildred, but he gets his perspective from personal experience. He sat at his mother’s bedside as she took her final breath. He held his son’s body for three hours after young Jayden succumbed to sudden infant death syndrome. Odom was kicked out of UNLV before he’d played a single game—a graduate assistant knocked on his door and informed him that he was being released from his scholarship because his ACT score had come into question. He was admitted to Rhode Island only as “a nonmatriculating student” and was not allowed to play so much as intramural basketball. He wept at a press conference with the Clippers after the league had suspended him a second time for smoking marijuana. “People used to call me Little Lloyd,” Odom says, referring to Lloyd Daniels, a fun-loving, ball handling big man from the New York City playgrounds who went to UNLV, was arrested for buying cocaine and later was shot three times in a drug dispute. Daniels survived and kept playing basketball, but his name is synonymous with talent wasted.
Odom’s name, on the other hand, is synonymous with talent salvaged. In the past five years he has overhauled his reputation, proving that he is not the slacker who left Christ the King because of poor grades (“stupid, stupid, stupid,” he says) or the mercenary who took $5,600 from a UNLV booster, landing the school on probation after he left, or the enigma who would take off from Rhode Island’s campus for days at a time, turning off his phone and checking into a hotel to find a little solitude. After signing a six-year, $65 million free-agent deal with the Heat in 2003, he started an AAU basketball program called Team Odom, so that the next generation of prodigies might receive better guidance than he did. He also renovated the family’s row house in Queens where he grew up and added a studio apartment where he can stay when he’s in town. He even apologized recently to his coach with the Clippers, Alvin Gentry, believing he was somehow responsible for Gentry’s firing in 2003.
“Lamar came to see me a few years ago, and he told me he was lucky he survived,” says Bob Oliva, Odom’s coach at Christ the King. “I told him his mother must have been looking down on him from heaven.”
To an outsider, it may seem that Odom hides his grief beneath a veil of humor, but in fact he confronts it first thing every morning. Besides the traditional memorials—tattoos of family members and names scrawled on sneakers — his bedroom in Manhattan Beach is filled with photographs of his mom, Cathy Mercer, and of Jayden. Odom does not like cemeteries, but he loves pictures. “I look at them right when I wake up,” he says. “That’s when I like to reflect on things.” When Mercer died, Odom ran to the basketball court at Lincoln Park in Queens and shot jumpers all night. But when Jayden died, Odom recognized that he would need more than blacktop to heal. He spent two years seeing William Parham, a psychologist from UCLA, and after sessions he would walk out and tell the Lakers’ trainers, “I feel like I just went to the bathroom.” He meant it in the most therapeutic way.
Odom has reconnected with his father, Joe, who is now drug-free, but he remains closer to another man he calls his dad. Jerry DeGregorio coached Odom in high school (at St. Thomas Aquinas Prep), college (as an assistant at URI) and the NBA (as a front-office staffer with the Clippers) but taught him more about family and faith. DeGregorio is the godfather to Destiny and Lamar Jr., and he sits with them in the first row behind the basket at Staples Center. (The kids live about 20 minutes from Lamar with their mother, Liza Morales, who was also Jayden’s mom.) Odom winks at them during timeouts and rolls his eyes at them if he misses a free throw. When Odom and DeGregorio are together, they hold hands and pray for wisdom, protection, guidance and peace. When they are apart, they pray over the phone. “Lamar has lived two lives, one full of blessings and one full of tragedies,” says DeGregorio. “Everything bad about amateur basketball happened to him—street agents, sneaker companies, college boosters. How many people go through that grinder and come out the other side?”
How Odom’s odyssey affects his game, and in turn the Lakers’ chance to win the championship this season, is something Phil Jackson is still figuring out. Every player has swings in his stat line, but Odom can score 23 points in a game, as he did on Feb. 26 against the Suns, and then score four, as he did in Phoenix three days later. “Most of it with Lamar is internal,” Jackson says. “It’s part of his psyche. He’s distracted at times. We try to work with him a lot on focus.” Asked if Odom’s lapses are connected to his personal saga, Jackson says, “Without a doubt.”
Odom and Bryant have never duplicated the Pippen-Jordan dynamic that Jackson hoped to re-create, but their rapport is one reason L.A. is at the top of the Western Conference. The two first played together at Adidas ABCD camps in high school; after Parade magazine named Bryant its player of the year in 1996, Odom won the same honor in ’97. When Odom was contemplating whether to skip college and go directly to the NBA, he flew to Los Angeles to seek Bryant’s counsel, staying at Bryant’s house. Says Kobe, “I told him there was no right or wrong decision.”
Odom’s career path would have been much simpler if he had followed Bryant straight to the pros, but he wasn’t wired that way. Bryant is preternaturally assertive, Odom deferential. What makes them different makes them jibe. Odom’s inconsistency invites outrage among talk-radio callers and message-board posters who clamor for him to be more aggressive, more like Bryant. But the last time the team had two players with the same self-interests, one of them had to be shipped to Miami. Odom was one of the key players acquired from the Heat in the 2004 trade of Shaq.
“A lot of people have wasted a lot of time thinking about who they want Lamar Odom to be rather than appreciating him for who he is,” says Jeff Van Gundy, the ESPN analyst who was coaching the Knicks when Odom was making headlines as a New York City high school star. “I always look back at where he started. In stories like his, you don’t see a lot of happy endings. So when you do see one, I think it should be celebrated.”
Odom’s clothing line includes scores of T-shirts depicting animals and religious images. But there is one emblazoned with a framed black-and-white photograph of a basketball court. It is the court at Lincoln Park where Odom played the night his mother died. Superimposed over the bottom right corner is a bright red rose. As Odom walks on the beach, about as far from that court as he can get in the continental U.S., he is asked if the rose is a symbol of his mom. “No,” he says. “It’s a symbol of what can grow, even from there.”
The rose is Lamar.