Two-time NBA champion and fan favorite Lamar Odom waded through crowds of fans asking for photographs as he made his way to his courtside seats prior to the Los Angeles Lakers overtime victory against the Miami Heat on Wednesday night. It was the first time Odom had been to Staples Center since an incident in Las Vegas left him unconscious and hanging on for his life back in October of 2015.
“It was just like old times,” Kobe Bryant smiled when talking about catching up with his former teammate. “We talked before the game, we talked after the game, and it was great to just talk basketball with him. We talked trash. It was good. It was unbelievable.”
ESPN reported that it was Bryant that invited and left courtside seats for the former Sixth Man Of The Year, though he playfully brushed off that suggestion in his post-game press conference, simply reiterating that Odom is like a brother to him. Dwyane Wade even tweeted about the insignificance of their loss in comparison to catching up with Lamar.
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) March 31, 2016
Bryant visited Odom’s bedside in the hospital, during the Lakers 2015 preseason in Las Vegas, along with general manager Mitch Kupchak. At that time, on life support and in a coma, it was uncertain whether Odom would survive.
“Tremendous is an understatement. It’s a miracle, honestly. In Vegas, he was…” Bryant stopped to shake his head, unable to finish his thoughts, remembering how close Odom was to losing his life. “To see him walk around now, it’s like nothing even happened. It’s really a miracle. It’s beyond a big deal.”
Kobe took Odom’s situation full circle, even providing perspective to the D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young leaked video incident that overtook news waves this week.
“I think it’s also a good indication of how fast time goes. Like with the D’Angelo stuff, the Nick stuff, as time goes on, that stuff will fade as well, relationships will be mended, people will grow. At that moment, there seems like there’s no hope, no light at the end of the tunnel, but there always is. I think the Lamar situation is a great representation of that and what he was facing, really there was like no hope, so to see him the way he was moving today is beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined. To think it seems like just yesterday, we were out here winning championships, which means how fast things go, but also when things are at their absolute darkest, there’s always light, even if you can’t see it, it’s there.”
Odom received loud cheers from fans when featured on the Staples Center jumbotron and when he walked over to give Lakers president Jeanie Buss a big hug, everyone had their cell phones out to capture the moment.
What does Bryant hope Odom takes away from hearing the cheers and feeling the support from the Lakers crowd?
“Just the feeling of being back home. This is home for him. It’s been this way for many, many years,” Bryant said. “It’s just the feeling of being home and being loved, because we all love him and that’s never going to change. L.A. loves him. We all appreciate the championships that he brought here. Without him, there’s no way that we win any of those titles.”