Let's face it, this was bound to happen.
Lamar Odom was destined to be found fighting for his life at some point. Some are surprised that it happened so soon after his NBA career went south. After all, it wasn't long ago that he was creating matchup nightmares on court with his unlikely combination of length and skills.
But those who know the former Laker's life story know that tragedy was imminent for him. He had been dodging the bullet since the day he was born, watching those around him fall one after the other. For 30 odd years, he kept his composure while his grief kept on piling up. In a way, it is actually miraculous how he made it this far.
Born amid poverty in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Queens, Odom's father was a heroin addict and mother was a cancer patient who passed away before he even hit his teenage years. He was raised by his grandmother and found solace in basketball. His natural talent meant that excellence on court was never a problem for the rangy Odom. It's what went outside that troubled him the most.
On multiple occasions during his college career he faced controversies that could've ended his basketball dream. NCAA forced UNLV to kick him out after officials learned Odom not only cheated in his ACT exam but also received illegal payments from a university representative to play for them.
He still found his way to the NBA via the University of Rhode Island and blossomed into an All-Star caliber player. When he signed with the Lakers in 2004, the fans saw his trademark cheek-to-cheek smile and awesome ball-handling skills. What they didn't know was he had buried his grandma that same year.
Two years later, he lost his infant son Jayden to Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Then in 2011, his cousin was murdered and a day later he was a passenger in a car crash that resulted in the death of a pedestrian.
More tragedy awaited him in 2015. In June, his childhood friend Jamie Sangouthai died from a rare flesh-eating bacteria caused by drug use. And all these deaths are only the ones that made it to the media. Odom once said there were several more aunts and uncles whose deaths he had to deal with.
In Odom's own words: "Death always seems to be around me. I've been burying people for a long time. When I had to bury my child, I probably didn't start grieving until a year and a half later.
"I think the effects of seeing [my cousin] die and then watching this kid die, it beat me down. I consider myself a little weak. I thought I was breaking down mentally. I'm doing a lot of reflecting."
In the midst of all this, of course, was a celebrity marriage that put his life up for examination on reality TV; his alleged drug use and failing marriage were splashed all over TV and tabloids.
Perhaps, it was basketball that kept him together all those years of deaths. He had been a part of the Lakers' family for seven years and got along incredibly well with Kobe Bryant and childhood friend Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace.
In 2011, he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks against his wishes and that's when his basketball career went awry too. Neither the Mavs nor the Clippers or the Knicks could revive Odom. For the first time, the signs of his tragedies were showing in his game. Four years and a couple of comebacks later, he was out of the league with no takers. He hadn't announced his retirement but it was clear that his internal destruction had reached a point where he was no longer useful for a professional basketball team.
It's easier to label Odom as one of many sports stars who had it all and threw it all away but that wouldn't be a fair assessment in light of the things he had to deal with. Odom's fall from grace is an American tragedy. It's the defeat of a system that needs to review itself.
It's also easy to criticize the likes of him, Dennis Rodman or Mike Tyson, but only they had to face the things they did in their formative years. Until all youths get an equal opportunity and an idyllic rearing, the media has no business judging how they turn out later in life.