HAVING last played competitive basketball in 2014, former National Basketball Association star Lamar Odom knows making a return to the sport he has strong affinity for would not be easy. It is a process, however, that the two-time NBA champion is willing to go through.
Set to play for Mighty Sports Philippines in the Dubai International Basketball Championship, Mr. Odom, 39, said he is looking forward to the new challenge presented to him but acknowledges work awaits him as he goes about it.
“For me, I think it was a little overwhelming that my talent is still wanted out there. I’ve been through so much, but basketball has always been a place of refuge for me, and so I’m just excited about the opportunity in general,” said Mr. Odom, who was last under contract in the NBA with the New York Knicks, during a press conference held for him on Jan. 25 at the Solaire Resort and Casino.
He said he is still in the process of finding his basketball footing anew but was happy to share that he is making progress in it.
“Well, to be honest with you, it’s very humbling especially if you take something — like handling the ball has always been natural to me. So, whenever I have problems handling the ball or just making a play I would normally make it’s humbling, but I don’t mind being humbled or even humbled in front of the world,” said Mr. Odom, whose time away from the NBA was marked by several health issues and off-court struggles.
“I haven’t played basketball in five years… but I feel like every day and every time the ball is in my hands I get better and better with it. Hopefully, I can keep preparing and you know, just put up all my effort in the Dubai tournament and play well,” he added.
With Mighty Sports, Olympian Odom (2004) will join forces with Philippine Basketball Association champion import Justin Brownlee in trying to help the Philippine-representing team in the Dubai tournament, which will happen from Feb. 1 to 9.
Mighty Sports also has collegiate standouts Juan Gomez de Liano, Santi Santilan, Troy Rike and Justin Gutang as members as well as pros Joseph Yeo, Gab Banal and Jett Manuel.
Randolf Morris, Jeremiah Gray and Roosevelt Adams, too, are part of the squad, which is coached by Charles Tiu.
The team has started practicing with Mr. Odom since his arrival last week and is set to leave for Dubai for the tournament on Jan. 31.
While the comeback process for him by way of Mighty Sports is not yet over, Mr. Odom, an NBA Sixth Man of the Year awardee, said he is enjoying himself, especially with the kind of reception he has been getting from the team and the local fans.
Such conditions even led the NBA veteran to consider playing here, be it in the PBA or Alab Pilipinas in the ASEAN Basketball League.
“This is my first time in the Philippines, and the Filipino people have been really welcoming. I can see myself playing basketball here. I like that they love basketball,” said Mr. Odom, who is also eyeing to be part of the BIG3 three-on-three league in the United States following his stint with Mighty Sports.
Focusing on the Dubai Championship, Mr. Odom said he is determined to help his team with the tournament and continue to sharpen himself back into game shape.
“They can expect all-out effort [from me]. Hopefully, we can double or even quadruple the wins. I hope I can make the Filipino people proud,” Mr. Odom said.
In the Dubai International Basketball Championship, Mr. Odom and Mighty Sports are to see action along with nine others teams, namely, Coastal Star of Tunisia, United Arab Emirates national squad, Sala of Morocco, Al Riyadi of Lebanon, Al Ittihad of Egypt, Al Zamalek of Egypt, Beirut of Lebanon, Homenetnem of Lebanon and Champville of Lebanon. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo