For Odom and fellow first-timers, NBA championship is extra sweet
ORLANDO, Fla. -- The tiny locker room smelled as if every grape in France had fermented and exploded at once. The empty Moet bottles sat on a table in the middle. The corks lay on the ground. Veteran reporters wore garbage-bag ponchos. Not-so-veteran reporters wore suds. As his teammates passed around the Larry O'Brien trophy and mugged for the cameras, Lakers forward
"I was visualizing this," he said. "This is what I've been dreaming about since I was 10 years old. ... I knew that one day I would win the NBA championship. I always put the icing on the cake, though. I was hitting the winning shot."
The Lakers didn't need a game-winner to close out the Magic on Sunday, so none of Odom's 17 points matched the drama his school-age self envisioned for all those years. Still, as everyone else talked about the number four (
Because you always remember your first time.
"I didn't know what it was going to feel like," forward
For Walton, the title is special because he can now relate more to his father,
But it might mean the most to Odom, the last remaining member of the trio traded to Los Angeles in the 2004 deal that sent
Odom escaped to Miami in 2003, but he played only one season for the Heat before being shipped to L.A. At the press conference to announce the trade, Odom sat stunned. "I was shocked," he said. "I would have said no it it if it was anyone else but the Lakers."
After his second season with the Lakers, Odom lived through every parent's worst nightmare. In 2006, Odom's 6-month-old son,
Though it paled in comparison to his personal tragedy, Odom also had to watch in 2006 as his former team in Miam won an NBA title. After the Lakers lost to the Celtics last season, Odom began to wonder if his vision ever would come true.
As his moment approached this month, Odom grew more anxious.
Less than 24 hours later, the dream of a 10-year-old finally became reality. Odom slipped on his championship T-shirt. He donned his championship cap. He cradled the golden trophy. But this being the age of the 24-hour news cycle and Odom being a free agent this offseason, somebody had to intrude with a nagging question. Will Odom be a Laker next season?
And he didn't. Odom kept right on smiling, surrounded by all those empty bottles and all that laughter. He knew this would happen. He didn't quite know exactly when, but he knew it would.
"Playing with Kobe, being coached by Phil Jackson, I knew the time would come when we would put a team together," Odom said. "The time came."