“Being happy is most definitely not a choice. Choosing to be happy would be called faking it,” articulated one fan on a recent article by Rob Mahoney from the Mavericks’ TrueHoop blog, aptly describing the difficulties that come with celebrity; an unfortunate projection of emotions that are as flat and neutral as the screens on which we watch.
In contrast, another stated that “being happy IS a choice. Sometimes it comes easy and sometimes it comes tough, but it has nothing to do with faking it. There are only two types of people in the world, optimists and pessimists. Choose wisely.”
For rational and logical human beings, there is always a strong desire to be certain, to be secure in our responses to human emotional circumstances. It would be very easy to describe people as merely optimists and pessimists. But while there is some merit in acknowledging that part of happiness is a choice, the choices people make in deciding to be happy are never as black-and-white as they seem. People are born as flawed individuals, and will never respond to difficult circumstances exactly as we’d expect them to. Even with the indoctrination of political correctness that has come to characterize celebrities, genuine emotions can never be fully “tamed.”
This much is true in the case of former Lakers forward Lamar Odom, a beloved son of Los Angeles who has met with more than his fair share of difficulty in recent years. As an article from Star-Telegram did well to describe, Odom’s decision to continue playing basketball was not as easy as some would expect. Odom’s life has been stricken with tragedy, and within the past year alone, an already desolate circumstance of a death in the family was followed by a heartbreaking car accident in which an innocent bystander was killed. While Odom was not responsible, the compounding of calamity would be more than most individuals could bear.
Throw in the egregious manner in which the Lakers front office handled Odom’s exit, and one can understand why Odom’s play has been less than outstanding. So far this season, Odom’s total statistical output has seen decreases in every category: points, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, three point percentage, steals, minutes, field goal attempts per game, and total PER (Player Efficiency Rating). In fact, the only areas in Odom’s game that have not decreased in number are turnovers and three point shot attempts. The aggressive and attacking Odom that had been familiar in Lakersland is nowhere to be found in Dallas.
There is no reason to suggest that Odom’s performance is solely due to being spurned by his family, as he called them, but there is no question that Odom is struggling to come to grips with his current situation in life. While the Lakers as a front office may not regret their action to turn away the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, the Lakers as a basketball team certainly miss his presence in the locker room as a leader, his presence on the bench as a friend, and his presence on the court as a versatile match up disaster for opposing teams. The addition of McRoberts and Murphy this year did quite a bit to make up for the deficiencies the Lakers might have had on the court, but Odom’s presence on the bench and in the locker room will be sorely missed. Not one player can fill the void that he left behind.
My track and field coach in college once described tough situations like this: “People, when facing trials, either react or respond. A reaction happens when you are unprepared to deal with the circumstances life throws your way, and your emotions dictate your already feeble state of mind. But a response, a response is what happens when your actions are tempered by experience and wisdom. When people respond instead of react, they choose to embrace their circumstances and work through them. The world always needs people who are ready to respond well to life’s struggles.”
While it seems that Odom’s struggles have overwhelmed him to this point, I believe that he is very capable of succeeding, and will respond well to his new challenges in Dallas. He has faced difficulty before, and he can triumph again. Undoubtedly, Lamar’s contributions to the Lakers organization will not go unnoticed, and the fans will receive him well in Dallas’ visit to Staples on Monday night.