The 2011 NBA Championship Rests on the Shoulders of One Player, and It’s Not Who You Think

It wasn’t until things began to fall apart in LA that fate finally stepped in with the role of a lifetime. The Lakers had just been bounced from the playoffs for the second straight year by two-time MVP Steve Nash and his run and gun Phoenix Suns. Bryant was livid and went on a LA radio tour demanding a trade to all who would listen. Fans wanted Laker General Manager Mitch Kupchak’s head on a plate, asserting that rookie center Andrew Bynum was too young, that Odom would never reach his potential and that both should be used as trade bait immediately.

Then lightening struck.

The Lakers landed a trade as significant as the Boston Celtics acquiring of Kevin Garnett during the previous off season. Memphis big man Pau Gasol was coming to LA and his arrival literally changed everything for the Lakers. It gave Bryant a legitimate second option. It gave Andrew Bynum the gift of time and it pushed the Lakers back into playoff prominence vaulting them to three finals appearances and back to back titles in three years.

But undoubtedly, the greatest impact of Gasol’s arrival was on that of Lamar Odom. No longer was he burdened with being something he wasn’t. Instead, like that of the proverbial glass slipper, Odom slid into the Laker’s third option and voila, it was a perfect fit!

Since then it seems as if the mystery of Odom’s inconsistency had been solved. Put him in the starring role, or as a supporting actor and he struggled. But as a cameo, as the special guest appearance, he shined. Like Kevin Bacon or Morgan Freeman, Odom was allowed to do what he does best-fly under the radar while the bigger stars carry the story forward. Then just at the pivotal point of the story they make their presence felt turning a good movie into a great one; turning a small role into a memorable one.

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