Most NBA fans first saw Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom don the same jersey in 2004 when the latter was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. Little do they know that the two actually played together in a high school camp. Their connection did not stop at the end of the final buzzer. A few years later, Odom sought Kobe’s words of wisdom if he should skip college and go to the NBA.
Bryant and Odom first placed together at the Adidas ABCD camp in high school. This was where the best high school players of the nation got to match up against one another. The camp was just the beginning of their lifelong friendship. In 1997, when Odom was contemplating if he should skip college and sign up for the draft, he went to Kobe, who had become a good model for high school studs harboring NBA dreams.
“When Odom was contemplating whether to skip college and go directly to the NBA, he flew to Los Angeles to seek Bryant’s counsel, staying at Bryant’s house. Says Kobe, “I told him there was no right or wrong decision,” per Sports Illustrated.
It is an interesting piece of advice. One would expect that Kobe nudged Odom to take his talents to the big league. But Kobe understood, even at a young age, that you are in charge of your own life. Perhaps Kobe was also confident that whatever path Odom chose, he would make the most of it. He was destined to be one heck of a baller.
Odom confirmed this in an interview with DJ Vlad. The two-time NBA champion also played some one-on-one with the Black Mamba himself. Their ties ran deep, way before they guided the Purple and Gold to two championships in three years.
“I had hung out with him through the Adidas connect because Kobe Bryant was Adidas too. And I was able to hang out with him, and we were able to talk a lot. We were with an agent, his name was Arn Tellem, and we actually played one on one. That was a real competitive game, I wish that they had that game on tape. But I just learned, Kobe was always giving me advice even before I was able to join him with the Lakers. He was an extra intelligent dude,” Odom told DJ Vlad.
Odom decided to delay his NBA dreams and went to college. He initially committed to the University of Las Vegas Nevada, but a slew of controversies made him transfer to the University of Rhode Island. After one year in college, Odom finally declared for the NBA Draft. It turned out to be the right decision. He was picked fourth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers. He also made All-Rookie First Team honors.
Many credit Lamar Odom as the most critical piece of the Los Angeles Lakers championship run in the late 2000s. He stood 6-foot-10 and could dribble, rebound, and shoot with the best. Perhaps it’s a blessing that he crossed paths with Kobe in high school. There is no evidence that the Black Mamba personally requested to acquire Odom in the blockbuster trade. But their old ties sure made everything run as smooth as possible in Tinseltown.