Lamar Odom fired back after ESPN host Stephen A. Smith joked about him doing crack when he was signed to the New York Knicks in 2014.
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The former NBA star, 37, shared a letter written by his lawyer to ESPN on Friday, June 23, pointing out that addiction is no laughing matter.
Smith went on a tirade on First Take on Thursday, June 22, slamming Knicks’ president Phil Jackson, and Khloé Kardashian’s ex in the process.
“His very first move as executive was to sign Lamar Odom — who was on crack!” Smith yelled. “I love Lamar Odom the person, and God bless him and we’re wishing nothing but the best. But, metaphorically speaking, his first move as the executive of the New York Knicks was to sign Lamar Odom, who was on crack!”
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Odom’s layer, Saam Zangeneh, sent a letter to ESPN in response to the comments, which the former reality TV star shared on Twitter on Friday, along with the hashtags #slander and #ihopewearebetterthanthis.
“Let’s put aside the fact that Lamar passed all the required physicals and medical tests necessary to play in the league,” the attorney wrote. “Let us look at what this statement does, not only to Lamar, but to any and all professional athletes that are struggling with addiction.”
Pointing out the the National Institute of Drug Abuse defines addiction as a chronic brain disease, Zangeneh continued, “Mr. Smith chose to jokingly disparage Lamar for having a disease. Mr. Smith chose to shout out the fact that Lamar was sick, and to use his disease as the butt of a joke. To say that his conduct was outrageous and unacceptable does not scratch the surface. Think about the others that are battling addiction. Those that have not had the strength or opportunity to share their struggle like Lamar. Imagine the effect this grotesque statement would have on any young athlete who is privately fighting this disease. To become the punch line of a vulgar joke.”
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Odom’s drug issues have been well documented in the past and, as Us Weekly previously reported, the athlete checked into rehab last December to “focus on himself,” according to a statement at the time.
His move came a little over a year after he was hospitalized following a near-fatal overdose at a legal brothel in Nevada in October 2015.
“Since his release from the hospital Lamar has been actively working within the addiction community,” his lawyer continued, explaining that the day before the show aired, Odom had flown to Florida to share his story with young patients at a rehab facility. “We hope that those at ESPN will actively voice their disdain for Mr. Smith’s inappropriate statement and take the proper action to support those that are fighting this disease. We would hope that your network would use this situation as an opportunity to become more actively involved in this case.”
Smith released a statement through ESPN, saying that Odom was not the target of his diatribe, but that he’d been focused on criticizing Knicks president Jackson.
“Because of my personal affection for Lamar Odom — and only for that reason — I want to return to my comments about something I’ve repeated quite often over the last few days: the flagrant ineptitude that I feel has been on continual display by New York Knick’s President Phil Jackson,” he said in the statement.
“My comments were NOT to put any more focus on Lamar Odom’s much-publicized drug use and addiction. He was not the target of my ire,” he continued. “Lamar Odom is simply one of the nicest athletes any of us have encountered, and has always been a gentleman to everyone in NBA circles — including me — which is something I’ve repeated throughout the years.”
“That’s why it’s worth repeating: Lamar Odom was not the focus of my ire. My comments were entirely, totally, meant for Phil Jackson. Anyone who loves the NY Knicks, who’ve witnessed what has been transpiring over the last three years, know exactly who I was directing my comments to. And Why!”
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