Here's Why Calling Lamar Odom "A Reality Star" Is A Problem

Photo: Jim Smeal/BEImages.
Lamar Odom, the NBA first-round draft pick who has played for teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, has been in the news for the last few days after he was found unconscious in a Nevada brothel. But more often than not, headlines haven't read "NBA Star in Coma" but, "Kardashian Reality Star in Coma."

The latter description, which was used by Nancy Grace, got called out in a tweet by rapper Bun B, who wrote, "Word? A Kardashian reality star? Fuck his NBA career right Nancy Grace? He has a goddamn name. Lamar Odom. Vultures."

ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt agreed with the tweet, going on to say, "'Kardashian reality star?' No, no, no, no. Lamar Odom, unlike those for whom fame is oxygen, whose fame comes in the absence of accomplishment, his fame was earned: As Sixth Man of the Year. As a multiple NBA champion. As the result of his significant role with the Los Angeles Lakers teams and being a beloved NBA teammate and peer."

Some might argue that describing Odom through his connection to the Kardashians is a way of explaining why his situation is newsworthy — that linking him to "American's First Family" places him in a context more people are familiar with, and fewer readers would know him from his basketball career. But that argument is ultimately flawed. Calling him a Kardashian reality star strips away his identity as an accomplished athlete and as a person.

Last month, Cathriona White made headlines after she committed suicide. But some of those headlines didn't even contain her name, referring to her instead as "Jim Carrey's ex-girlfriend." White, a makeup artist, hadn't achieved fame outside her past romantic relationship, unlike Odom. So, it could be argued that identifying her by her connection to Carrey was necessary to explain why her tragic death was being covered in the news at all. In this case, even word order is important. "Cathriona White, the ex-girlfriend of Jim Carrey," is explanatory. "Jim Carrey's ex-girlfriend, Cathriona White," defines the woman by her relationship with someone else, even in death.

People have strong feelings about the Kardashians, but this isn't about the Kardashians. The problem is not tying Odom to the family, it's defining him by his relationship to them. Hopefully Odom will recover, but for now he's in a hospital bed without a voice to speak for himself. And as Bun B said, "He has a goddamn name."
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