There are professional athletes who will break your heart. As a sports fan, you watch and witness tremendous natural ability. There is the size, the strength, the talent and the opportunity to perform at a spectacular level. It could be historic and there are moments when the athlete shines. It is a tantalizing glimpse at what might be. There are moments that hint at possible greatness. Unfortunately, those performances are matched by tremendous disappointment.

It is heartache to watch these athletes. These superstars are overshadowed by the moment. Alex Rodriguez’s struggles in the playoffs are legendary. Dallas Cowboy fans are having doubts about Tony Romo. And L.A. Lakers fans may be witnessing the defining moments of Lamar Odom’s career.

The simple question is whether Lamar Odom can rise to the occasion. In the championship series last season against the Boston Celtics, Lamar Odom was conspicuous for the moments when he was a non-factor. This is so difficult for Lakers fans to resolve. Lamar Odom is a team player. He can play any position on the floor. He can score, pass, rebound and defend. In short, he has all the necessary skills. However, there are telltale signs that he cannot overcome “that” moment. At the so called “clutch” moments, demons haunt Lamar Odom.

A prime example is foul shooting. Lamar Odom can make those foul shots. However, when it is the fourth quarter and when every point counts, watch and see if Lamar Odom can make two foul shots in a row. Most likely, it will be one shot missed and one shot made. If you were an opposing coach in the fourth quarter, Lamar Odom becomes a prime candidate to send to the foul line.

Now, with the knee injury to Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom likely will start for the Lakers. This will be time for Lamar Odom to demonstrate, day-in and day-out, that the critics were (and are) wrong. The critics have been relentless. An example is a recent column by Kevin Ding:

“…Perhaps fuller elucidation must wait till next season, when Odom is likely an ex-Laker and Bryant can more frankly explain what it has been like to be cast with this supposed co-star who is still making the same mental mistakes in clutch moments as he did upon joining the Lakers 4 ½ years ago.”

link: Kobe is livid at Lamar for latest meltdown

There are athletes who want the spotlight. They want a chance to make the final shot, the final hit at bat, the final putt… Lamar Odom never may be such an athlete. His fans would settle for consistency and fulfilling his athletic gifts. This is an opportunity that comes rarely to a professional athlete. Lamar Odom is in the midst of a second chance.

Catherine Forsythe