Hey Lamar, remember me? It’s Ibrahim from when you were at the University of Rhode Island. They say you were only there for one year, but fools like me know the real deal, that you spent time on campus being a regular guy just before you skyrocketed to basketball fame.
Your story starts in Southeast Queens — so did mine. My father was born and raised out that way, though my dad was not hobbled by going to war like yours was. Who knows what kind of toll that left on his soul? My mom was in Brooklyn and yours passed when you were 13. I am truly sorry that happened to you.
Oddly enough, we both landed in Troy NY. Then, as fate would have it, you bounced from Las Vegas, then to Rhode Island. We welcomed you at the University of Rhode Island with open arms. They said you were one of the best young talents in the country. Talked you up like you were a savior. National media coverage swooped down on little Rhody, said Coach Jim Harrick was building an unlikely contender. They made it to the Elite Eight the year you were sitting out led by Cuttino Mobley and Tyson Wheeler, but we all knew that with you just waiting in the wings some greater glory might just be in store. A year later, you drilled a three pointer with time expiring, after dribbling full court, to win the Atlantic-10. For years, I watched your career and pumped my chest.
“I hung out with Lamar in college,” I would tell people. “He was a really good person, very down to Earth.”
Right now, you are in a coma. They said that you took cocaine and drank a lot and took some herbal Viagra. They said they found you in a brothel face down and then turned you over and you vomited. Then they rushed you to a hospital via car because your six-foot-10-inch frame could not fit in the helicopter. You are in critical condition. ESPN is saying that those who have loved you flank you. I too find myself as someone who was touched by you, but I am not with you. A long time ago I realized that our paths were not likely to cross again. But they did back in the day. If you wake up out of that coma and start reviewing all the amazing things that so many people have been saying and posting about you maybe at some point you will end up reading this. I truly hope so.
Considering the situation you are in, I am at a loss. Many people have been close to the brink dabbling with extreme lifestyles of all kinds. It’s a dark world that you have found yourself in. I wonder what part of you was saying, “No, don’t go, and turn the car around.”
But maybe no part of you said that. You were all-in and that breaks my heart.
This evening, after my prayers I made a special prayer for you. And I am not sure if you believe in God or not, but the fact that prayer is sending nothing but positive energy in your direction, I hope everyone who has said their prayers are with you actually pray for you.
Back, in the mid-90s, when we met, you rarely talked about yourself. It was summer and we were athletes eking out a living on a New England college campus. I schooled you on The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Coltrane. We talked about Queens and Troy where we both had lived. I had no idea you were such a big shot! I hope you read the Malcolm X book, if not I suggest it again should you recover.
There were two things you did that maybe you need to be reminded of. One was that you played on my intramural team. In just one half of one game you dazzled us, distributing the ball, dribbling low, and every now and again showing flashes of greatness, of the kind of skill that would one day win two NBA championships. It is amazing to see how the players from those teams, the Lakers organization, have your back right now. I hope they always did. You deserve for people to really have your back.
The second thing was that you took a stand. In a moment of racial discord, you used your platform as an elite athlete to support a campus protest and elevate our concerns.
Here’s the story. ESPN was in town to film “Midnight Madness,” which is the official start of the college basketball season. The stands were filled with students and as the team ran through drills we were ecstatic with excitement. There was a mood of optimism for the upcoming season. Then, a vile incident occurred that almost shattered all that. A white student began shouting racial insults while urinating on a black DJ. The crowd almost erupted. A woman named Michelle Small, a leader of the black students on campus, prevented anything crazy from happening. She stopped the students from going insane while the event was being broadcast live on television.
A few days later, when we’d identified the offending student, I had a closed door meeting with the President of the University, I was the vice-president of the student senate at the time, and we demanded the student be ousted. Then, we called a press conference and reached out to some of the higher profile athletes on campus. Other high profile athletes on campus were hesitant, but you Lamar, the most high profile of all, were willing. You came to the press conference, and we had cameras and reporters and the like. We called for the student to be ousted and for that to happen immediately. In the end we got our demands and that could not have happened without you.
Right now you are in a dark hole, but know that my prayers and the sincere prayers of many people who you have touched are right there with you.
This morning after my morning prayers, I imagined my prayers reaching you there, piercing the cocoon that your soul has encased around itself while your body attempts to heal, and bringing in some light.
Know that any light you get in your darkest moment is a reflection of the light you have already shared.
Many, many blessings to you my brother.