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Lamar Odom's lawyer fires back at ESPN's Stephen A. Smith after 'crack' comment

By
Alex Butler
Stephen A. Smith arrives on the red carpet in 2016 for ESPN The Party in San Francisco, Calif. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Stephen A. Smith arrives on the red carpet in 2016 for ESPN The Party in San Francisco, Calif. File photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

June 24 (UPI) -- Lamar Odom's attorney sent a letter to ESPN Friday, regarding Stephen A. Smith's comments last week.

Smith spoke about Odom Wednesday on ESPN's First Take. He was criticizing New York Knicks president Phil Jackson when he brought up the two-time NBA champ.

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"His very first move as executive was to sign Lamar Odom...Who was on crack!!" Smith said.

The clip quickly went viral.

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Odom signed with the Knicks in 2014. He was waived three months later. He never played in a game for the franchise.

Odom's attorney, Saam Zangeneh, sent his response to Smith's employer.

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"This letter is in response to a statement made by your employee, Mr. Stephen A. Smith, during the airing of "First Take" on June 21, 2017. During that episode Mr. Smith said the following statement while discussing the President of the New York Knicks Phil Jackson, "His very first move as executive was to sign Lamar Odom...WHO WAS ON CRACK?! "

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"Let's put aside the fact that Lamar passed all the required physicals and medical tests necessary to play in the league. Let's put aside the fact that Mr. Smith attempted to qualify his statement by saying how much he likes Lamar, and wishes him well in his recovery. Let us look at what this statement does, not only to Lamar, but to any and all professional athletes that are struggling with addiction."

"The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has defined addition as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking, and use, despite harmful consequences. Mr. Smith chose to jokingly disparaged 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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"Since his release from the hospital Lamar has been actively working within the addiction community. On June 20, 2017, the day before the show, Lamar traveled to a rehab facility in Davie, Florida. Here he spoke to the patients at Live Free Institute and shared his story with young impressionable minds."

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"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."

Odom, 37, posted the letter on his Twitter account. He used the hashtags "#slander" and "#ihopewearebetterthanthis."

Deadspin obtained a response from Smith regarding his comments.

"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 Knick's President Phil Jackson," Smith said.

"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."

"The sole focus of my comments were directed at the unmitigated disaster that Phil Jackson has created since he's arrived in New York. It my opinion, he simply couldn't leave soon enough."

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"Lamar Odom is simply one of the nicest athletes any of us have encountered, and has always been a gentlemen 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!"

The No. 4 overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft also checked into rehab in December.

He has had recurring issues with drugs in the last few years, including an incident where he was found in a coma and in critical condition in 2015 at the Love Ranch in Crystal, Nevada.

Odom was on kidney dialysis following the health scare.

In March, Odom denied doing drugs that night in an interview with US Weekly, but did say he was hiding his drug use at other times from ex-wife Khloe Kardashian.

Odom earned more than $115 million in salary during his 14-year NBA career.

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