Scott Odom: The Incredible Story of Professional Basketball’s First One-Legged Player

Scott-Odom-682x1024What’s holding you back from pursuing your dream?

Is it the fear of the unknown? The overwhelming weight of expectation? The harsh reality that failure is an option?

For Scott Odom, the answer is as simple as it is complex: nothing.

Not cancer.

Not depression.

Not a snub from the NBA and one of its most prominent owners.

Not the jealousy of teammates.

Not even the loss of his right leg.

On Saturday, March 29, Odom will become the first amputee professional basketball player when he makes his debut for the Lake Michigan Admirals of the Premier Basketball League. The Admirals will be playing the Bloomington Flex at the Lake Michigan Catholic High School at 915 Pleasant Street in St. Joseph, Michigan.

As inspirational of a story as that may be, it didn’t always seem like a possibility.

Odom first began experiencing sharp knee pains at 10 years of age. Doctors contested that it was a result of his being too active as an athlete, which the family expectedly accepted as a fair reason.

On August 21, 1997, Scott’s first day of high school, the tone changed. It wasn’t just pain; it was cancer.

“When I was in the room and they told me I had cancer, I remember I asked my mom to leave the room,” Odom said. “As a young kid, the first thing that pops into your head is death. ‘I’m dying.’ To hear that from a doctor, I thought it was over. I was in fear every day of my life.”

“I saw some guy pumping gas and thought, ‘I”m never going to pump gas. I’m never going to be that old,'” Odom confessed in a somber tone. “I kept waking up and thinking, ‘Is today the day that I’m going to die?'”

Mortality isn’t something that a 14-year-old is supposed to experience. Doubts about one’s future are not supposed to be present in the mind of an adolescent teen.

Basic opportunities are not meant to be ripped away from anyone, specifically those with youth on their side and promise in their future.

Odom wasn’t afforded what many take for granted.

After nearly 13 months of chemotherapy, Odom finally won his battle with cancer. On Sept. 16, 1998, the chemo was halted, the thoughts of death were eliminated and a new life was created.

But the fear remained. The uphill battle continued. While the battle with cancer may have been won, Scott’s right leg was a casualty.

For some, that seems like a loss as crippling physically as it is mentally. For Scott Odom, it’s nothing more than another test from God that he was placed on this earth to overcome.

Before he could overcome it, however, Scott had to face the harsh realities that soon followed.

“I went back to school my sophomore year of high school. I was going back for only a couple hours of day. I felt like I was running a marathon. I felt like a newborn baby learning to walk,” Scott confessed. “It was tough to even walk down the hall. I was scared that if someone walked past me, they’d bump into me and I’d fall because I had no balance.”

Suddenly, sports were more of a pipe dream than a realistic aspiration. Thoughts of life-and-death turned into discovering the difference between living and being alive.

At that point, it seemed an improbability that a teenager who was learning how to walk would ever become a professional athlete. At that point, the world was unfamiliar with the power of Scott Odom’s will and desire to succeed.

As Odom continued his path towards a return to sports, he targeted his first true love: baseball. He hit the diamond with other players his age, but it was clear that he wasn’t a match for the athletes on the field with him.


  1. Ugh says

    Back when I played college we had a guy who used to come to pickup games who’d had polio. His right leg was stick thin and withered, and he was 5’4″, but he held his own against the college team in half-court practices and could play PG in a slow-down, post-up offence. You work hard enough you can overcome a lot of stuff. Good article, hope Scott gets a good look in.

  2. says

    Fascinating subject. But I don’t Cuban did anything wrong or rude here by assigning an assistant to procure a tape for him. Busy people outsource tasks all the time.

    And it looks like the Mavericks did eventually help with the cause by hosting the Amp 1 game. Can you give more details about how that was arranged, and who organized it?

    • Max Ogden says

      That’s a fair and accurate evaluation, Evin.

      The founder of the PLAY Foundation, also an amputee, was responsible for arranging the halftime game. Scott is located in Texas and the PLAY Foundation worked with Amp 1 on a charity in Dallas, which is how those two sides came together.

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