Odell Beckham Jr. Isn't Playing Around

The outrageous blossoming of the NFL's most exciting player


Febuary 6th 2018

We're sitting on a restaurant balcony at one of his favorite spots in Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River - the downtown skyline's fleeting colors illuminate a quivering path across the water in front of us and the sun is finally setting, on an unseasonably crisp night in February. Next to me, New York Giants star wide reciever, Odell Beckham Jr., who's life is something like the sunset - nothing but incredible views.

He gave me a smile that I could only describe as genuinely sweet, with just the right touch of confidence, wearing his favorite designer threads, a Balmain color blocked zip-up jacket, matching sweatpants, and Air Jordan 5 Grapes, an outfit worth over $4,000 dollars, if we're getting technical.

And it's hard to know what to make of him in a serene moment like this one. Some people, even Giants fans, would say he's a prima donna due for a comeuppance; and others a merciless competitor who thinks out loud, a little too much. But for what it's worth, our conversation over the subtle chatter, proves he's much more than what they think, he's just like "us" - he's focused and intense the entire time we talk, not petulant like the media describes; with one clear message for anybody who's willing to listen: either you're helping him become a better man, or you're getting the hell out of his way.


Beckham's life changed the night of his one-handed catch against the Cowboys his rookie year; and as deranged as it sounds to others, he has no problem admitting that he hasn't decided if that pivotal play was for better or worse. "It's tough," He tells me. "I sound ungrateful but all I've ever wanted was to play (football) at the highest level. I was doing that, everything else that's transpired after that catch is just a bonus."

A bonus?

"Yeah. When I manifested this as a kid, it wasn't like 'Ma, I'm going to be famous,' it was more like 'I'm going to be in the NFL,'" He recalls with a nod. "I wasn't born into the fame, there's no lessons on how to be famous, you just adjust and I wasn't prepared for that when things changed."

Beckham was drafted back in 2014 then 20; and now at 26, with six consecutive years in the spotlight and under one of the worlds smallest microscopes in New York; he alludes that he's still trying to figure it out. "My life isn't my own anymore," He says, only half joking. "There's days where I wish I could go places and enjoy them but I can't. I've learned that's just apart of the territory of being a professional athlete."

Though it seems he had an enviably easy transition into popularity, what followed was the greatest ordeal of a life and character that had been forever punctuated. "I've made mistakes," he says. "Like bringing people to my level who don't deserve to be there. I think I did a lot of that my first two years, allowed people to be relevant in my life who really weren't to me at all." So now, his focus: shrinking his circle.


In March of last year, several media outlets reported and circulated a video of Beckham in bed beside a female friend after a night of partying, which prompted fallacious drug allegations. Immediately following, Ishmael Temple, a former associate of Beckham's spoke out about an alleged assault earlier that year at a home of their mutual friends, and yet another set of claims were released, this time saying Beckham tried to pay a woman $1,000 for sex. "I was embarrassed. There's no other way to describe it," He begins, his voice low and flat. "I felt like regardless of what was true or not, I humiliated my family, and the organization I work for. It was resolved, but I lost sleep every night still. That was half the battle back then was learning forgiving myself."

How did you that? Forgive yourself?"
"I had to look myself in the mirror every day and have those tough conversations. Even on the days I didn't want to admit that I was partly to blame. I realized whenever I make a mistake, it'll always be magnified because of who I am."
The second step came in the summer of that same year, when Beckham and his mom Heather Van Norman took a trip to Jerusalem, there, he got baptized. "I felt like I wasn't living in God's light. I've known Him, I love Him but our relationship could be better," He says his face visibly lights up. "I get these weird divine feelings now. They're, like, so strong I can't shake them. When I think about it all, I can feel the difference. That's when I wholeheartedly forgave myself. Whatever I'd done before that day doesn't matter anymore."

In all of his tranquil self-actualization and reflection, comes a more subdue topic for Beckham. He jokes and calls it his kryptonite, dating. Over the years, he's been linked to plenty of women, all of whom he said he barely knows. "Pictures are meaningless to me, they're just another example of people trading on my name," He says wearily. "That's more drama, more commotion in my life I don't need."

To understand Beckham and his relationships, you have to understand the side of him you don't often get to see off the field, his (blank) heart. In July of 2017, Beckham and his then girlfriend of five months, Polyxeni Ferfeli were seen vacationing in Cancun, his very first public relationship. Which he says, taught him more about himself than he bargained for. I get protective about the people I care about," He says ruefully. "But I'm starting to see, how I wanted everything was a hard thing to ask of someone who loves you, you know? That cost me." And when it ended in early September, his focus went back to family and football. "Nothing else mattered at that point. I didn't even give myself a space to process anything. I just detached and moved on. I do that a lot, still working on that."