In the words of Lt. Columbo, “In order to understand a man, you have to understand his past.” Lamar Odom has been called a “desperate” and “disgraced,” a “drug addict” and “cheater,” and many have slammed the NBA player for his lackluster basketball career. But it’s all on the surface. In reality, Odom, described by people who knew him as “kind,” “unselfish,” and “a good person,” is perhaps one of the most misunderstood figures of our time.
MORE: Lamar Odom Spotted Gambling, Partying In Vegas After Near-Death Overdose
If you skim through the headlines featuring Lamar Odom in the past decade or so, you’ll probably notice a pattern. The NBA player, who was married to Khloe Kardashian, has hit rock bottom multiple times. Media outlets have produced countless stories about Odom’s darkest times that left his basketball career in tatters, ruined his relationships and marriage, and a drug overdose that almost cost him his life. But only a few have looked at Lamar Odom’s life through the lens of someone who lost his parents at a young age, witnessed the death of his own child, lost his dearest friend, and has encountered many people who took advantage of his kindness and warm heart.
MORE: Lamar Odom Reveals The Moment He Knew He & Khloe Kardashian Were ‘Over’
Grief-stricken Odom has been carrying an unbearable amount of emotional baggage through his life. He went from being NBA’s crème de la crème to being someone who alienated his closest friends and family, allegedly spent a fortune on drugs and hookers, and watched his basketball career go down in flames.
Only a few of us know the whole story of the man with the easy smile and humble nature. Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom’s former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, described Odom in his interview with the LA Times in 2015 as “very unselfish” and “an incredible guy.”
Radar takes a hard look at the troubled yet often misunderstood and understudied life of Lamar Odom. If you really want to understand a man, you need to know what he has been through and where he came from.
Lamar Odom’s childhood: what was it like?
One can argue that Lamar Odom’s uneasy childhood triggered the chain of events leading up to his near-death experience in 2015. The basketball-superstar-to-be was born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York City, on November 6, 1979. Odom was raised by his single mother, Cathy Mercer, while his father Joseph, a disabled veteran and heroin addict, wasn’t around much.
Mercy, who worked as a corrections and traffic officer, did her best to keep Odom off the streets. Luckily, Odom was passionate about one thing from the very young age of 7—basketball. His growing talent and love for the game surely kept him out of trouble.
How did Lamar Odom become a pro basketball player?
The six-foot-ten Odom began his path to NBA stardom early on, and quickly catapulted to fame in Queens for his impeccable athletic skill and unselfish play with teammates. Odom wasn’t an ordinary basketball player who makes the whole game about himself.
As Odom was elbowing his way through fierce competition to becoming one of the top high school prospects in NYC, a life-shattering event at the just 12-years-old put him on the brink of giving up—the death of his mother from colon cancer. Luckily, his grandmother, Mildred Mercer, was around to take care of the boy. Odom, grieving the loss of his mother, ultimately didn’t let his grief overshadow his bright future. He remained focused on his studies and devoted to his chosen path: becoming one of the best NBA players the U.S. has ever had.
Odom’s athletic grace was noticed by college recruiters, and he eventually ended up at the University of Rhode Island, becoming a Rams star forward. Thanks to Odom, the basketball team became a sensation at the 1999 NCAA Tournament. Nationwide fame was just months away from the basketball star, whose athletic skills gripped audiences to the edges of their seats. His professional basketball career began when the Los Angeles Clippers drafted him as their fourth overall in the NBA Draft. At the time, Odom was only 19-years-old, and the Los Angeles Times noted that his basketball skills were “far beyond his 19 years.”
The reality-star-to-be joined the Clippers and chose the number “7” for his jersey. Seven was his grandmother Mildred’s lucky number.
What are Odom’s accomplishments in the NBA?
During his NBA debut, Odom scored 30 points and was selected in the league’s all-rookie team. But shortly after Lamar Odom became a pro basketball player is where his struggles began. The native New Yorker was suspended twice by the NBA in 2001 for violating the terms of the league’s anti-drug policy after he tested positive for marijuana. At the time, Odom couldn’t hold back the tears when confessing to reporters that he was using weed.
“I fell into things I wasn’t supposed to be doing, hanging out, partying,” Odom said of his early-career struggles in an interview with the New York Times in 2006. The NBA superstar admitted that the responsibility of leadership was too much to handle for him.
Lamar Odom spent the vast majority of his 14 years in the NBA playing for the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers. The versatile basketball player helped the Lakers become back-to-back NBA champions in 2009 and 2010, largely thanks to combining his lauded and enviable skills with the basketball mastery of Lakers’ teammate Kobe Bryant.
In 2011, Lamar Odom became the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year, which is an annual award given to the league’s best reserve player.
How many children does Lamar Odom have?
While the first name that comes to mind when talking about Lamar Odom’s love life is Khloe Kardashian, the NBA star had been dating his longtime girlfriend Liza Morales before he became part of the Kardashian-Jenner family.
Odom and Morales met in high school and the two quickly became teen sweethearts. In her 2013’s interview with The Daily Beast, Morales revealed what it was about Lamar Odom that made her weak in the knees. “I met Lamar in the ninth grade, and was completely taken in by his wit, charm, and that devastating smile he so easily flashed at anyone he met,” Morales said.
Even though the two have never tied the knot, Lamar Odom and Liza Morales welcomed three children throughout their relationship. Their first child, daughter Destiny, was born in 1998, sons Lamar Jr. and Jayden were born in 2002 and 2005 respectively.
While Odom has been suspended from the NBA due to his failed drug tests on several occasions, his biggest loss came in 2006, when 6-month-old Jayden died from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), the vague condition that can cause death even in seemingly healthy infants during sleep. Odom and Morales rushed their unresponsive child to a hospital, but it was too late—doctors couldn’t revive him…
Odom could not believe that he had just lost his healthy son, so he cradled Jayden’s body for hours, overwhelmed by the unbearable sense of unfairness of life mixed with the overpowering feeling of anger and rage. Following the tragic loss of his child, Lamar Odom made sure he always remembered the loss. The NBA star chose a path to remembrance, writing a tribute to his late mother, grandmother and son on his sneakers. Glancing at their names may have triggered heartache before basketball games, but it served as a reminder of where he came from and what he was living for.
How did the tragic loss of his own child affect Odom’s life?
After the tragic death of Jayden, Odom’s relationship with Morales didn’t last long. The two never got married. Before calling it quits, Morales said in one of her interviews that marriages with NBA players never last, seemingly hinting at the possibility of tying the knot after her boyfriend’s retirement from professional basketball.
The relationship between Liza Morales and Lamar Odom was strained by the death of their third child, and it wasn’t long before the two went separate ways. The couple announced their split in 2009, after Morales said she learned that her boyfriend had cheated on her. His split from Morales marked a new chapter in Odom’s life, during which the NBA star could not have been accused of being shy with the ladies. Odom was spotted with a number of women, including actress Taraji P. Henson. That’s when Khloe Kardashian became a blip on the eligible bachelor’s radar.
What was Lamar Odom’s marriage (and divorce) to Khloe Kardashian like?
The two had known each other for only a month (!) before their marriage in 2009. Their lavish wedding was captured for Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Odom and Khloe’s marriage caused quite a stir and quickly became one of the most talked-about topics among millions of fans of the ever-growing family.
Their bizarre popularity prompted E! to produce a new KUWTK spin-off, Khloé and Lamar, which exposed secrets and very personal details of their rocky marriage. Even though the reality show made it look as if being in the constant spotlight was a natural part of their marriage, Odom wasn’t that comfortable with film crews prying into his private life. The spinoff E! reality show ran for only two seasons, from 2011 to 2012.
Being in the constant spotlight was a recipe for disaster. In 2013, Kardashian filed for divorce, and months later, she accused her NBA hubby of infidelity in one of the KUWTK episodes in 2014. But Odom and Kardashian weren’t one of those exes that hate each other’s guts after a divorce. On the contrary, they continued to share an emotional bond and kept in touch.
Are Lamar Odom and Khloe Kardashian still close after the divorce?
In her 2015 interview with Complex magazine, Kardashian gushed about her former beau, describing Odom as “genuinely one of the best people I’ve ever met.” It didn’t seem as if the NBA star was willing to forget the love of his life, either. In his interview with In Touch that same year, Odom called Khloe his “soulmate,” and said that he would always care for her. “I can’t control it. We’ll never part,” Odom said, seemingly professing his ongoing love for the reality star. But the basketball star was quick to add, “I would never consider myself serious with another woman.”
Their divorce was finalized in December 2016, nearly three years after Khloe filed for divorce, and the NBA player didn’t take it well. Radar learned that Odom checked into rehab just days after his divorce from Kardashian was finalized. But his mental health began to deteriorate long before his December 2016 rehab stint…
During the rehab stint, photos surfaced showing Odom smoking. That day marked the anniversary of his late son Jayden’s birthday. A January 2017 report published on Radar alleged that the former NBA player got “millions” in his divorce from Khloe Kardashian.
In his interview months after his divorce from Kardashian was finalized, Lamar Odom got candid about how his drug use and infidelity destroyed his marriage, adding, “I wish I could have kept my d*ck in my pants.” It wasn’t easy for Odom to move on after his divorce from Khloe Kardashian, as the former NBA star was spotted cozying up to a Kardashian look-a-like in March 2017.
What was the catalyst for Lamar Odom’s downfall?
It may be tempting to dissect Odom’s life in order to say exactly what led to his downfall in 2013—the year when his marriage to Khloe Kardashian fell apart and his NBA career ended—and how these events eventually lead to his near-death experience in 2015. But no life can be summarized in black-and-white, and only Odom knows exactly why his life spiraled out of control.
Apparently, things got out of hand long before the former NBA star was found unresponsive at a Nevada brothel after overdose. In 2014, Odom did his best to grasp for any string of hope to save his basketball career when he briefly joined a Spanish pro league. He played for Laboral Kutxa for only a few months before his foray into European basketball was cut short following a back injury. Odom then returned to the U.S. and attempted an NBA comeback with the Knicks. But that comeback never materialized, as Odom’s lackluster on-court performance, plagued by continuous reports of his problems with drugs, made it impossible to breathe new life into his basketball career.
Amid reports of his crumbling marriage in 2013, Odom pleaded no contest to a DUI charge stemming from his arrest, and was placed on probation. Ever since Odom ended his NBA career, reports about his struggle with drugs kept mounting. A September 2013 report by Radar even alleged that Odom had spent $50,000 on cocaine in three years. In her 2017 interview, Odom’s ex and the mother of his three children, Liza Morales, opened up about how the death of their son Jayden caused the basketball player’s drug addiction.
Some of his friends said Odom was deeply upset about the June 2014 death of Jamie Sangouthai, his close childhood friend from Queens. Another factor that could have contributed to the downfall of Lamar Odom was that several of his business ventures, including the Rich Soil clothing line, were never as successful as he hoped. Or it could have been Odom’s frustration about being followed by the paparazzi all the time that led to the boiling point in the NBA player’s life. It was clear that being in the spotlight 24/7 took a toll, as Odom once confronted a photographed who chased him down the street, saying, “Y’all have discredited me, beat me down, took my confidence, took everything away from me.” Odom, visibly furious, continued, “I’ve been taking this sh*t for two years straight.”
But Odom wasn’t always like that. Everyone who knew the basketball player-turned-reality-star described him as a “good person.” Here’s what New Orleans Pelicans Coach Alvin Gentry, who worked with Odom for two seasons with the Clippers, had to say about his former player in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, “He was a good, good person that had demons. He has demons—everybody knows that.”
Saying that the former NBA superstar’s “kindness” was exploited by other people, Gentry also added that considering what Odom has been through, “it’s not that hard to see where the demons came from.”
Lamar Odom’s drug overdose: was he dead?
Months prior to his infamous overdose at a Nevada brothel, reports began to circulate detailing Odom’s troubled marriage to Kardashian due to his alleged extramarital affairs. Other reports hinted at Odom’s drug abuse, and the father-of-three was even reported missing by his then-wife, Khloe Kardashian, in September 2013. Weeks later, on October 13, 2015, the NBA star ended up at Dennis Hof’s Love Ranch in Crystal, Nevada, where he was found unresponsive. Employees and the brothel owner later revealed that Odom was staying there for several days, using cocaine, taking herbal sexual stimulants and other drugs.
When Odom was found unresponsive after his drug overdose, he was rushed to the nearest hospital. According to reports, his heart stopped several times in the ambulance en route to the facility, and doctors had to revive him. Odom almost didn’t make it to the hospital. The NBA star was in a coma and it was reported that cocaine was found in his system. Reports also indicated that his ex, Khloe Kardashian, her sister Kim Kardashian, and their mother Kris Jenner were all by his side at the hospital. A few days later after his hospitalization, Odom showed signs of improvement and medical professionals no longer required a breathing tube to keep him alive. After his release from Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas, he was transferred to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for rehab.
Over the next months, Odom got back on his feet, and his ex, Khloe, even told Us Weekly in January 2016 that the former NBA player was “doing amazing.” But the trouble didn’t end there.
Update: How is Odom doing now?
In November 2017, footage surfaced showing Lamar Odom collapsing at a Los Angeles nightclub, which many believed was because the former basketball superstar was using drugs again. But a spokesperson shut down the rumors that Lamar Odom’s drug abuse had anything to do with his nightclub collapse, explaining that his client had had an “intensive workout” earlier that day and was “dehydrated.” A few months later, Lamar Odom was reportedly spotted gambling and partying in Las Vegas, multiple eyewitnesses confirmed to Radar in March 2018.
Many tend to think that we know Lamar Odom just because we read the headlines and tweets, watched him in reality shows, heard the rumors about him and his near-death experience and divorce from Khloe Kardashian. But in reality, the public is always being kept in the dark about what’s really going on. We can only speculate. Only Odom himself knows what propelled him into his drug addiction, his multiple rehab stints, his divorce from Khloe Kardashian, and the abrupt end of his basketball career. Perhaps Odom’s tell-all book will hopefully shed more light on his controversial and misunderstood life.
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