Lamar Odom is an American basketball player who is best known for playing seven seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, and for his marriage to reality star Khloé Kardashian.
Born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, on November 6, 1979, Lamar Joseph Odom grew up during New York City’s crack cocaine epidemic in the 1980s and ’90s. His father, Joseph, was a disable veteran and heroin addict; his mother, Cathy Mercer, with whom he was very close, raised him as a single parent. A corrections and traffic officer, Mercer was determined that her son stay off the dangerous streets where they lived. Odom had been introduced to basketball at around age 7, and practiced hard to be good at the game he loved.
Basketball fit both Odom’s physicality and his increasing athletic skill, but a tragedy hit him early in life: His mother died of colon cancer when he was 12 years old. He was then sent to live with his grandmother, Mildred Mercer, who urged him to focus on his studies and sports in an effort to keep him off the streets.
By high school, Odom was getting national attention. He attended Christ the King High School in Queens and Redemption Christian Academy in Troy, New York, then played for St. Thomas Aquinas High School in New Britain, Connecticut, during his senior year. During this time, he was named “Player of the Year” by Parade magazine, as well as to USA Today‘s All-USA First Team.
Odom attended the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, enrolling in summer classes, but the university released him when Sports Illustrated questioned his high ACT score. Though he transferred to the University of Rhode Island, he was not allowed to play during the 1997-98 season. After playing for one season at Rhode Island, Odom declared his eligibility for the 1999 NBA Draft, and was selected by the struggling Los Angeles Clippers franchise as the fourth overall pick.
Pro Basketball Career
When Odom joined the Los Angeles Clippers, they were largely known for their losing record. Within three seasons, however, the team was a contender for a playoff spot. Odom had his share of successes and challenges, including unexpected injuries and another personal tragedy: the death of his grandmother in 2003.
When Odom became a free agent, the Miami Heat offered him a $63 million contract that the Clippers chose not to match. Teaming with emerging superstar Dwayne Wade in the 2003-04 season, Odom averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, leading Miami to its first playoff series win in four years. Following that season, Odom represented the United States at the Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, and helped the team win the bronze medal, which he considers one of his greatest career honors.
Following a single season in Miami, Odom and teammates Caron Butler and Brian Grant were traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Shaquille O’Neal. During his seven seasons back in Los Angeles, he merged his unique playing style with that of Lakers star Kobe Bryant. Odom helped the team win two NBA championships, in 2009 and 2010.
At the end of 2011, Odom was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in a deal that he wasn’t happy with. Less than six months later, he parted ways with the Mavericks, and in June 2012, he was traded back to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of a four-team deal.
In February 2014, Odom signed with Laboral Kutxa, a Spanish professional basketball team. He played two games for the team, but returned to the United States one month after signing the deal due to a back injury. In April of that year, Odom signed with the New York Knicks, but he was dropped by the team in July. “Unfortunately, Lamar was unable to uphold the standards to return as an NBA player,” Phil Jackson, the Knicks president, said in a statement. “We found it necessary to free up the roster spot.”
Odom is the father of three children, all with former girlfriend Liza Morales: daughter Destiny, who was born in 1998, and sons Lamar Jr. and Jayden, born in 2002 and 2005, respectively. Jayden died from SIDS as an infant in 2006.
On September 27, 2009, Odom married reality television star Khloé Kardashian, best known for appearing with her family—including sisters Kim and Kourtney—on the popular series Keeping Up with the Kardashians. The couple’s wedding was captured during the show’s filming, but their marriage quickly spawned a new reality show, Khloé and Lamar—one of Keeping Upwith the Kardashians’s multiple spin-offs. On their reality TV show, Kardashian and Odom shared very personal details of their life including their desire and struggles to have children. (Khloé is also known for appearing on Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami, which premiered in 2009.)
Marital and Substance Problems
In August of 2013, rumors began to circulate about Odom’s relationship with Kardashian. After TMZ reported that Odom had extramarital affairs, other reports of his drug abuse began to surface as well. Not long after, it was believed that Odom had been reported missing by his wife. Although Odom’s location and whereabouts were revealed after 72 hours by an unnamed source via ESPN, it was also confirmed in the announcement that Odom was getting help from friends for an ongoing drug abuse problem.
On August 30, 2013 Odom was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. Following his arrest, Odom checked into rehab, although he left after having spent slightly more than 24 hours in the facility. Kardashian filed for divorce in December 2013, and the couple signed divorce papers in July 2015. According to People magazine, a judgement had not been entered in court, and Odom and Kardashian are still legally married.
A month earlier in June 2014, Odom experienced another loss, the passing of his close friend Jamie Sangouthai, who died from a bacterial skin infection caused by chronic intravenous drug use. Although Kardashian and Odom were divorced, he made a phone call to his ex-wife about the death of Sangouthai in an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Kardashian continue to express her concern for Odom on her family’s reality TV show. “Lamar and I loved each other deeply, and I don’t believe in just acting like that relationship never existed,” she said in one epsiode. “Things happened, but that doesn’t just stop me from caring about him or loving him.”
In another tragic turn, Odom was found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel on October 13, 2015. According to the brothel owner, Odom had been staying at the brothel for several days and was taking an herbal sexual stimulant. He was taken to a local hospital for treatment and then transferred to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas. People magazine reported that Odom was in a coma, and cocaine was found in his system. It was also reported by People that Khloe, Kim and Kris Kardashian were at the hospital keeping vigil at Odom’s bedside.
On October 15, 2015 it was reported Odom showed slight improvement and was no longer on a breathing tube. He was released from Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas and transferred to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles for further rehabilitation. Khloe Kardashian wrote on her website: “You can never be prepared for an experience like this, but without the outpouring of love and endless prayers that Lamar has received and the strength I was given from my loved ones, it would have been difficult to endure. Thank you for your continued support. God is great!!!”
Odom’s condition continued to improve over the next few months. In January 2016, Khloe Kardashian reported that Odom was “doing amazing,” according to US Weekly. Odom himself was interviewed by Entertainment Tonight that April, saying that his goal was to “get back on the court” and play professional basketball.