From a young age Lamar Odom defied the odds. Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens to a heroin addict father and mother who would eventually contract aggressive colon cancer, he decided to hone his athletic skills. This later became his ticket to NBA stardom. Couple his natural ability on the basketball court with a high-profile, albeit short-lived, marriage to Khloé Kardashian and you’ve got a recipe for success. While Odom’s story may sound like one of great triumph, things took a turn for the worse during his rise to the top, tainting his legacy.
On Tuesday, the 35-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star was hospitalized in Las Vegas, Nevada, after being found unconscious inside a legal brothel. Since his hospitalization, multiple reports have surfaced claiming nearly “every drug imaginable” was found in his system. It remains unclear what events lead up to his current condition, though it has been said he was set off by the Season 10 finale of E!'s reality series “Keeping Up With the Kardashians," which stars his estranged wife. While the episode may have been the catalyst for this particular incident, Odom’s dark struggle is rooted in issues far deeper than his portrayal on reality TV.
Odom came from humble beginnings. After his mother’s death in 1992, Odom moved in with his grandmother. He attended a local private school, Christ The King, where he struggled in the classroom but excelled in sports. During his time at the school he was introduced to Jamie Sangouthai, who became a lifelong friend, despite Odom going on to attend two more faith-based institutions during his senior year. He also met Liza Morales who gave birth to his first child in 1998, one year after his high school graduation. The following May, Odom, who was just a freshman at University of Rhode Island at the time, announced that he was eligible for the NBA. Two months later he was picked up as a fourth overall draft pick by the L.A. Clippers. His career was headed onward and upward and that was only the beginning.
By 2002 he and Morales, 36, who got engaged in 2000 but never officially married, had two children. Destiny and Lamar Jr. Shortly after his second child’s birth he was traded to the Miami Heat, where he played just one season before heading back to L.A. to play for the Lakers in 2004. This became his permanent home for seven long years while he played, and thrived, with the team. With the Lakers, Odom saw the NBA playoffs three times and the finals twice. During this time he and his fiancée welcomed their third and final child together, a boy named Jayden born in December 2005. Sadly, at just under 7-months-old he died of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. As can be expected, the loss of his son took a toll on Odom in both his personal and professional life. Still, his NBA career with the Lakers pressed on. With minor instances of inconsistent playing, Odom was able to secure his spot on the team for four more seasons.
Two years before he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, which seemingly marked the beginning of the end for his basketball career, Odom met Khloé, now 30. The two were introduced in Las Vegas and immediately took a liking to one another. The “KUWTK” star first revealed her whirlwind romance with Odom to the world – and her family – on a Season 4 episode of the popular reality show. She shared with her mom, Kris Jenner, and stepdad, Caitlyn Jenner, who was still going by Bruce at the time, that after just one month of dating she and Odom would be tying the knot. Both parents cautioned Khloé against rushing into a marriage, but ultimately supported her decision. She and Odom married in a televised ceremony on Sept. 9, 2009.
From the outside looking in Khloé and Odom were the ideal couple. They rarely fought, couldn’t get enough of one another and seemed genuinely in love. Despite having rushed to the altar, fans seemed certain that the two, whom they affectionately dubbed “Khlomar,” would make it. For two seasons viewers tuned in to their spinoff series, “Khloé and Lamar,” which followed them through the highs – and eventual lows – of their marriage. Early in Season 2 it became clear that Odom was battling some serious demons. His father, Joe Odom, popped in and out of his life for years asking for money and favors from his now-famous son. His close friends also took advantage of him. Odom's career was fading fast and the depression eventually overtook him. “Khloé and Lamar” was canceled in 2012, leading many to speculate that their marriage may also be coming to an end.
The couple held on until December 2013, when Khloé filed for divorce. The paperwork was submitted to the court three months after Odom was arrested in San Fernando Valley, California, for driving under the influence, though it was never finalized. Odom plead no contest to the charges against him and agreed to seek treatment, but his road to recovery didn’t last. During episodes of “KUWTK,” which aired after the incident, Khloé opened up about her strained relationship with Odom, revealing that a vast majority of the time she didn't know his whereabouts. In the meantime, reports continued to surface about his alleged downward spiral, claiming he was abusing crack cocaine, among other drugs, and hiring prostitutes. Odom spoke out about the claims made against him several times, most recently in August 2015, but the public’s doubt did not waiver.
During Season 10, episode 17 of “KUWTK,” Khloé revealed to older sister Kim Kardashian West that she was “on high alert for Lamar” after learning that his childhood best friend, Sangouthai, 37, had died. Although it was not featured on the show, TMZ reported that the Queens, New York, native had died from a flesh-eating bacteria linked to chronic IV drug use. Khloé said she feared that the loss would cause Odom to “spiral,” turning back to his old ways. The episode aired just two days before Odom was hospitalized. Sources have said he seemed “chill” upon arrival at Love Ranch South, owned by Dennis Hof, but his demeanor changed after he received a phone call from an unidentified person about the show.
Odom’s story serves as tragic evidence that strong will and passion is no match for the drawbacks associated with fame. A man who started his career as a shining star was quickly burned out by the combination of ceaseless media attention and skeletons from his past.