A mention of the much-loved sport basketball doesn't go down without the name Lamar Odom, who has become a true legend of the game. The former American basketball player was a member of the Los Angeles Lakers in the National Basketball Association (NBA). His biggest career achievements saw him being named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year in 2011 after winning the NBA Championships in 2009 and 2010. His sporting career may have ended in 2014, but he's still made headlines with his on-off relationship with Kardashian sister Khloe.
Lamar was born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of New York City to his parents Joe Odom and Cathy Mercer. Lamar had quite a troublesome childhood, with his father Joe being addicted to heroin and his mother being diagnosed with colon cancer when Lamar was 12-years old. Sadly, she didn’t survive the illness and her last words of advice to her son were ‘be nice to everybody’ before she died. Lamar’s grandmother, Mildred Mercer, took him in and raised him.
After finishing at junior school, he joined Christ the King Regional High School located in Queens. He played basketball for the first three years there but due to poor grades in academics, he was forced to leave. He was transferred to Redemption Christian Academy located in Troy, New York but didn’t stay there for long. He later relocated to new defunct St. Thomas Aquinas in New Britain and was trained by Jerry DeGregorio.
In 1997, during his senior year, Lamar was honored and recognized as the ‘Parade Player of the Year’. For a second consecutive time, he was also named part of the Parade All-American First Team. He was later awarded USA Today All-USA first team honors. Odom continued to shine in basketball during his youth, and he was eventually teamed with Elton Brand and Ron Artest who were all future NBA players, with them going on to become teammates in the Clippers and Lakers.
Odom always wanted to join the NBA directly after high school, but first he sought advice from Bryant. He decided to attend college at the University Of Nevada in Las Vegas before pursuing his basketball dreams. He was released from the university after a report from Sports Illustrated questioned his surprising high results in the ACT, so he never got to play for them. He was later accused of soliciting prostitution after an undercover operation was conducted by Las Vegas police. An inquiry also revealed that he was receiving up to $5,600 in cash from booster David Champman. His coach was fired and his university team placed under probation for four years.
Lamar was forced to sit out of the 1997-1998 season at the University of Rhode Island where he was transferred. He was not allowed to play because he had been admitted as a non-matriculating student. He earned his dignity back after two semesters and was able to play again. During the first semester, he vanished before the finals placing his career in jeopardy. His coach pleaded with his instructors to allow him to make up for his mistake and set him to work with DeGregorio, the Rams assistant and Odom’s best friend in college. Lamar’s source of inspiration was from his maternal grandmother who went back to the university at the age of 56 in 1980 to earn her degree.
Odom had an average of 17.6 points per game in the one season he had played for Rams, leading them to the conference championship in 1999. He was awarded the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year award and earned first team all-conference honors. After his three-pointer against Temple University, he was honored as the most valuable player of the tournament. His spectacular playing tactics saw him help the Rams win their first tournament title at the A-10.
After his freshman year at Rhode Island, Odom declared he was ready for the NBA draft of 1999. He immediately signed with an agent which meant he couldn’t go back to college. The Los Angeles Clippers selected Odom for their team and he did not disappoint them, getting an average of 16.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game. In the NBA debut, he achieved 30 points and 12 rebounds. In 2000, he was put in the All-Rookie first team.
His game skills improved and his scores increased in the 2000-2001 season to an average of 17.2 points per game. Since the young team failed to improve their position in Western Conference, the Clippers didn’t make the playoffs. After the violation of NBA drug policy in 2001 March, Lamar was suspended for five games. In November during the following season, he violated the drug policy again and was suspended for a further eight months. After the suspension, he spoke out and confessed to using marijuana. His performance dramatically reduced with him playing just 29 games that season. The next season in 2002-2003, he played in 49 games and the summer that followed, he was a restricted free agent. Miami Heat gave him an offer he couldn’t refuse, one that he’d never got from the Clippers.
In the 2003-2004 season, Odom was brought to Miami Heat after they had only won 25 games previously. They had acquired some great young players such as Dwyane Wade and Caron Butler to play as the starting power forwards, along with Eddie Jones and Wade who shared the impressive scoring totals with 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds. The Heat’s game improved massively after a bad start to the season losing seven consecutive games. They went on to compete in the playoffs for a seed.
One of Lamar’s greatest moments in basketball was on March 6 2004 during a win at home game against Sacramento Kings. Lamar posted a triple-double, garnering 30 points, 19 rebounds plus 11 assists. In the playoffs, they got the fourth seed in the first round after playing with New Orleans Hornets. Heat advanced to the second round after winning a seventh deciding game and went on to face Indiana Pacers. Although the Pacers had beaten the Heats in two games, the Heats came and triumphed in two home games, with Odom leading them to victory with 22 points. This was a personal success for Odom compared to previous seasons.
Lamar was traded to Los Angeles Lakers in a package, alongside Caron Butler, in exchange for all-star player Shaquille O’ Neal. Odom developed a shoulder injury forcing him to miss the end of the 2004-2005 season. Due to Lakers poor performance, they hired their former coach Phil Jackson. Odom did not play as well as expected at the beginning of the season but seemed to improve as the season came to an end. For the first time, he had consecutive triple-doubles against Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers. In the 2007-2008 season, Odom’s success picked up after the replacement of teammate Andrew Bynum, who had a knee injury, with Pau Gasol. However, The Lakers lost during the 2008 NBA Finals to Boston Celtics. In 2008, Odom helped out the Lakers with a 10 point victory from a deficit of 12 points. This game was finished with Odom having 28 points, 17 rebounds, and two assists. The Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in a battled finals in the 2009 NBA games, with this being his first NBA championship victory.
Due to his success in the 2009 season, Odom began to get scouted again by his former team Miami Heat. Lakers quickly made a four-year deal with Odom worth $33 million, despite negotiations that lasted a month. This significant investment proved to be worth it after Odom played a major role in the Lakers winning the 2010 NBA championships on a final match they played against Boston Celtics. He played well for Lakers in the 2010-2011 season and was awarded the prestigious award of The NBA Sixth Man of the Year. He was the first to win the award for his team.
He was traded to Dallas Mavericks on December 11, 2011 but after a lot of controversy with contracts he was later assigned to Texas Legends of the NBA League. He didn’t play the first three games of the season because of personal reasons. His deal with the Legends was soon canceled in March 2012 and he returned to Mavericks. Yet the Mavericks coach decided against letting Lamar play in the game they lost 104-87 to San Antonio Spurs, with Odom admitting this was the first time a coach had not let him play. In April 2012, it was rumored that Odom had terminated his deal with Mavericks but they didn’t release him until the end of the season so that they could trade him with another club. He was traded back to Clippers in June 2012. He played 82 games that season, with the Clippers winning their Pacific Division for the first time.
He became a free agent in July 2013 but was not signed in the NBA, with teams looking at getting other players instead. He joined Laboral Kutxa Baskonia of the Spanish league on a two-month deal. He got a back injury a month later and returned to the USA and was declared unfit to play by his personal doctors. Odom also registered an impressive performance in the national team, with the US winning gold for the first time in the 2010 FIBA world championship.
Despite his whirlwind career and being out of the game for a while, Lamar is still the basketball darling. His journey in basketball has inspired all his fans, and the younger generation definitely look up to him as a sports inspiration. He supports charity and often gives donations to organizations. He is also the founder of ‘Cathy’s Kids’, a cancer foundation he named after his late mother who died of stomach cancer.
His positive personality made him highly respected by his basketball teammates. He was never selfish in the game and valued the team spirit and togetherness, an attitude he extended to the outside world even after quitting the sport. He was also very popular with the media, and his responses were always thoughtful and open. He was featured in Taco Bell advert with Charles Barkley during Super Bowl XLIV.
Odom’s hard work is not only recognised on the court but also in the business field. He owns a music and film production company called Rich Soil Entertainment.
He was married to Liza Morales and had three children, Destiny (1998), Lamar Jr. (2002) and Jayden (2005), but they eventually separated. He lost Jayden who succumbed to a sudden infant death syndrome on June 29, 2006. His dad became drug-free, and they maintained a good relationship although he was closer to DeGregorio whom he calls his “white dad”. Destiny and Lamar Jr. also look up to DeGregorio.
He later married Khloe Kardashian in September 2009 after dating for a month. They met at a Lakers party of a fellow teammate of Odom’s. Their wedding was featured on the reality TV show Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
He was charged after being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in August 2013 but refused to submit to a chemical test. He was then sentenced to probation in December 2013 that he agreed to, together with a three-month alcohol abuse treatment.
In October 2015, Kardashian filed for a divorce that was initially signed by both of them. The divorce failed to go through as Khloe called it off when Odom was discovered unconscious at a brothel that same month. He was in a coma and had to be placed on life support due to suffering with kidney failure. Khloe withdrew the divorce in order to help Odom get better, and since his recovery has gone well. The couple finally went through with their divorce in June 2016.
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