Khloé Kardashian tried to warn her husband, Lamar Odom, that filming a reality show wouldn’t be easy.
“We literally film our shows seven days a week for 12 to 18 hours a day. They want you to be at your wit’s end and tired. I think he thought we could send the cameras away whenever you want, but you can’t. And I didn’t want to put him under that pressure. He has his first career,” she said, referring to Odom’s job as a professional basketball player for the Lakers.
Viewing the scheduling issues as merely a challenge, Odom agreed to be a part of “Khloé & Lamar,” an E! docuseries centering around the famous couple who wed in 2009 only a month after they met. The show premiered in April, immediately attracting a strong 2.6 million viewers.
But the program almost never made it to air: Less than a week into production, the Lakers forward decided he wanted out.
“By the third or fourth day, I realized how tough and demanding it was going to be. I was like, ‘I don’t think I could do this,’” Odom, 31, said in a recent telephone interview. “But we worked through it. What I do is, like, usually on a game day, I won’t film, because I have to have my mind in a certain place and I have to rest my body.”
There has been a sense of disquiet among even the most loyal Lakers fans as the team has struggled to regain the championship footing of the last two seasons. And yet, even as the team continued in the playoffs, Odom still made time to film the reality show. Friday, he sat down to tape one of the confessional-style interviews that populate the program, according to an E! spokeswoman.
Still, the producers say they went to great lengths to make sure the Lakers were OK with cameras trailing one of their star players.
“I said to Lamar during our first meeting that we would shoot during the off-season, and he was like, ‘No, no, no. I’m boring when it’s off-season. I just sleep. We need to shoot this now, because this is my life,’” recalled Jeff Jenkins, an executive at Bunim-Murray Productions, which produces “Khloé & Lamar.” “Lamar’s career is as a basketball star, and we don’t want to ding that in any way. We’re not filming the Lakers to reveal strategy or team secrets.”
Once that message was imparted to the NBA, the professional hoops league agreed to license an unprecedented amount of game footage to the E! show and allowed the outside camera crews inside the Lakers’ tunnel and locker room. Meanwhile, Kardashian is an executive producer on the show, which means she is able to watch and edit episodes before they are finalized.
But even with all of the accommodations, transitioning into the world of reality television wasn’t smooth for Odom. Unlike his wife — who has appeared on her family’s hit show “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” since 2007 and starred in the 2009 spinoff “Kourtney & Khloé Take Miami” — Odom wasn’t accustomed to a lack of privacy in his own home.
“If he has a bad practice, he’ll come back kind of with an attitude and needs like an hour to unwind. But my camera crew don’t care. They’re like ‘Nope, come on,’” said Kardashian, 26.
She was sitting in a dressing room talking about the show recently while a hair stylist ran a curling iron through her long tresses, preparing for yet another stop on the “Khloé & Lamar” media tour for which she shouldered most of the promotional duties.
That was an intentional move on her part, said Kardashian, who acknowledged she’s fearful of criticism that the show is a distraction to Odom’s athletic career.
“If he has a bad game, I know in the back of their heads, the NBA wants to blame this show,” she said. “He’s such a people pleaser that if a producer would say, ‘OK, you’re ready to film? You’re not too tired?’ He would say, ‘No, I’m fine.'… I don’t ever want him to feel pushed or stretched out too thin.”
Kardashian’s anxiety seems at least partly warranted. In recent years, sports critics have jumped to blame the poor performance of some athletes on their romantic relationships with celebrities. When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo dated singer-actress Jessica Simpson, for example, fans were quick to pin his eroding on-field play on his high-profile relationship.
But Kardashian seems to have had the opposite effect on Odom. The Lakers won the NBA championship last year and are in the running to win it again. And just a few weeks ago, he was awarded the NBA’s sixth man of the year award, given to the league’s top reserve.
“The Lakers, of course, had their concerns when I went into this, but I made the promise to them that I would remain the same player, if not try to get better,” Odom said.
That said, Odom has struggled in some playoff games. In both of the Lakers’ losses to New Orleans in the first round, he appeared lethargic, in one game putting up just six points and four rebounds — well below his season averages. (This story went to print before the second game of the playoff series with the Dallas Mavericks.)
But Arash Markazi, an ESPN.com columnist who has covered the Lakers for a decade, says that statistically, Odom has had the best run of his career since meeting Kardashian and believes the show will help him off the court. “Just look at what the Kardashians have done with their brand — from shoes to a clothing line with their brand,” he said. “They’re an extremely hot commodity, and if Lamar is any way attached to that, it’s not going to help him get a bigger salary within the team, but it might help him get a shoe contract or clothing line endorsements.”
Indeed, last month, he and Kardashian launched a unisex fragrance called Unbreakable. They celebrated the venture at an intimate party at a trendy Hollywood hotel — where Kardashian’s family milled about with microphone packs clunkily showing through the backs of their chic outfits. The scene was being filmed, of course, for an upcoming episode of “Khloé & Lamar.”
Some of the Lakers have been giving Odom a hard time about his new high-profile endeavors, said Kardashian. A clip from the Unbreakable commercial, which shows the couple in a sensual position, was edited into game footage that was reviewed by the team during practice.
But taking those kind of jabs in stride is just one of the things that comes along with being a part of the Kardashian juggernaut, said Khloé, who often uses the embarrassing-but-affectionate nickname “LamLam” when referring to her husband on the show.
“Lamar tells me all the time that he has fans that are like, ‘Oh, you’re on the Kardashian show!’ And he’s like, ‘I am now known for the Kardashian show? I’ve been in the NBA for 12 years.’”