‘Khloe & Lamar’: An ‘Unbreakable’ reality TV love story
It was a love story tailor-made for reality TV.
Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom got married in September 2009, only a month after they met. In less than two years, they were the stars of their own E! show, “Khloe & Lamar,” which put a spotlight on their sexy relationship.
The announcement of the series was a definate high point for Kardashian. Even though she was a star of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” she was regularly overshadowed on the show by her more glamourous sister Kim and the stormy relationship between her sister Kourtney and boyfriend Scott Disick.
Her marriage to the NBA star finally gave her the center stage status she craved as the only Kardashian sister with a husband (Kim had a short-lived early marriage).
Even before the series premiered, there were concerns about the impact it would have on the NBA star. When cameras started rolling in January 2011, Odom was the most consistent player on the Los Angeles Lakers, averaging almost 16 points and 10 rebounds a game even though he was the “sixth man” on the team.
FOR THE RECORD
Oct. 14, 2:59 p.m.: An earlier version of this article said filming for “Khloe & Lamar” began in January 2001. Filming began in January 2011.
Coach Phil Jackson wanted to make sure the team’s locker room, showers and training rooms were off-limits.
Though Odom was fine with the restrictions, he made it clear that the show was priority.
In an interview with The Times, he said: “I respect their opinion and what they say and how they feel ... but at the end of the day we always talk about how this is life and we have decisions to make. The Lakers make decisions that they need to make and Lamar does the same. This is the life that we live. This is entertainment.”
Still, less than a week into production, he was already having second thoughts about being involved with the series.
“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, then 31, said in a telephone interview with The Times. “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.”
He also wasn’t used to the intrusion into his off-court life. “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, who was an executive producer of the series.
But Odom made it clear that he was devoted to his wife and her aspirations. The show premiered strongly in April 2011, attracting 2.6 million viewers. The following month, the couple launched a unisex fragrance called Unbreakable.
Despite all that intensity, being married to a Kardashian and being a reality star seemed at first to have a positive effect on Odom’s basketball career. The Lakers won the NBA championship in 2010. More significantly, Odom in 2011 was awarded the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award, given to the league’s top reserve.
Arash Markazi, an ESPN.com columnist who has covered the Lakers for a decade, told The Times: The Kardashians “are 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.”
Still, there were red flags--he was ejected in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals following his flagrant foul on the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitski. “Khloe & Lamar” ignored the incident.
In addition to the outrageous and sexy shenanigans, “Khloe & Lamar” also exposed some of his demons and troubles, particularly his estrangement from his father.
His mother, Cathy Mercer, died of colon cancer when he was 12. His grandmother Mildred Mercer, who raised him, died in 2004. His son Jayden, not quite 7 months old, died of sudden infant death syndrome in his crib in 2006.
Odom suffered a double tragedy in 2011. In July, his 24-year-old cousin, Curtis Smith, was murdered. On his way to the funeral in New York, the SUV he was riding in collided with a motorcycle, which went out of control and hit a 15-year-old pedestrian, Awsaf Alvi Islam, who died of his injuries. Both deaths deeply shook him.
Another blow hit Odom when he learned he was part of a multi-player trade for New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul. Even though the NBA nixed the deal, Odom did little to conceal how upset he was, refusing to practice with his teammates. He speculated that the Lakers organization had been irked by his participation in his reality show, which some fans complained was a distraction to his play.
Still, Kardashian was upbeat about the change in location. In an interview with E! News, she said: “This was an unexpected change, but I’m looking forward to the move. I’ve heard nothing but great things about Dallas and the Mavs. Can’t wait to join my hubby there and get to know the city and all the wonderful people there.”
A special episode of that second season featured the Mavericks returning to Los Angeles for a game with the Lakers.
Odom’s honeymoon with Dallas lasted less than a season. Odom did not get along with teammates and had a falling out with owner Mark Cuban. He was eventually traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.
E! Entertainment announced in April 2012 that the show would end after its second season in order for Odom to focus on his career with his return to Los Angeles.
Times writer Amy Kaufman contributed to this report.
Follow me on Twitter @GeBraxton
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