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Before Lamar Odom was found unconscious at a Nevada brothel, his life had been laced with tragedy

At moments, Lamar Odom seemed to lead a charmed life. Two NBA world championship rings playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. Marriage to one of television’s Kardashians. His own music and film production company.

But tragedy has long clung to the troubled 35-year-old athlete, who was found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel and remains in critical condition at a Las Vegas hospital.

“Death always seems to be around me,” Odom told the Los Angeles Times in 2011. “I’ve been burying people for a long time.”

Born in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., Odom grew up during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic.

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His father, a heroin addict, left the family when Odom was young, and his mother died of colon cancer when he was 12.

But Odom fought his way out of those beginnings with the help of a prodigious talent on the basketball court. He played for the University of Rhode Island before being drafted by the Clippers in 1999 as the No. 4 overall pick.

Even as his playing career was taking off, though, he experienced more personal tragedies: His grandmother, who raised him in Queens, died in 2003, when Odom was 23.

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Three years later, Odom’s nearly 7-month-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome while sleeping in his crib.

Overwhelmed with grief, Odom contemplated leaving the game.

Instead, he poured himself into his various passions, including his record label, Rich Soil Entertainment, and a line of Christian-themed apparel, Son of Man.

He wore No. 7 on his jersey because his grandmother had always believed it was her lucky number. He wore a tattoo of his son, Jayden, on his chest above his heart and had an image of his mother tattooed on his back.

Before every Lakers game, Odom was known to write his family’s names on his white, purple and gold Nikes: “Cathy,” for his mother, “Mildred,” his grandmother, and “Jayden.” It was a ritual that was well-known among coaches and teammates.

Reminding himself of the traumas seemed to inspire the 6-foot-10-inch forward on the court.

“Just the way that I try to just always remember them,” Odom once told The Times. “As time goes by, sometimes it’s human nature to forget.”

Odom was in New York for a Nike commercial shoot when his 24-year-old cousin was shot and killed in July 2011. Odom assumed many of the responsibilities his late grandmother would have: serving as head of the family, making funeral arrangements. It was a burden that weighed heavily on him.

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The day after the funeral, Odom was in the back seat of an SUV on his way to Queens when the car struck a motorcyclist. Odom watched as the motorcycle careened out of control and hit a 15-year-old pedestrian, who died from head injuries the next day.

“I’m sitting in the car looking him right in the face. I’m like, ‘I think he’s gone,’ ” Odom recalled to The Times in 2011.

“I think the effects of seeing [my cousin] die and then watching this kid die, it beat me down,” he told The Times then. “I consider myself a little weak. I thought I was breaking down mentally. I’m doing a lot of reflecting.”

Odom credited his “very strong wife,” Khloe Kardashian, as the source of his strength as he dealt with the twin tragedies. They wed in 2009, the same year the Lakers won the first of two championships. He said he owed much of his success during that period to their marriage and her stabilizing influence.

“You know how things can just line up in life?” he told Lakers.com in 2011. “I met Khloe at the perfect time. The stability she and her family bring me is why I’m at peace. I think I have gotten to a new point as a man, as a father, as a basketball player.”

 

Odom was a vital part of the Lakers’ NBA championships in 2009 and 2010, and, in recognition of his important role coming off the bench, he won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award in 2011. The vote was a landslide: Out of 117 possible first-place votes, he received 96.

As he rose to accept the honor in a Los Angeles hotel ballroom, he choked up, tears welling in his eyes.

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“There’s a couple of people I wish was here to see it,” he said, later adding that they were his mother and grandmother.

In January 2012, a month after he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks, Odom reflected on the electricity he felt from the crowds at every game.

“The energy that was passed from them to me always made everything feel all right,” he told The Times then. “To feel them root for you because they like you and see you evolve into a man and someone who’s consistently putting it out for them, it’s awesome. It’s the best feeling in the world as far as basketball is concerned.”

But things quickly spiraled out of control for Odom after rumors of his drug use and infidelity preceded the unraveling of his marriage to  Kardashian in 2013.

That year, there were reports that Odom had gone missing after a fight with Kardashian. The following week, he was involved in a minor car crash involving a Los Angeles Times reporter and later was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after California Highway Patrol officers spotted him on the 101 Freeway driving “in a serpentine manner.”

Kardashian filed for divorce Dec. 13, 2013, and the process stretched on almost two years. Both parties signed final papers in July, but the case is still pending judicial review in L.A. Superior Court.

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FOR THE RECORD:

An earlier version of this article stated that Kardashian and Odom’s divorce was finalized in July. The divorce is still pending.

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A month earlier, Jamie Sangouthai, Odom’s best friend and best man at his wedding, died. The cause was necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease, caused by chronic drug abuse, according to the L.A. County coroner.

In early August, paparazzi caught Odom confronting his ex outside a Beverly Hills gym and demanding that she talk to him.

“I love Lamar and care about him a lot. It makes me feel good to hear his voice and know that he’s OK,” Khloe Kardashian said during the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” episode that aired Sunday.

“I’m really on high alert for Lamar,” she said, “because, I mean, anything I think will set him to spiral, and that’s kind of the last thing I want for him.”

Staff writers Broderick Turner and Christie D’Zurilla contributed to this report.

For more breaking news, follow me @cmaiduc

MORE ON LAMAR ODOM:

The scene at the Nevada brothel where Odom was found unconscious

Legal brothels in Nevada, even with clients like Odom, are on the wane

NBA players and coaches on Odom: He’s a good, good person who has demons


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