Former NBA star Odom found unconscious at Nevada brothel

Greg Beacham and Sally Ho
Associated Press

Las Vegas —  Lamar Odom, the NBA star and reality TV personality embraced by teammates and fans alike for his humble approach to fame, was on life support Wednesday, his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian by his side. Odom had spent four days in a brothel, and authorities sought a warrant for blood evidence of drugs.

Hospital officials would not comment on the condition of Odom, a 35-year-old former Los Angeles Laker and member-by-marriage of the Kardashian clan. He was found face down at Nevada’s Love Ranch Tuesday afternoon, brothel owner Dennis Hof said.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who visited Odom at the hospital Wednesday, said he was on life support and that doctors believe he is recovering after being totally unresponsive Tuesday.

“Apparently from what the doctor said, he was much better off today than yesterday. He at least has some responsiveness now,” Jackson said. “He’s got tubes in him now but we felt inspired by his presence.”

“We’re just holding hands and hoping he can bounce back,” Jackson added.

Investigators have sought a warrant to obtain a blood sample to determine if Odom suffered a drug or alcohol overdose, Nye County, Nevada, Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said.

Odom started “throwing up all kinds of stuff” when a 911 operator told them to turn him on his side, Hof told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

Odom spent most of his 14-year NBA career in Los Angeles with the Lakers and Clippers, becoming a fan favorite and beloved teammate. Then he took fame even farther, carrying on a whirlwind romance with Khloe Kardashian.

Their huge 2009 wedding was taped for the E! network, and their marriage was chronicled on the “Khloe & Lamar” show, which aired in 2001 and 2012. Odom also appeared on nearly two dozen episodes of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and several installments of “Kourtney & Kim Take Miami.”

Odom seemed to get a loving family life with the Kardashians. Khloe would call him “Lam-Lam” and worry openly about his darkness inside. Even after they split up, cameras recorded her calling him and checking on his welfare, worried that he was in a bad place.

Authorities were called to the ranch in Crystal, Nevada, about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday, the sheriff said. At 6-feet-10-inches, Odom was too tall for an available helicopter, so an ambulance took him about 65 miles to Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center in Las Vegas.

On Wednesday, Kardashian and some of Odom’s childhood friends were by his side, and former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant visited him last night, Jackson said.

Hof told the AP that his staff had picked up Odom from a home in Las Vegas on Saturday, and he seemed “happy, he was sleeping every night,” while visiting.

Odom “spent time socializing with some of my girls,” but wasn’t seen taking any illegal drugs, Hof said.

“He was polite and reserved, and he told multiple employees that he was there to get some privacy and spend some time relaxing,” he said in a statement.

“He largely kept to himself, and at no time did he engage in any drug use in the presence of anyone in the house. He did drink alcohol from our bar, and was taking some herbal sexual enhancement capsules,” Hof’s statement said.

Two women went to check on Odom Tuesday afternoon after not hearing from him since early morning, and found him face down and unconscious, Hof said.

“It’s incredibly sad,” Hof told the AP. “He just wanted to get away, have a good time and relax.”

Odom emerged as one of the most promising basketball talents of his generation after a difficult childhood in Queens, where his mother died of cancer when he was 12 and his estranged father was addicted to heroin. He eventually won two NBA championship rings and an Olympic medal, and became a reality TV star.

But his life never seemed free of struggle and tragedy, most tragically the death of his infant son in 2006.

After seven years with the Lakers, Odom felt crushed in December 2011 when the club traded him. He played his final NBA game 18 months later, and his last years were a spiral of arrest, estrangement and widespread rumors of drug use.

Kardashian filed for divorce in 2013, citing irreconcilable differences, his behavior became more erratic. His divorce from Kardashian has not yet received final approval from a judge.

People have always seemed to root for Odom, whose prematurely weathered face wore the impact of his personal tragedies in a friendly way, seeming to acknowledge his lowest points even when he reached the heights of pop-culture fame.

The neighborhood he grew up in, South Jamaica in Queens, was rampant with drugs and street crime, and he never forgot where he came from, writing tributes to his mother and grandmother on his sneakers before games.

The rangy kid with a beautiful shot and exceptional ball-handling skills drew comparisons to Magic Johnson when he played on a traveling youth team alongside Ron Artest, his future Lakers teammate. Hotly recruited from high school, he spent a year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where NCAA investigations kept him from playing, and then spent a year at the University of Rhode Island, winning the conference title.

Tall enough to play center and skilled enough to be a playmaking guard, Odom’s talent was so coveted that he was picked fourth in the 1999 NBA draft by the moribund Clippers. Suddenly, he was “living like a 19-year-old rock star,” he said. Soon thereafter, he was suspended for smoking marijuana.

Odom had two children during those years, Destiny and Lamar Jr., with an ex-girlfriend, Liza Morales. They had another infant son, Jayden, whose crib death in 2006 was attributed to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Odom loved wearing the Lakers’ purple and gold. His selfless play won him the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. They won a second NBA final as he played alongside Artest, now known as Metta World Peace. Loving fans followed him from his downtown Los Angeles loft to the arena before playoff games. His obsessive consumption of candy endeared him even more.

But as his life became a public spectacle, his basketball career faded. He was heartbroken in December 2011 when the Lakers attempted to trade him to New Orleans in a multiplayer trade for Chris Paul. He eventually went to Dallas, and was out of the NBA just two years later.

Odom’s behavior increasingly worried family and friends. He pleaded no contest to drunk-driving after an arrest in August 2013. Kardashian filed for divorce four months later and has been dating Houston Rockets star James Harden.

Odom signed with the New York Knicks in April 2014, but never played. Rumors of drug use followed; Odom was photographed repeatedly on Skid Row.

When cameras caught up with him on a sidewalk in August, Odom blamed the media for his downfall.

“Ya’ll have discredited me, beat me down, took my confidence, took everything away from me. You will not do it again,” Odom told TMZ in an interview. “To everybody that I know and that supports me, I’m sorry but it’s just it. The dog has to bite back.”

Several Lakers players visited the hospital after their exhibition game Tuesday night in Las Vegas.

“There’s not one word I could say that would make sense,” World Peace said, clearly distraught.