Exclusive: Lamar Odom Discusses His Near-Death Experience, the Importance of Sharing His Story, and His Possible Future in Basketball With a Former Lakers Teammate

It’s been almost six years since former NBA player and reality TV star Lamar Odom overdosed and slipped into a coma, an ordeal during which he suffered a dozen strokes and multiple heart attacks. He miraculously survived, and after spending a few months in the hospital, the two-time NBA champion essentially started his second life, one in which he hopes to help people, not hurt them as he knows he did in the past.

While Odom maintains he took no drugs the night of his near-fatal incident, he’s certainly owned up to his past issues with substance abuse. He says cocaine became his “crutch” when his six-month-old son died of SIDS in 2006, and things simply got out of control as the years went by. His addiction caused issues with his other two children, affected his marriage to Khloé Kardashian, hindered (and perhaps shortened) his NBA career, and obviously nearly killed him.

In the years since his near-death experience in Las Vegas, Odom has discussed his addiction and subsequent recovery on various platforms, has written an autobiography and was the subject of a documentary earlier this year. He also recently partnered up with American Addiction Centers, specifically with Joy Sutton, who serves as the director of corporate communications and hosts the organization’s new talk show, Addiction Talk, on which Odom recently appeared.

Odom finds it extremely important to continue to share his story, which is just one of the topics we discussed during our interview with the former NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Not only did he talk about his near-death experience and the fear he felt when he woke up, but he also dropped a little nugget on us about his future in basketball.

Lamar Odom on his lowest point and why he continues to share his story

Lamar Odom
Lamar Odom | Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Early on in the discussion, I asked Odom why he continues to share his story on these various platforms, and this was his response:

“If sharing my story can help people, the question would be, ‘Why not?’ That’s more of the question. I get a lot of compliments on the path that I’m taking right now, and those are more satisfactory than people coming up to me and telling me how good of a basketball player I am. So why not share my story if it can save or change lives?”

As our discussion progressed, we got into that infamous night in 2015, which Odom calls his “low point.”

“That night when I fell into the coma, I didn’t do drugs that night. So when I woke up from out of the coma, I was more confused. Hurt. Saddened. A little angry. But my faith never wavered. When I woke up out of the coma, I couldn’t walk or talk. And I think the only thing that really was able to get me through was my faith. I didn’t ask questions. I didn’t complain. And it would have been really easy for me to get like that ‘f— it’ attitude and ‘f— everybody’ attitude, but that didn’t enter my mind or enter my space. I tried to remain the same and stay calm and keep my faith in God.”

Lamar Odom says he would still be playing in the NBA today if not for his addiction and discusses his basketball future

As our conversation continued, I asked Odom if he thought his substance abuse shortened his NBA career. And not only did he say that it did, but he also told me he believes he’d still be in the league today at 41 years of age.

“I would think honestly I’d still be playing right now. Yeah, if it wasn’t for the drugs. Because I really never had any problems with my lower extremities, which shortens a player’s career. I can still run and jump, maybe not as fast or not as high as I could at 19, but I still can.”

I then asked Odom if he still had plans to play anywhere and then brought up his short stint in Ice Cube’s BIG3, which he addressed first before dropping an interesting nugget about a future possibility with an ex-teammate from his days with the Los Angeles Lakers.

“Yeah, I wasn’t in shape [for the BIG3]. There’s an old teammate of mine. Him and his brother own a team where they come from. I’m talking about Pau Gasol. I recently did a documentary for him, and I asked him if I was able to get in shape if he would give me a chance to play. So that’s something he can think about or something we can discuss when I do get in shape. But I still have an urge for the game. I watch every NBA game I can. I don’t know if it’s through coaching or through playing — just being around it — I can’t get it out of my system.”

How boxing has helped his overall recovery and mental state

As our conversation came to a close, I asked Odom how boxing has helped his overall recovery and mental health. For those unaware, the former All-American recently joined the celebrity boxing ranks and easily knocked out singer Aaron Carter back in June.

“I think boxing helps because it tests your reflexes. It keeps you sharp, and it’s a different way of working out because I don’t really like to run a lot, even though I’m thinking about running the New York City marathon.”

I told him how bold that was for anyone, and we had a good chuckle about it. Odom is actually scheduled to face former heavyweight champion of the world Riddick Bowe in a short exhibition bout this fall, but he told me he believes it’s been pushed back from its original October 2 date.

We closed things out with a quick conversation and COVID-19 as he urged everyone to think about getting vaccinated. I asked him if he had any closing thoughts, and this is what he gave me:

“I know I’m here for a reason. So maybe it’s to help change people because I couldn’t change myself.”

Lamar Odom

Yeah, so I’m not even going to try and top that. I want to thank Lamar Odom for taking the time to speak with Sportscasting, and I’d also like to thank his team for setting everything up. And, of course, thanks to Joy Sutton, who sat in on the call with us and provided some great insight as well.

How to get help: In the U.S., contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration helpline at 1-800-662-4357. American Addiction Centers offer help for those struggling with addiction. You can call their support line at 866-244-1070.