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BILL PLASCHKE

Reality is, public airing of Lamar Odom's personal life could affect his job

He receives ovation as he wins NBA's sixth man award, amid backdrop of his marriage to Khloe Kardashian playing out on television. The show is raw and painful, and stinks as a motivational tool.

April 19, 2011|Bill Plaschke
  • Khloe Kardashian speaks with her husband, Lakers forward Lamar Odom, after he is presented with the NBA's Sixth Man Award during a news conference at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Khloe Kardashian speaks with her husband, Lakers forward Lamar Odom, after… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)

In a hotel ballroom Tuesday, Lamar Odom received his NBA sixth man award amid a hooting standing ovation from his teammates.

On his new reality show, Odom is scolded by his wife about being too loyal to his best friend.

In an emotional acceptance speech Tuesday, Odom spoke with passion and strength about the selflessness that led to the honor.

On his new reality show, Odom is ridiculed by his brother-in-law for not making the All-Star team.

Video: Lamar Odom wins NBA's Sixth Man Award

Everyone contends that neither the Lakers nor one of their most important players suffered during the making — and now, showing — of the cheesy series about the married life of an NBA star and a D-League celebrity.

But, still, one shaky game into the postseason, you have to wonder whether the "Khloe & Lamar" show is working out a lot better for Khloe than Lamar.

"People always want to make something out of nothing," said Khloe Kardashian, rolling her eyes. "People want to make this out to be a distraction, but it's not."

I'll admit, this woman certainly knows all about making something out of nothing. Khloe is a member of that family who became famous several years ago after her sister Kim was involved in a sex tape. Now the Kardashians are everywhere, with a hunger for fame and a willingness to exploit themselves that is more obscene than any video.

For several years, under the guise of several different reality shows, the Kardashians have existed in a world of public hubris and humiliation that is so unsettling, most Lakers fans would rather visit Boston. But then before last season, after a courtship timed by the shot clock, Khloe married Lamar, and suddenly the entire Lakers family has been keeping up with the you-know-whos.

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Throughout last season, I thought Odom, a truly humble and decent man, would be greatly distracted by the Kardashian madness. He worked through it to help lead the Lakers to a second consecutive championship.

When the TV folks started filming "Khloe & Lamar" several months ago, I thought Odom would again be distracted, but he seemed to hold up well, helping the Lakers win 17 of 18 games during one stretch of shooting.

But now that it's all gone public, the show first airing two weeks ago on the E! television network, it's again fair to wonder about the effect that nationally televising a man's personal life will have on his profession.

One of the show's themes, even from the arrangement of names in the title, is that the Kardashian women are powerful enough to even push around an NBA star. I'm wondering how Odom can watch or hear about himself portrayed in this manner, then go out and easily become the aggressor on the basketball court.

At one point in one of the first two episodes, Odom loses a battle with one of Khloe's immature power plays and can only say, "What kind of preschool [bleep] is that?" At another point, he is shown phoning his agent and, with a hint of desperation, asking about his chances of making the All-Star team. Then there are the scenes that show his distress over his relationship with his long-lost father, including one chilling moment in which Khloe phones Odom's dad and un-invites him to a Lakers game because Lamar wouldn't be comfortable.

It's raw, it's painful, it sometimes shows Odom as being even softer than the reputation of Pau Gasol and, as a motivational tool, it stinks.

On the night of the show's Sunday debut, Odom barely shows up in the loss to Oklahoma City, scoring seven points with three rebounds. The following Sunday before the airing of the second episode, Odom arrived late for the Lakers' first postseason game, then slogged his way to 10 points and just one rebound in the loss to New Orleans.

Granted, the sample size of those statistics is far too small to use for a conclusion, but it's so unnerving watching Odom stripped bare of his NBA persona, even most of his teammates have pointedly not watched.

"I'm fine with seeing and knowing the reality of Lamar on the basketball court; I don't really want to see all that personal stuff," said Derek Fisher.

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Phil Jackson said he hasn't watched it but admitted that folks tell him about it, and said just hearing the reports are strange.

"It's really exposed, isn't it … I think it's very exposed," he said of Odom's personal life in the show. "It's a different world we're living in now. The interesting thing that sociologists talk about is that kids would rather be famous than wealthy and have important jobs. It's a real interesting phenomenon."

Before this show, Odom already had fame, wealth and what is perceived to be an important job. Did he really need 13 televised episodes of his life to sell himself to anybody?

"As athletes living here in L.A., we're all under the microscope anyway," said Odom, who has continually denied the presence of any distractions. "At the end of the day, our lives are really exposed."

But not like this, especially during the postseason, when the NBA's many celebrity millionaires pointedly guard their personal lives as they place increased focus on their jobs.

Couldn't Odom, who successfully fought to forbid the TV folks from filming him during the postseason, also delayed the airing of the show until after the postseason? Oh, wait, sigh, that was the whole point, to put it on the tube during the spring to ride the back of the Lakers postseason ratings monster.

After watching Odom accept his award Tuesday, Khloe told me emphatically, "The show has been therapy for Lamar. It's been a real release."

There was once a time when therapy involved only a closed door and a couch, but in today's reality, that's old news. While Odom's sixth man award was a tribute to his ability to escape the bench, he hasn't been so lucky with the Kardashians.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

twitter.com/billplaschke

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