Lamar Odom has held several monikers—basketball phenom, National Basketball Association (NBA) champion, Olympian and most recently survivor, but he is adding a new title to his resume—cannabis entrepreneur. CULTURE sat down with the retired champ to discuss basketball, his miraculous recovery and his thoughts on the cannabis landscape.
Odom’s life has been a dichotomy of good and bad since he was a kid. As a youth, he was a talented basketball player, but his childhood was marred by the death of his mother at the age of 12, and his father’s ongoing addiction to drugs. In spite of these early tragedies, Odom became a basketball standout in high school. He was recognized twice as a Parade All-American when he was a junior and senior and was named Parade Player of the Year in his senior year.
After a brief stint in college, Odom was selected fourth overall in the 1999 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. The following year, he joined the NBA All-Rookie Team. However, in 2001 Odom was suspended for violating the NBA Drug Policy. He was suspended a second time the following season again for the same infraction. Following his suspension, he admitted to consuming cannabis.
In 2004, Odom traded Clipper red for Laker gold. During his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom won back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. He was also bestowed the coveted NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award for his efforts in 2011. During his time on the Lakers, Odom began to repair his relationship with his father, who had become drug-free.
Shortly after playing with the Lakers, Odom experienced tragedy yet again, with the death of his cousin, with whom Odom was close. Exacerbating the situation, Odom was the passenger in a vehicle that struck and killed a teenage cyclist. The motor accident occurred one day after laying his cousin to rest. After these tragedies, Odom played for the Dallas Mavericks for one season before returning to the Clippers for the final season of his NBA career.
During his career in Los Angeles, Odom also appeared on a number of reality shows and grew a large fandom off the court. Of course, with newfound notoriety comes the perils of living life in the spotlight. He was addicted to drugs and suffered from terrible anxiety. Odom was found unresponsive and slipped into a coma in 2015. After several days, the former NBA star woke up. However, his recovery would be arduous. It was during this time that Odom began to focus on natural healing and cannabis. His quest for health led him to partner with Camp Green to form Rich Soil Organics and to make high-grade, organic cannabis products.
As a basketball standout from a young age, did sports function as an escape mechanism for your traumatic youth?
It definitely did, 100 percent. Sports was like a parent to me. It kept me straight and on the right path. It made all my dreams come true.
What did sports teach you early on?
It taught me everything about teamwork, what it takes to be a good teammate. I’ve always considered myself a great teammate. I always took pride in that.
You played in the NBA for 13 years, and won two championships. You also represented your country in the 2004 Olympics. Was one more special than the other?
I think they went hand-in-hand. I grew up always paying attention to the Olympics, and that was a special moment. The opening ceremonies are something I’ll never forget. Just like I’ll never forget winning those two championships with the Lakers, but they run neck-and-neck. I wouldn’t put one in front of the other.
How did you feel playing at the Olympics with different teammates?
At the end of the day it was the worlds’ teams competing, so we were representing America, so it meant a lot to me to be on that team.
You describe yourself as a “walking miracle.” How has cannabis helped you in your personal life?
It helped me regain my motor skills. After I woke up from my coma, I couldn’t walk or talk, and I think marijuana helped me with my motor skills. Of course, it helps with pain, and I was addicted to drugs as well. It has helped my recovery out a lot as well.
Several NBA players have come out recently supporting cannabis. Did you hear a lot about cannabis consumption when you played in the league?
Not really. I mean I think guys smoked, but of course when we weren’t in season. But now that it’s becoming a big business, a lot of players are trying to take advantage of the business aspects and of course helping people. I want to help people if I can.
Do you think you ever played with or against someone under the influence of cannabis? Did you ever play under the influence?
I did consume cannabis during my career. It was the wrong decision, because I was suspended for smoking marijuana. I think that rules will be changed in the NBA soon. I think they’ve come to terms that it’s not unhealthy, like some other drugs.
You played during David Stern’s reign as commissioner of the NBA, where he enacted very strict anti-cannabis rules. Recently though, he has come out in support of removing cannabis from the restricted list. Did you notice a change in cannabis’ perception from when you entered the lead, compared to when you left?
Well I think in America as a whole, I think marijuana is definitely more socially acceptable. Just overall, in general.
Elite athletes are under a lot of scrutiny. Do you foresee a future where cannabis is something that’s not tested for and is no longer banned?
I hope so. I hope it gets to the point to where it’s not even a slap on the wrist, and no big deal. Plus, they need it for the pain and for the recovery. I don’t think they’re using it just to get stoned, because they need to be active during the day for professional reasons. I’d recommend them a good strain of Rich Soil’s sativa; that’ll keep ’em up.
You have recently gotten into the cannabis business arena. Can you tell me about your partnership with Camp Green, Rich Soil Organics?
I had a mutual friend who approached me about Camp Green. They were growing organically, which is very clean. But it wasn’t something I just jumped into. We got to know each other, the whole team. We’re a minority-owned company, and we got to know each other to see if we clicked, business-wise. And from that point on, it has been working pretty good. I read a lot of studies on the power of natural healing. I found that I could help my anxiety through the use of certain strains of marijuana, as opposed to Xanax or other things that had opiates in it.
Do you find that cannabis has allowed you to overcome your anxiety and make better decisions in life?
One-hundred percent. As the world saw, I was in rehab. It took a lot of time for me to heal. During my recovery, I did a lot of research into the healing properties of cannabis. I suffer from really bad anxiety, and that anxiety led me to make terrible life-changing decisions off the court. My decision-making was terrible, because I was so anxious. One of my favorite strains is the OG Kush; it helps with my anxiety.
“One of my favorite strains is the OG Kush; it helps with my anxiety.”
Was it important for you that the company you partnered with is an organic grower?
Yes, I want to help people, not hurt them with poor quality products [that are] full of chemicals.
Is it equally important being a minority-owned company
Yes, it’s time for change in every which way in America. Because change is always good if it’s not hurting anyone. Black business baby! Black excellence, that’s what we support.
“I found that I could help my anxiety through the use of certain strains of marijuana, as opposed to Xanax or other things that had opiates in it.”
What kind of feedback have you received from your customers?
Everybody seems to like it. We went down to San Diego, and we got good reviews. Everybody seems to love it.
You grew up in New York, which has a pretty strict medical cannabis program. How does the presence of a medical program impact those who live in states with stricter, or in some cases, no cannabis program?
I mean, of course it’s going to affect consumers. If it’s legal in one area, but not another, that’s where you run into trouble. From our community, it’s horrible for it to be illegal in some of the black communities, because we’re going to find a way to sell it and make money off of it. Hopefully other states will legalize it and regulate it.
There are two approaches to fighter for cannabis legalization, medical and recreational. Is one of the two more important to you?
You got to fight it both ways. Fuck it! I want it all, we want it all. We want to smoke and enjoy it and heal ourselves at the same time.
Your ability to bounce back from adversity is an inspiration to many. What words of advice would you give to people who are suffering from drug addiction problems?
Put your higher power first, and you can overcome anything if you do that.
With the tremendous highs and scary lows you have experienced in your life, what is the message people can take away from your life thus far?
That I’m a fighter, that I’m a survivor and I’m God-fearing. Anything that comes my way, I’ll overcome.
What would you tell 20-year-old Lamar if you talked to him today?
Just chill out and think. Think everything through.
“I think that rules will be changed in the NBA soon. I think they’ve come to terms that [cannabis is] not unhealthy, like some other drugs.”
Favorite Cannabis Strain or Product – Rich Soil OG Kush
Favorite Movie – The Hurricane
Favorite Song – “Angel” by Anita Baker
Coca-Cola or Pepsi? – Pepsi
Favorite Candy – Airhead Bites
Boxers or Briefs? – Boxer briefs
Star Wars or Star Trek? – Star Wars
Pineapple on pizza? – Wrong
Who’s going to win the NBA championships? – Cleveland Cavaliers over the Houston Rockets