LOS ANGELES (AP) — Khloe Kardashian was a reality TV star. Lamar Odom was a star athlete. Their whirlwind romance was tailor-made for titillation.
They met at a party and, within four weeks, went from giddy lovers to newlyweds, with their wedding showcased in 2009 on “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” Four years and a spinoff reality show later, they were headed to a divorce that she instigated.
The relationship, hatched in the glittery wealth and designer-label cocoon of the family’s E! television series, became shadowed by his problems and her unhappiness.
But Kardashian, who has said that she never stopped caring, rushed to the hospitalized Odom’s side after he was found unconscious at a Nevada brothel. And, with their divorce not completed, she may yet hold decisions about his medical care in her hands: Nevada law gives a spouse top decision-making power when a patient is incapacitated.
Though the divorce proceedings plodded along, Kardashian never really let go. Odom and their failed relationship, and what she considers his failings, “will weigh on me for the rest of my life,” she said on “Keeping Up” last season.
“That wasn’t what I wanted, so for the rest of my life I’m going to deal with that and worry about him and think about him and want just to protect him,” she said.
Initially, however, it was the couple’s playfulness that was strenuously on display in “Khloe & Lamar,” which launched in 2011 and aired for two seasons.
“I don’t see why there ever has to be an ending to the honeymoon phase,” she said, amid clips giving mild glimpses of their sexual antics.
She lovingly called the towering basketball player “Lammy.”
Odom appeared equally smitten, explaining that he was “attracted by her strength and her smart-ass mouth.”
Their love is forever, Kardashian proclaimed in a 2013 episode, swatting away tabloid rumors of a split.
“At the end of the day, it’s always going to be Lamar and I, no matter what,” she said.
But frustrations set in. They were unable to conceive a child, something that apparently weighed on both of them. Instead, they produced a perfume called Unbreakable Bond.
“Our first child,” Odom called it, a weak joke that didn’t draw a smile from Kardashian.
Their marriage became increasingly defined by his personal and career woes.
His NBA career, which included winning two championship seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, was crumbling. A 2011 trade to the Dallas Mavericks left him depressed, and a stint with the Clippers proved the end of his NBA career.
A month later, he was arrested for investigation of drunken driving in Los Angeles, later pleading no contest and receiving three years’ probation.
Death also was shadowing him.
In a 2013 episode of “Khloe & Lamar,” he spoke movingly of losing a beloved cousin to “senseless gun violence,” with his relative taken off life support. It happened shortly after Odom was involved in a chain-reaction traffic accident that he said resulted in the death of a child.
Then, in an episode from last season’s “Keeping Up,” Kardashian is shown taking a call from Odom about the death of his close friend, Jamie Sangouthai, in June.
“Lamar has suffered so much loss in his life,” she said in a later clip, describing him as “distraught and devastated.”
“I’m always going to be there for Lamar, especially when something as tragic as this happens,” she says.
The marriage, however, couldn’t endure. Despite earlier denials of his alleged infidelity, Kardashian told Brody Jenner she was keeping the painful secret to herself.
“No one knew until he got so sloppy and started messing with all those girls and all those girls want to do is their 10 seconds of fame. I can’t really talk about it. I’m going to start crying,” she said on an episode of “Keeping Up” that aired last season.
Other family members tried to get her to distance herself from Odom, in a clip from the just-concluded season. After lamenting that she doesn’t have Odom’s phone number handy, an exasperated sister Kim Kardashian West asks why she needs it.
“So I can check on him!” Khloe Kardashian replies, adding, “I’m still, no matter what, his friend and I care to see if he’s alive for the day. I can’t do that?”