Spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month
NBA champion and reality TV star Lamar Odom was raised in a single-parent household, and sadly lost his mom, Cathy, to colon cancer when he was just 12 years old. Life insurance played a huge role in keeping his life on track and allowing him to become the successful person he is today. He opens up about growing up in Queens, his career and life insurance.
LIFE: You have a good story about how life insurance made a difference in your life, but why did you decide to go above and beyond by taking on the role as spokesperson for Life Insurance Awareness Month?
Lamar Odom: I was honored when the LIFE Foundation asked me to serve as the spokesperson. My mom died of colon cancer when she was just 35. It was a very difficult time for me because we were so close. Thankfully my grandmother was there for me. If it wasn’t for her and the fact that we had financial stability because of my mom’s life insurance, I’m not sure I’d be where I am today. Too many Americans think it won’t happen to them and haven’t done the kind of planning my mom did. Unfortunately, they’re leaving their family’s financial future to chance. I hope that by sharing my story more people will take steps to protect themselves and their families with life insurance.
LIFE: The proceeds from your mom’s life insurance allowed you continue your Catholic school education. How might things have turned out differently for you if you’d switched to a different school?
LO: I grew up in the South Jamaica section of Queens, one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in New York City. Drug deals took place literally feet from the steps of my home. Had I not stayed in Catholic school, there’s no telling how things might have turned out for me. Going to Catholic school allowed me to remain focused on my education, on playing ball and staying on the right track.
LIFE: When did you become aware of how your mother’s life insurance made such a difference in your life?
LO: I don’t think I realized it until I was nearing the end of high school and started talking to my grandmother about issues related to money. My grandmother was really amazing and kept things very normal for me after my mom died. But I don’t think she could have kept things as normal as she did without the money from my mom’s life insurance policy.
LIFE: You went to college for several years before turning pro. Did life insurance play any role in that decision?
LO: It definitely did. Very few 18 year olds can jump into the NBA and be successful right away. In fact, many will struggle and get frustrated, and that can be a big setback for their careers. When I graduated high school, I knew it would be best to not turn pro right away. And because my mom had life insurance, I didn’t need to earn a paycheck right away. I had the option to go to college for a few years, and to mature as a player and as a person.
LIFE: When did you buy your first life insurance policy, and what motivated you to do it?
LO: Buying life insurance was one of the first things I did when I joined the NBA. I’m a husband and have two beautiful kids, Destiny and Lamar Jr., and I want to make sure they’ll be provided for if something were to happen to me.
LIFE: If you were talking to a couple with children who didn’t have life insurance, what would you say to them?
LO: I’d share my story and talk about the difference that life insurance has made in my life. A lot of people don’t think they’ll ever need life insurance, but how do you know? My mom didn’t, but look at how important her decision to buy life insurance turned out to be.
LIFE: How does it feel to know that thousands of people may buy life insurance because your message motivated them to take action?
LO: It’s truly a great feeling. I’m honored that the LIFE Foundation gave me the opportunity to share my story. I’m a big believer in giving back. If you’re fortunate enough to become successful, I think you have a responsibility to give back and try to help others. This is a great cause, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
LIFE: What other types of causes are you involved with?
LO: I started a foundation, Cathy’s Kids, named after my mom. We aim to make sure that inner-city children in New York and Los Angeles have the resources they need in life. We look to provide kids with anything from books and computers in their schools to sports equipment for their teams. We also raise money to continue cancer research and awareness programs.
LIFE: What keeps you busy during the off-season?
LO: Obviously, the shows with Khloé take up time. We start shooting over the summer and continue into the start of the basketball season. I also enjoy spending time with my family, as well as working out whether that be through boxing, running or hiking. Of course, getting in shape for the next basketball season is a priority. I’ve got to make sure I’m prepared for the demands of another 82-game season—which will hopefully end with a third championship. There’s some fun mixed in there, though. It’s not all work and no play.
LIFE: What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t playing basketball?
LO: I can honestly say, I’ve known since I was 7 that I wanted to play in the NBA, so I don’t know what else I’d do. When my playing days are over, I’d definitely like to devote more time to my foundation and the various commercial ventures that Khloé and I have launched. I’m sure I won’t have a hard time staying busy.