LOS ANGELES -- The supersized silver SUV is cruising down the I-110 freeway on its way from a downtown Los Angeles loft to the Lakers' practice facility in El Segundo. In the backseat, methodically unwrapping bags of Starbursts, Gummi worms, fudge cookies, peach rings, watermelon chews and anything else sugary within reach is one of the elite players in the NBA. He's a 6-10, 230-pound, chiseled, sinewy specimen of an athlete -- someone you would expect to be downing protein shakes and vitamins instead of Twizzlers and Skittles.
"I'm the candy man," says Lamar Odom, laughing and unwrapping a bag of Life Savers Gummies. "I can't help it."
Odom is a self-described candy and sweets junkie. Hardly an hour, much less a day, goes by without his cracking into bags of whatever his assistant, Anthony "Mac" McNair, has scoured local stores to buy in the bargain-bag size, at home and on the road.
"I have to go early to the city when we're on the road," Mac says, "and make sure his room has bags and bags of candy, honey buns, pecan swirls and then I have to go to KFC to make sure he has a bunch of those parfait desserts."
Odom's love of (addiction to?) sweets was handed down from his grandmother, who "was always baking cookies and cakes," when he was growing up and from his mother, Cathy, who died when he was 12.
"She always ate Twizzlers," he said. "Those were her favorite. Just the wrapper, the smell, always remind me of her. So I make sure to have them wherever I go."
Odom even admits to sometimes handing a stash of sweets to a ball boy so he can indulge during games.
"It relaxes me," he says. "Takes me back to when I was a kid and all I did was eat candy, go to school and play basketball, when life was simple."
His favorites, right now, are anything chewy during the day -- Life Saver Gummies, Fruit Splosions, Wild Berries gummies and Tangy Fruits gummies, plus peach rings, Gummi worms, Swedish Fish -- and chocolate at night, particularly Hershey's Cookies 'n' Creme bars. He even wakes up in the middle of the night to get a fix.
"I have candy around my bed," he said. "I just kinda like reach over and eat it and then go back to sleep, no problem."
It gives his trainer, Robbie Davis of Gameshape Inc., fits.
"But Lamar has a very high metabolism," Davis said. "And he eats healthy and trains hard, so if that's all I have to worry about, then it's OK. I guess."
Says Odom with a shrug: "Everybody has vices. This is probably the least worst of all of them."
Shelley Smith is an ESPN bureau reporter based in Los Angeles.