Kim Kardashian and Reggie Bush Just Seemed So in Love

Or as Chris Harrison would say, "in it for the right reasons."

Kim K and Reggie Bush Were in It for the Love
Photo: Getty Images

Long before the high-highs and low-lows of Kimye, before her and Kris Humphries's marriage was even a twinkle in a TV executive's eye, Kim Kardashian may have found her one true love. At least, according to me and a couple of very passionate fans on TikTok.

With a preternatural business savvy and acute understanding of the machinations of fame, Kim Kardashian has managed to transform herself from "a girl with no talent" to a billionaire CEO and global phenomenon who has forever changed the face of media. But the reality star's decision to prioritize her fame over her love life in the early days of Keeping Up with the Kardashians may have cost her one of her greatest and most authentic romances.

I still remember the first time I ever saw Kim. I'd just picked up a handful of tabloids to browse on a long train ride home from visiting colleges in New York when I was inexplicably stopped dead in my tracks by an image of Paris Hilton on the beach accompanied by a mystery brunette showing off their coordinated metallic Louis Vuitton tote bags for the paparazzi. "Who the hell is that?," I mused aloud to an empty train car. There's no discernible reason that image should have jumped out at me, especially considering, at the time, Paris was surrounded by an endless rotation of wannabe It-girls all angling to be her next Nicole Richie. But thinking back on that moment knowing all Kim has since become, I wonder if part of what initially piqued my interest in her was that palpable, unapologetic thirst with which she courted fame.

Kim K and Reggie Bush Were in It for the Love
Getty Images

While Paris was the consummate socialite of the early aughts, she still had her heiress status to bolster her claim to all that attention. Kim, on the other hand, had little more to recommend her than a moderate amount of family wealth and a less-than-optimal association with O.J. Simpson. Yet despite that, she has always had an utter lack of coyness when it comes to her pursuit of global notoriety; a confident shamelessness that feels at once universal and completely singular. During the predawn of the influencer era, Kim was the first person to suggest that fame doesn't need to be rooted in any discernible gifts. A-list celebrity is always just the right brand deal, the right boyfriend, or a particularly scandalous selfie away for us all. As someone who, back then, was also irrationally confident that my voice needed to be heard by the masses, but less than certain I had anything to say or the skill set with which to say it, perhaps it was Kim's bravado and surety that leapt out at me from those random paparazzi shots. Perhaps that is also why her relationship with Reggie Bush still looms so large for many of us. As her public persona tipped over from sidekick to mega-stardom, Reggie feels like the last vestige of a time before Kim had perfected the art of fame, when her allegiances were still truly divided between love and stardom, and her faith in that singular vision of success momentarily wavered.

Shortly after her sex tape with Ray J took her from being Paris Hilton's assistant to a national tabloid fixture, Kim began dating football player Reggie Bush. The reality star and New Orleans Saints running back first met in 2007 at the ESPY Awards after being introduced by a mutual friend and quickly started dating. Over the course of their relationship, much of which was captured on her then-fledgling reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, it seemed like Kim and Reggie were very much in love and even destined to walk down the aisle, often teasing their impending engagement. Until suddenly, they weren't.

Due to the demands of Reggie's football commitments and Kim's continued exponential success, the couple broke up for the first time in 2009, citing their desire to focus on their respective careers. They briefly got back together in 2010 before calling it quits again. Their paths would cross one more time, however, when they briefly reconnected in 2012 following Kim's divorce from Humphries, with Bush reportedly stepping in and "comforting" her. But they once again went their separate ways, for good this time, with each going on to marry their subsequent partners.

A source told E!, at the time of the couple's first breakup, that they were both "very sad," but also "love each other a lot and hope someday they can make it work." Another major reason for the breakup was apparently their inability to spend time together due to their demanding schedules. But a source who spoke to Us Weekly suggested it was actually the Selfish author's sky-rocketing notoriety that ultimately drove them apart. "Her fame is just a little too much for him to handle. She travels the world and has created brands. He just can't keep up," they said. And in a clip from KUWTK following their breakup, Kim also suggests that's the case, but that she's ready to give it all up for Reggie. Breaking down mid-photo shoot, Kim tearfully confesses to her mom that she just wants "to cry every second. I feel like my world is over." She later adds, "I just really don't care about my career anymore. I feel like it's cost me my relationship."

In 2014, Reggie also seemed to confirm those suspicions, telling ESPN, "When I started dating my ex [Kim], that's when all this [media attention] came. But it's part of the territory and, like I said, everything happens for a reason…Then all the other stuff came. The gossip magazines and all the other stuff, the ugly side of it. But you know what, I wouldn't change anything because it helped mold and shape who I am today and I'm a better man for it." Four years later, Reggie also had nothing but kind words for his former girlfriend and her many successes, telling Us Weekly that while they "don't keep in touch," he continues to be impressed by the life Kim has built for herself. "She's doing a great job creating a brand for herself, her and her family. I'm happy for 'em…She's very smart," he said. Kim has not spoken publicly about their relationship since the breakup.

And clearly, their love is no longer meant to be; the same year Kim married her now-estranged husband Kanye West, Bush also married the mother of his child, Lilit Avagyan. The pair have been together ever since and they now share three children. You can't help but notice, however, when scrolling through her Instagram account, that Mrs. Bush bears more than a passing resemblance to Kim. It's not just Lilit's physique and Armenian heritage, but also her entrepreneurial spirit and the way her fitness, her children, and her husband are very much at the center of everything she does. It's easy to imagine Kim scrolling through her and Reggie's accounts and getting the uncanny feeling of being Gwyenth Paltrow in Sliding Doors, seeing how an alternate version of her life could have played out

Perhaps it's that element of "what if" that makes me sentimental for this particular relationship. As a woman who has also always been extremely driven and prioritized my career and personal successes over romance, Kim and Reggie's story often feels like a Robert Frost-esque parable of the roads not taken in the form of relationships left unfulfilled. It seems like confirmation of that old adage that women really can't have it all. But maybe it's actually testament to exactly the opposite. Maybe it's a lesson about how much more fraught and nuanced real life is than the fairy tales we've all been promised. You can have it all, you just don't get to choose with whom or on what timeline you receive it. People and situations may be right for the moment or they may be right for forever, and neither is any less significant. Our lives are an amalgamation of the endless stream of choices we've made. But as Reggie said of his brush with Kim on the verge of mega-stardom, these choices are what shape us and make us who we are today, not an indictment of who we have yet to become.

Breakups That Broke Us is a biweekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.

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