It's time for another SBNation-NBA group discussion topic! Today all the NBA blogs across our network are tackling the same subject: the most hyped player in franchise history. Be sure to click around the network to see the responses from writer and fans of each team.
As for the Blazers, there's little debate to be had. The most hyped acquisition in the history of this franchise was the #1 pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, Gregory Wayne Oden.
To Blazer fans, discussing Oden is like discussing your STD history. Nothing against Greg personally...he's a fine guy. It just wasn't an experience you want to remember, let alone rehash. So let's make this brief.
Greg Oden was a generation-defining center. He'd been traced all through high school, ogled during his year at Ohio State, and was a lock for the #1 position in the draft. Those factors alone are enough to generate hype. But Blazers fans had seen this before...Bill Walton, to some extent Sam Bowie.
The spicy hot sauce peppering the meatloaf of hype was the advent of Kevin Durant, whom everybody pegged as a future scoring champ. Now this draft contained not one franchise-saving player, but two. Would the Blazers go for the traditional center to complement their already-strong scorers or would they swerve left, opting for the league's next 25ppg guy. In the month before the draft billboards along Portland highways read, "Honk once for Oden, Twice for Durant". Door #1 or Door #2? Even the most casual Blazer fan was abuzz.
Oden also had the (mis)fortune to come along during the golden age of sports media coverage. All four major media avenues--television, radio, newspaper, and internet--were active and running strong. This had not been true for any of his highly-touted predecessors. In their day you might get a big write-up or two in the paper and a story on TV. Oden was talked about every...single...day. ESPN was all over the story, running with everything from the Big Choice to Portland's history with Bowie and Michael Jordan. National sports talk radio networks gabbed about the Blazers for the first time since the late 90's. Newspapers filled their usual columns. The internet kept the chat going 24/7. Never in the history of forever had there been this much talk about this franchise or about a single player on it.
When Oden was selected a roar went up across Blazers Nation. He jetted to a rally in Pioneer Square to which thousands showed up to catch a glimpse of him. National coverage dimmed post-draft but frantic internet fans began salivating over Oden's debut and the impending glory of an Oden-Brandon Roy-LaMarcus Aldridge trio. There was nothing else else to talk about. The Greg Oden story loomed over the franchise, creating its own inescapable gravity.
Oden's pre-season injury and well-chronicled demise turned that gravity cruel. The franchise and its fans had long since passed the event horizon. No amount of fiddling with the warp core or plasma manifolds would pull them out again. 2007's pre-draft hype turned to wailing by 2010. Having played 82 games total in three years, Oden's career in Portland was over. The franchise still hasn't recovered fully.
But LA LA LA! I'm sticking Q-tips dangerously far into my ears so I can't hear or remember any of this! If you want to talk about Portland's most-hyped acquisition outside the draft that's probably Scottie Pippen, purloined from the Houston Rockets on October 2nd, 1999 for a package of Kelvin Cato, Stacey Augmon, Walt Williams, Ed Gray, Carlos Rogers, and Brian Shaw. Of those Shaw was the most significant, as he would play a small but key part in Portland's Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in that season's Western Conference Finals.
In any case the confetti hit the fan the instant the Pippen trade was announced. I remember it making the front page of the sports section of the Des Moines Register all the way out in Iowa. I also remember jumping up and down in place as I read it. It was like getting a championship in a box. It didn't quite work out that way, but the tide of hype was still formidable enough to qualify Pippen as the most-hyped (outside the draft) Blazer of all time.
What say you? What other Blazer players do you remember receiving a lot of hype? Did they live up to it or not? Share in the comment section below. Now excuse me while I go dig swab out of my hypothalamus. Honk-Honk!