The name Greg Oden conjures negative thoughts in the minds of many Portland Trail Blazers fans. The past cannot be changed. But the former No. 1 overall pick in 2007 draft sounded optimistic about his future in a sit-down interview with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman as part of the network’s “Outside the Lines” program. Oden was lucid and reflective in the interview, candidly discussing his injury-plagued career, substance abuse issues, domestic violence charge, and new opportunities in his life.
On his battles with alcohol, Oden stated that his problems started during his second season in Portland, during which he averaged nine points and seven rebounds in 61 games, including 39 starts:
“I drank because I had a bad game...but then I would drink because I had a good game, to celebrate. I didn’t know how to handle it, just the situation I was put in, being the No. 1 draft pick with all these expectations.”
Oden also stated that his March 2012 release from the Trail Blazers, brought him to some “low places”, and that he drowned his sorrows in pain pills and alcohol, saying, “that’s all I had.”
When speaking about his stint with the Eastern Conference champion Miami Heat in the 2013-14 season, the big man reminisced. “That was an awesome situation to be apart of,” Oden said, “because that’s all I really cared about was winning”.
The Heat would not re-sign him in the off-season, and that 23-game stint would be followed by a domestic battery charge in August of 2014, which Oden eventually pled guilty to. He was put on probation, required to attend counseling, and has since built a family.
“I have a little girl, I have a fiancée, and I don’t want that situation to happen to them, so it’s something I went through and I’ve got to move forward and try to be better from here on out”.
Oden’s last on-court action as a player came for the Jiangsu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association in the 2015-16 season. He suffered a broken thumb in the preseason that limited his effectiveness, though he averaged 13 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks in 25 games for the club.
In October of 2016 he announced that his playing career was officially over.
Oden returned to the Ohio State University men’s basketball team in April of last year, as a student assistant. In his playing days at OSU, he had averaged 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds for the Buckeyes, despite playing with a broken dominant hand.
He has relished the new opportunity at his old stomping ground and is determined to finish his education. “I’ve been through a lot.” Oden affirmed. “I’m 28, so I’m still young. I’m gonna get my degree”. According to Oden, he is taking a full course load at the school in addition to his coaching duties.
At the end of the interview, Goodman asked Oden point blank if he considers himself to be the biggest bust in NBA history, Oden answered “I mean, technically, yeah. What can I say? I am. Comparing it to what KD (Kevin Durant) has done, which is phenomenal, you’d have to say that,” later remarking, “I’ll be remembered as the biggest bust in NBA history, but I can’t do nothing about that.”
Kevin Durant spoke kindly of Oden, suggesting that injuries kept Oden from having a lasting career in the NBA, and that he did not consider him a bust.
While the Oden Era was certainly a dark spot for Portland, it is nice to see that he has apparently gotten his life back together, and may still have a bright future ahead of him.