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Blazers Top 100: The Mixed Legacy of Greg Oden

A look at the 100 players and personnel who have influenced the Trail Blazers’ 50-year history.

Minnesota Timberwolves v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

The Trail Blazers’ 50-year anniversary season is temporarily on pause as the NBA goes on hiatus to slow the spread of COVID-19. During that break, Blazer’s Edge is counting down the top 100 Blazers: players, executives, and other influencers who made the franchise what it is today.

No. 87 | Greg Oden

Games Played with Blazers: 82 Regular Season, 6 Postseason

*PTS: 9.4| REB: 7.3 | BLK: 1.4 | FG%: 57.7%

*Statistics are pulled from a player’s time in Portland

Joined Club: 2007 NBA Draft, selected 1st overall.

Departed Club: March 2012, waived

Place in History: Let’s get this out of the way right now: talking about Greg Oden hurts. He was a once-in-a-generation talent, of the same ilk as Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. He was a huge man, muscled like a Marvel superhero, eraser of shots and snarer of rebounds. In college and in the pros, he changed games by his very presence. It took the NBA about two weeks to figure out that when Oden was in the game, driving to the rim was a bad idea. When he took the floor, dribblers began to detour, pull up for jumpers, or pass to someone else for the jumper. And this was the raw, unpolished version of Oden, a 21-year-old who had every right to play into his mid-30’s.

Except it didn’t work out that way. Not even close. The unbridled euphoria of Portland winning the 2007 NBA Draft lottery quickly gave way to the grim reality of a summer-workout knee injury that took out Oden for his entire rookie season. He’d play 61 games when he finally took the floor in 2008-09. The Blazers would win 40 of them. They’d win in 13 of his 21 appearances the next season. (That’s 2 out of every 3 games he appeared in ending in victory, for those counting.) But that was it. 82 games—the equivalent of one season—was all he could give in five years with the club.

Blazers fans never got to see 25- or 28-year-old Oden. They never got to see the trio of Oden, Brandon Roy, and LaMarcus Aldridge make a run at NBA titles. Instead they got to see headlines suggesting personal struggles, veiled medical prognoses that looked increasingly bad, and second-overall selection Kevin Durant becoming NBA MVP.

Still, for 82 games the man shot between 56-60% from the floor. He scored and rebounded at a rate of 17 points and 13 rebounds per 36 minutes. He intimidated with blocked shots, dominated the lane, dunked like a sledgehammer falling off a steamroller falling off the space shuttle, and gave the Blazers everything they could reasonably expect from a player with a single year of college ball under his belt and a delayed NBA start.

Oden would attempt a brief comeback with the Miami Heat in 2013 and then with the BIG3 league in 2019. In between he reached a plea deal for domestic battery in Indiana, an incident marring his legacy.

Few official highlight reels exist recounting exploits from Oden’s brief career. Understandably so, for multiple reasons. The interesting thing about the mix below is not just the ease of the plays he made—unlike any we’ve seen in a Trail Blazers uniform since—but how casually he shrugged off even the best contemporary defenders while doing so. All-NBA players and All-NBA defensive stalwarts ended up getting worn out like so many old shirts. It’s a testament to what could have been had life been different for him and the team.

Check back every day as we continue to countdown to No. 1!