Yesterday Mirin Fader of The Ringer published an extensive story on former Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden. Selected first overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Oden was expected to be a generational superstar, leading his franchise to titles alongside 2006 draftees Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. Instead Oden would miss four out of his first six seasons with knee injuries, playing only 82 total games for the Blazers before attempting an abbreviated comeback with the Miami Heat which resulted in 23 appearances.
Along the way, Oden also struggled with off-court issues. As Fader’s piece chronicles, the center faced addictions to painkillers and alcohol. After his NBA career was over, he also pleaded guilty to a felony count of domestic violence against an ex-girlfriend:
On August 7, 2014, around 3:30 a.m., police were called to Oden’s home. Court documents state that Oden had punched his ex-girlfriend, whom an officer described as having “blood [and] swelling to the nose.” His mother, who’d been awoken by the commotion, had to pull Oden off the woman, according to the documents. Oden was arrested and charged with two felony counts of battery and two misdemeanor counts of battery. According to the police’s incident report, Oden told responding officers: “I was wrong, and I know what has to happen.” Oden eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count, while the other three charges were dismissed. He received 909 days of probation and was ordered to complete 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling and alcohol counseling. A no-contact order was also put in place.
Fader’s piece includes stories from Oden’s playing days, his battles to overcome addiction, the support he received from his family and friends, and his commitment to a new position as director of basketball operations at Butler University from which he hopes to grow into coaching.
Of particular note to Blazers fans will be Oden’s reflections on his tenure with Portland. Fader describes him coping with his feelings of disappointment by secluding himself:
On the rare times he did venture out, he’d put his hood up far over his head, hoping to shield his face, his eyes, and, quite impossibly, his 7-foot frame. “I just felt like a failure. I felt like I let a lot of people down,” he says. “Letting Portland down, letting the whole entire staff and organization down. I felt like I let my family down and everybody who coached me and believed in me.”
Fader’s piece is worth a read, especially if you’re not familiar with the series of injuries and events that carried Oden from a can’t-miss star to an early exit from the league.