It's been a while since we've heard from former No. 1 overall pick of the Portland Trailblazers Greg Oden, which just so happens is the way he likes it. But in a rare interview with Grantland's Mark Titus, Oden opens up about the last five years of his life, shedding some light on what's it's really been like to walk in his shoes.
Titus has known Oden for quite some time, dating back to their teenage years on AAU travelling basketball teams. Oden's privacy has kept many things out of the limelight, such as his best friend's death while travelling to see Oden play while at Ohio State.
It's almost like a cloud has been following Greg since high school. He even had bad luck with the 2007 draft, landing in the same class as Kevin Durant...That summer, his right knee started bothering him and doctors determined that he needed microfracture surgery. Greg's rookie season was over before it even began...Greg's heart was still aching because of Travis's death; he was already headed down a destructive path of drinking and "doing things I shouldn't have been doing" (his words at dinner). The knee surgery only made things worse.
"For starters, Portland isn't a great city to live in if you're a young, African American male with a lot of money," Greg explained with an embarrassed grin. "But that's especially true if you don't have anybody to guide you. Since I was hurt the entire season, I was on my own a bunch and didn't have veteran teammates around to help me adapt to the NBA lifestyle."
Oden kept up his issues with drinking, had his alcoholic cousin move into his house to constantly throw parties, and admitted that his second year in the NBA he essentially became and alcoholic. Than in 2009-10 he cleaned up his act, just in time to suffer another devastating knee injury and hasn't played a minute in the NBA since.
"That's the worst part about all of the injuries and the criticism. It would be one thing if I had been healthy for five years and just sucked when I was on the court. But I can't prove what I can do because I can't stay healthy. Not having control over the situation makes it tough."
Oden now plans to take the entire 2012-13 season off, move back to Columbus, OH to be close to his family and finish his degree, and hopefully return some time in the near future after that.
"I don't care about what all of these injuries mean for any legacy I might have," he said. "I just want to play basketball."
It truly is an incredible story, definitely worth checking out.
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