The NBA and its fans used to have high hopes for Greg Oden who was fresh from an eventful amateur career. Unfortunately, the 7-foot big man failed to live up to expectations and ended up as one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) busts in league history. Today, we look back on the injuries that derailed his career and how his journey on the basketball court came to an abrupt end.
Oden looked like he is on his way to stardom as a high school player who garnered prestigious recognition namely two-straight Gatorade National Boys Basketball Player of the Year honors, 2006 Indiana Mr. Basketball award, 2006 Naismith Prep Player of the Year, and an inclusion on the McDonald’s All-American Team.
He decided to form quite a duo with point guard Mike Conley as they would both go on and play for the Ohio State Buckeyes in the collegiate ranks starting in the 2006-07 season. The big man needed to have surgery on his right wrist in June of 2006 to repair a ligament injury that occurred late in his senior high school season.
As a result, he sat on the Buckeyes’ bench during the beginning of the 2006-07 season, during which the team ranked No. 1 before losing to North Carolina. In December of that year, Steve Kerr reportedly described him as a “once-in-a-decade player.”
Greg Oden and the rest of the Buckeyes reached the 2007 National Championship game where they would go on and lose against the Florida Gators. He tallied 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocked shots in what would be his last collegiate tilt.
He finished his tenure as a Buckeye by being named as a member of the 2007 first-team All-Big Ten team and went on to win the Pete Newell Big Man Award, NABC Defensive Player of the Year, Consensus second-team All-American, all in 2007.
Oden generated 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game through 32 games played for Ohio State. He went on to never lose a single home game in his entire high school and collegiate career.
His size and productivity under the rim became attractive for the Portland Trail Blazers who selected him with the top overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft over other highly touted prospects like Kevin Durant, Al Horford, and his former teammate in Conley.
He began his professional career on the wrong foot as he needed to have microfracture surgery on his ailing right knee, which caused him to miss his entire rookie campaign. Entering the 2008-09 season, he was deemed overweight by 40 pounds more than his official listed weight at 250 pounds, according to Blazers trainer Jay Jensen.
Oden eventually left his first NBA game with a foot injury after going scoreless in thirteen minutes of action against the Los Angeles Lakers. Later that season, he injured his left knee once again this time against the Golden State Warriors when he bumped knees with Corey Maggette. The injury caused him to miss three weeks due to a chipped knee cap.
In December of 2009, Oden injured his left knee in the first quarter of a game and was taken off the court on two connected stretchers. Later, he underwent surgery for a fractured left patella and missed the remainder of his sophomore season. It was the second major injury of Oden’s young career in the league.
He would go on and suffer the same fate as he was required to have microfracture surgery on his left knee, thus prematurely ending his 2010-2011 season. In February of 2012, Oden underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He was scheduled for a procedure on his left knee similar to the procedure he underwent 17 days earlier. However, during the operation, further damage to the articular cartilage was discovered, and Oden underwent his third micro-fracture surgery.
The Trail Blazers finally lost all hope on their top overall pick and decided to part ways with him to create room on the roster for trade acquisitions back on March 15, 2012. A couple of months later, Oden announced his intention to sit out the 2012-13 season to focus on rehabbing his injuries. Despite his health, it was reported that several teams were interested in signing Oden for the 2013-14 season.
On Aug. 7, 2013, Greg Oden found a new home and signed a one-year deal with the Miami Heat where he would reach the NBA Finals for the first time in his career. The LeBron James-led squad eventually lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the championship series in five games.
In March 2015, Oden was reported to be working out with the Memphis Grizzlies, while he also returned to his alma mater to undergo training with then-Ohio State basketball head coach Thad Matta. A couple of teams in the Charlotte Hornets and the Dallas Mavericks still showed interest in acquiring his services but no deal ever came to fruition.
He decided to take his talents overseas where he signed a one-year, $1.2 million contract with the Jiangsu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) back in August of 2015. In 25 games played for the club, he averaged 13.0 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per outing before departing the country in February of 2016.
In July 2018, he played in The Basketball Tournament 2018, a $2 million winner-take-all summer tournament composed of Ohio State alumni. In May 2019, Oden was selected by the Aliens as the seventh overall pick in the 2019 BIG3 Draft.
Greg Oden finished his short-lived NBA career with averages of 8.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game in 105 appearances made through three seasons in the league.
Despite his struggles, the on-court talents of the big man were to be undoubted. In fact, he was often put on the same pedestal as Kevin Durant back then, who went on to become one of the best players in the league today. Unfortunately, he failed to see the same success on the hardwood as compared to his counterpart.
He stroke bad luck with regard to his injuries where he failed to capitalize on opportunities that ultimately marred his playing career. His story remains to be one of the most intriguing “what-ifs” in league history that still linger in the heads of basketball fans today.