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Former No. 1 Pick Candid About Biggest Regrets

Nov. 3, 2009; Portland, OR, USA; Portland Trailblazers center Greg Oden (52) drives to the basket on Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) in the fourth quarter of the game at the Rose Garden. Atlanta won the game 97-91. Mandatory Credit: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, former center Greg Oden‘s rise and fall has become part of league lore.

At 7 feet tall and 250 pounds, Oden left Ohio State with the reputation of a potent interior force, capable of making a large impact as a rebounder and shot-blocker. In fact, his defensive upside was so well-regarded that he drew comparisons to 5-time NBA MVP Bill Russell. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, then writing columns for Yahoo Sports, considered Oden a “once-in-a-decade player.

To that point, while Oden’s sheer size was alluring, his athleticism also caught the eyes of NBA scouts. Yet, knee injuries drained him of his once heralded quickness. By honing on his low-post game, Oden may have been an above-average offensive player with his size and strength. However, despite his scoring potential, he was a defensive-minded player that relied heavily on his physical tools to impact the game as a shot-blocker.

Once he was unable to play at a high level on the defensive end, he was a shell of himself mentally and physically.

Former No. 1 NBA Pick Candid About Biggest Regrets

Greg Oden Discusses Biggest NBA regrets

“Lately,” Greg Oden says during an appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio, “I haven’t been reflecting on my playing career. But when I do think about it… I wish I could have took care of my body a little bit better. Hopefully, got a couple more years out of it.”

“I thought when I played, I was somewhat dominant,” Oden admits. “By the time I got to Miami, my body really wasn’t the same. I wasn’t moving as fast… wasn’t able to jump as quickly… had a little bit of load management going on at that time. But I appreciate everything.”

“I do wish I could have played more than 100 games,” Oden finishes, bluntly.

What Happened to Greg Oden?

Greg Oden played 114 games in his injury-shortened career, playoffs included. Undergoing a microfracture surgery on his right knee before his rookie season began likely foreshadowed the following years. Nonetheless, a decorated and popular college prospect, Oden had not yet landed the dreaded ‘bust’ label.

Set to miss the entire 2007-08 season as he recovered, Oden’s first in-season question came while he couldn’t even suit up. Though his ailing knee would suggest that he needed to minimize the strain he placed it under, the Portland Trail Blazers center packed on 30 pounds of muscle, all in his upper body. He would change that approach under prodding from former Blazers head coach Nate McMillan.

Oden played 61 games the next season, averaging 8.9 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. More impressively, though playing limited minutes for most of the 2008-09 campaign, he averaged 14.0 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, and 1.1 steals per game when he played at least 30 minutes. Unfortunately for Oden and the Blazers, he was unable to capitalize on these early flashes. The next season, two weeks after tying his career-high of 24 points, Oden suffered a left knee injury and opted to have season-ending surgery after playing just 21 games.

He never played another game for Portland, who waived him in Mar. 2012 after he underwent three more knee surgeries.

Notably, his original left knee injury may have been caused by a collision with former forward Corey Maggette at the end of the 2008-09 season. As he and Maggette bumped knees, Oden chipped his left kneecap and was sidelined for the next three weeks. With that said, although the big man believes he should’ve taken better care of his body, his basketball fate may have been out of his control.

Life After the Blazers

After Greg Oden’s tenure with the Portland Trail Blazers ended, several teams were still curious about what he could provide. Not only was he productive in his short time with the Blazers, but he was also only 24 years old when they released him. Ahead of the 2013-14 season, Oden signed with the Miami Heat, then a championship contender led by perennial MVP candidate LeBron James. Though he played sparingly, he made it through the season without a significant injury.

A 25-game stint in the Chinese Basketball Association would follow a couple of years later, as Oden averaged 13.6 points, 12.6 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game for the Jiangsu Dragons. In 2018 and 2019, Oden made his return to the hardwood in The Basketball Tournament and the BIG3, respectively. Unfortunately for Oden, his chances of completing an NBA comeback eventually grinded to a halt.

It hasn’t stopped Oden from staying around basketball or making an impact on the court. Oden currently serves as Director of Basketball Operations for Butler. Thad Matta, his former head coach at Ohio State, is the coach of the Butler’s men’s basketball team.

Oden may have sizable regrets about how his NBA career played out. Nonetheless, overcoming a mountain of adversity on and off the court to reach the point where he’s at now is a testament to his willpower. Frankly, when he or anyone thinks about his playing days, they should be left in awe by how far he’s come.


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