Mark Titus has a piece over at Grantland that offers a "rare and candid" look at the reclusive Greg Oden, who was finally released by the Trail Blazers in March after five seasons marked mostly by injuries. Titus, who writes about his basketball experiences on his blog, Club Trillion, acknowledges up front that he's known Oden since the summer before they both entered the eighth grade, when they were on the same Indianapolis-area AAU team. Later, they were teammates at Ohio State for one season, and over the years they've remained close.
Oden indeed opens up about plenty, from the pangs of insecurity he feels watching other members of the 2007 draft class succeed to being pressured to return too soon from previous injuries to his hopes of coming back to the NBA in 2013. But the biggest revelations concern the difficulties Oden had adjusting to life in the NBA, plus Oden's thoughts on those infamous photos of his dong that made their way around the internet back in our younger and more vulnerable years.
On Oden's transition to the NBA, especially after Oden had to miss his rookie season because of the first of his three microfracture knee surgeries, Titus writes:
Even while adjusting to the change in culture, Greg successfully rehabbed his knee and played in 61 games the following season, averaging nine points and seven rebounds in 21.5 minutes. He wasn't dominating like he had in high school and college, but he provided enough highlights to make Blazers fans feel optimistic about the team's future. It seemed to me while watching Greg on TV that he would be able to recover from his surgery and in a few years' time could be one of the premier big men in the NBA. But after longing for a veteran role model the previous season, Greg got exactly what he wanted in his second year, only the results were disastrous. That's because it wasn't an NBA veteran who took Greg under his wing in his second season—it was his veteran cousin from the Air Force who moved into Greg's house in Portland.
"If you know anything about guys in the Air Force," Greg explained, "it's that they drink a ton. My cousin got wrapped up in the NBA lifestyle and threw parties at my house all the time. So I got wrapped up in it too. When I played well, I'd drink to celebrate. And when I played poorly, I'd drink to forget. That second year in Portland I pretty much became an alcoholic."
Titus frequently refers to Oden as "an introvert who values his privacy." So what about the dong pics? In a footnote, Titus writes, "According to him, numerous porn companies called his agent and made offers after they saw the pictures." But what about how the photos got out there in the first place? Here's Titus:
After those pictures hit the Internet, Greg says he locked himself in his house for three straight days until Portland personnel knocked on his door and essentially dragged him to the gym for rehab. Going forward, he found it difficult to show his face in public, assuming everyone was thinking about the pictures and laughing to themselves.
"I wish it wouldn't have happened," he said. "But I'm not going to apologize for it. After all, I'm human and there are worse things that 21-year-olds could do. I just got caught up with women throwing themselves at me. When a girl sends me 100 pictures, I have to send something back every now and then. I'm not an asshole."
Makes sense to me.
Photo via Getty.
Oden on Oden [Grantland]