In the summer of 2007, Greg Oden was the biggest deal in the basketball world. Bigger even than a skinny kid named Kevin Durant. After leading his Ohio State Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA Title game, while putting up a monster stat line against champion Florida, Oden’s place as the No. 1 pick was secure. Then his body betrayed him almost before he began his pro career. Meanwhile, KD was just anointed the league’s MVP. In a conversation with Grantland, Oden is now, more than ever — as a reserve on the Heat, aware of his tarnished legacy since his college career came to a close.
Oden sat down with his friend and a fellow member of that Buckeyes team, Mark Titus, for a Grantland exclusive.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Titus, he’s the owner/operator of Club Trillion and the author of best-selling Don’t Put Me In Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench.
The two have spoken before for Grantland, but since Oden was signed by the Miami Heat during the offseason, the No. 2 pick in that 2007 Draft became this season’s best player. Titus and Oden talked about Oden’s persona as a draft bust in light of the stark contrast with KD’s ascension to superstar. He’s well aware of what people think of him, but relatively at peace with himself after working so even make it get back in the NBA:
I asked him straight-up: “If this is the final chapter of the Greg Oden story — if you’re destined to be a benchwarmer for the rest of your career — are you OK with that? Will you be satisfied with your legacy?”
“I’m over all of that,” Greg told me. “I know I’m one of the biggest busts in NBA history and I know that it’ll only get worse as Kevin Durant continues doing big things … It’s frustrating that my body can’t do what my mind wants it to do sometimes. But worrying or complaining about it isn’t going to fix anything … I wish the circumstances would let me play more, but I certainly don’t regret coming back, and I don’t regret signing with the Heat.”
Oden’s always struck us as a thoughtful guy. His body wasn’t ready for the rigors of being an NBA big man when he came out of college, but his downfall has made him stronger, psychologically. To put so much hurt and so many setbacks behind you and forge ahead even as the man you were drafted in front of reaches the apogee of your profession, speaks to how much Oden has grown as a man. To be happy with the man he’s become is the biggest testament to Oden’s strength as a person, even if there are people out in Portland who still think of him as an effigial for their woebegone franchise (that’s not doing too bad these days in the second round).
Titus concluded his feature with a final word from Oden, and for Titus — a 12th man during all four years at Ohio state after walking on as a freshman — it’s become somewhat of a mantra for the less heralded reserves on great teams.
“It doesn’t say how much you played on your championship ring.”
What do you think?
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