I can’t say it’s over. But this movie is closing in on the climax. This is the story of Greg Oden‘s NBA life: On Monday, he went in for a minor procedure to clear out debris in his left knee when the surgeon discovered two defects and ended up performing microfracture surgery. For those of you scoring at home, that’s now two microfracture surgeries on the left knee, as well as one on the right. In the past, he also had surgery to repair a fracture left kneecap.
“Initially, Greg was undergoing a procedure similar to the one he had a couple of weeks ago to have debris cleared from his right knee,” said Acting General Manager Chad Buchanan. “However, once the doctors were inside Greg’s left knee, they unfortunately found articular surface damage and determined microfracture was necessary.”
Oden’s season is now over, and while the Blazers weren’t exactly praying for his return, this has to hurt. LaMarcus Aldridge already reached out to Oden, and gave him a shout out on Twitter.
“This is not the news we were hoping for Greg or the organization,” said Trail Blazers President Larry Miller. “It’s hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He’s a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him. We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time.”
It wasn’t supposed to go like this. By this point, five years after being drafted, Oden was supposed to be headlining the All-Star Game, leading the Blazers to deep postseason runs and going back and forth with Dwight Howard for the Defensive Player of the Year.
The worst part of this might be people labeling Oden a bust because of his play rather than his injuries. The dude could really BALL. Despite all the time off, the chemistry issues, the injuries and the minute limits, the big man’s career averages (per 36 minutes) are 15.3 points, 11.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a night.
To remind people he wasn’t ALWAYS hurt, here are the top five highlight mixes of Greg Oden when the man-child was right. Hopefully we eventually get to see this again…
5. A Fouling Machine
Greg Oden didn’t have the most audacious start to his NBA career. In his opening summer league game in 2007, just a month after being drafted No. 1, the big man picked up three fouls in the first 180 seconds of game clock. He finished with 10 fouls.
“It’s amazing,” Oden joked after he had six points and two boards. “I usually get thrown out after five.”
Still, as the summer wore on, he generated enough highlights to help fans forget the fouls (19 in two games) on those old Portland summer league teams that were so loaded with talent, they probably could’ve competed on their own during the regular season.
Alas, his summer league season also ended abruptly. This time it was a tonsillectomy.
I also have a soft spot for Public Enemy and Chuck D, only the greatest hip-hop group ever and one of the most underrated emcees ever. So you know I had to put this one up.
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4. Father And Son Collide At The Rim
Greg Oden is one of the few people on Earth that I’ve seen do this to the best athlete ever in the NBA. When LeBron goes to the rim, typically you’re not stopping him. But Oden didn’t just block this. He stamped it, labeled a return address and sent it out with expedited shipping. The scariest part? This was just a routine block for him.
In one of those highlights that sets itself up for numerous “father/son” jokes, my favorite part is the response from Cleveland’s bench. One cat in particular – we’ll leave him nameless because 1) this video came during the maturation process of YouTube and looks perfectly suited for a pixelated joke… and 2) because he was a bench player with the Cavs and none of them mattered – leaps up like he’s ready to celebrate with the King before getting the embarrassed “I’ll play that off like it never happened” body language that comes from jumping the gun too soon.
3. The Greatest Battle Ever That Became Ostertag Vs. Dampier
Reading old recaps of when the (formerly) two top players in the Class of 2006 met are amazing. Derrick Caracter, a 6-9 behemoth who might’ve been an even more impressive prodigy than Oden, gave it to the future Buckeye, hitting him with three-pointers and killing him with his patented baseline spin move. He was so effective that at times Oden looked awkward trying to stop him. Despite that, as one recap wrote, “even with his lackluster performance Oden still managed to swat away almost anything that came his way on the defensive end and even energized the crowd with his thunderous dunks and ball handling skills on offense.”
But this wasn’t Oden’s defining moment in high school. Who remembers the McDonald’s Game after his senior year? Oden blocked what seemed like seven or eight shots in the first five minutes, and did so in every way possible (It was actually only four blocked shots in 19 minutes, but it seemed like more).
At the end of this Reebok ABCD Camp, Oden was selected to play in the underclassmen All-Star Game and couldn’t go. He had an ankle injury.
2. The One-Handed Godzilla
Oden’s magnum opus as a basketball player was undoubtedly his performance in the 2007 NCAA Championship Game. Ohio State lost to Florida and their all-NBA frontcourt (Noah, Horford and Brewer), but Oden nearly won the game by himself. The freshman had 25 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. So let’s get this straight: Going against a team about to win its second consecutive NCAA championship with a frontline sporting three upperclassmen (all of whom would go on to do time in the NBA… as starters, All-Stars, defensive stars) and playing with basically one hand because of a wrist injury, Oden was BY FAR the best player on the court.
This felt like a coming out party. All season, we saw glimpses of what the freshman could be. But when you’re reduced to shooting free throws with your off hand, it’s hard to accurately access. Despite that injury (there’s that word again), Oden averaged 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks on 62 percent shooting for the Buckeyes. Before starting their own debate atop that summer’s draft board, Oden and Kevin Durant became the first freshmen in nearly 20 years to be named to the Associated Press All-American Team.