Greg Oden‘s career trajectory has been a tragedy of Sophoclean proportions, so it was nice to see him not only back in action but looking dominant during his regular season debut for the Jiangsu Dragons of the Chinese Basketball Association this weekend. He put up 19 points, 24 rebounds and four blocks after returning from a fractured hand that had kept him sidelined since the preseason.
Naysayers will accurately (if not bitterly) note that the level of competition in the CBA isn’t exactly up to snuff for someone of Oden’s formidable size, strength, and skillset, but that’s neglecting to acknowledge that his last remaining NBA opportunities had quickly eroded over the past few years. And for the former No. 1 overall pick whose once-so-promising career has been hampered at every turn by injury, it’s heartening just to see him back on a basketball court.
What’s better, Oden is following in the pioneering footsteps of other former NBA stars, such as Stephon Marbury and Tracy McGrady, who’ve found not only new life but redemption in professional basketball overseas. Perhaps most important, the simple act of playing competitive basketball once again might offer him a sanctuary that will help keep a host of personal demons at bay.