The NBA is the perfect theater for making childhood dreams come true, but the NBA also has the particularity of sometimes turning off the light even faster than it turned it on. Off-peak time obliges, this summer we are looking at names that are familiar to us, some more than others, names that “mean something to us” but which no longer really make the first headlines. Stories that bring back a sweet melancholy. Cold Case Closed Cases but NBA version, with the ambition to give you some news of these guys who were once part of our daily lives. First episode? Not the most feel good story of the series, the one concerning Greg Oden.
We attack very hard. Greg Oden, a name that necessarily means something to you if you follow the NBA at all, even if you’re 16 and your name is Killian. So before tackling Gregaudeune’s daily life in 2022, a quick look back at the giant’s career… with his knees of clay.
June 2007, and the basketball world is not ready, at least that’s what the general feeling said on Draft night, when the mammoth of Ohio State was drafted with the first pick by the Blazers. Defeated with the Buckeyes by the Gators of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green during the Final Four, the Greggos nevertheless remains THE name that comes up on everyone’s lips, even if a certain Kevin Durant also gives some cold sweats to NBA scouts. KD who will finally be chosen in 2 by the late Seattle Sonics, when Al Horford will leave for Atlanta with the pick 3, accompanying his two besties Brewer (7) and Jooks (9) in the Top 10 of the Draft. Greg Oden? First pick, of course, because at the time we were simply talking about the potential successor of… Shaquille O’Neal. Here we have a giant of 2m13 and almost 115 kilos, overpowered and endowed with offensive AND defensive qualities, especially defensive ones, in short, the kind of interior as we rarely come across in a lifetime. Bonus track, at 20 years old Greg is already doing 40, not sure if this is good news but at the time this detail remains a simple valve, for the moment.
Unfortunately, the result will only be a succession of injuries and therefore of absences, long absences, too long absences. 105 games in total, in seven seasons, four of which were spent entirely between the bench and the treatment room. Greg’s knees aren’t flimsy, Greg’s knees are foamand while the colossus struggles to walk more than ten meters Kevin Durant quietly becomes one of the best players in history, bis repetita of an era when the Blazers had chosen to squeeze a certain Michael Jordan in favor of the uncertain Sam Bowie.
“When you are injured, you feel very alone and you want to be with your teammates. You want to be able to do the things you were recruited to do. You want to bring home a title and do great things on the pitch, but you physically can’t. It’s hard. Mentally, you’re trying to deal with that. Sometimes when you’re young, you don’t even know how to manage yourself and your own thoughts, and all of a sudden you’re completely on your own. How to deal with this? How do you get up every day knowing it hurts? It’s very hard mentally. »
During the 2013-14 season Greg tried one more comeback with the Heat, he floated and even appeared surreptitiously during the NBA Finals against the Spurs, but he especially played the last game of his career with Miami. and continues his long way of the cross but this time outside the NBA circuit. Time. The following ? A few candidates for yet another revival but it is in China that the giant who was then only 26 years old will continue his truncated career. Nothing too crazy in the East, back to the United States and the famous Big3 League, Ice Cube’s toy with bizarre rules and which honors street grandpas and incidentally former NBA “glories”. Spoiler, it is during this summer competition that the former biggest prospect on the planet will bounce a ball for the last time.
New job for a new life
The truth is that between his time in China and his exploits against pot-bellied fifties in the BIG3 League… Greg Oden had a pretty bad down. Depression very close, alcohol problems very present, almost logical when you were announced as the future Shaq and you finally became the very definition of the bust. In this dark period of his life, the former star of Ohio State nevertheless may have made a wish when he saw a shooting star pass by, so much so thatone fine day his guardian angel takes the form of Thad Matta, his former coach with the Buckeyes.
“I remember, I called coach Matta, I didn’t even know who I was, and I couldn’t stay silent and withdrawn. He was like, ‘Come to the gym, come to practice.’ I was starting to get back into training and honestly, having basketball back in my life, having something to do every day, was crucial to getting out of that spiral. And then then, once I was there, he was like, ‘You know, there’s this program that exists to get your degree…’ I said, ‘Hmm, okay.’ And then I went back to class, I had to concentrate and I couldn’t be hungover every day. It gave me a path to follow. And then I realized that I didn’t need to drink every day to feel good, or just to feel something.
I wanted to stay in basketball, and the coach gave me the opportunity to work here. He gave me something to do with my afternoons. I’m still trying to figure out where I’m at in my life. Since primary school, I have only known basketball. I’m just trying to become a better version of myself by getting a degree to prepare for my family’s future. »
It’s 2016, yay Greg has a purpose in life, and you don’t need to have LeBron’s physique to go back to school. Simply a maximum of will, and that the beast does not lack it. For three years, the man approaching his thirties will therefore see his university course expand alongside Matta and Chris Holtmann, in his cocoon, where he feels at home. Diploma in hand, he joined the official staff of the Buckeyes, in which he still officiates today, back to where it all began, with the certainty of being in a place where he feels good and with in the bezel, why not, a revenge to be taken on the benches, but this time in the place where it is expected.
Raised to the skies even before he set foot on the floor… when he didn’t end up doing that much in his career. A draft n°1 supposed to roll on the basketball planet but sometimes the truth is elsewhere, like for example somewhere between the happiness of transmitting and the comfort of working among his own. In 2022 Greg Oden is 34 years old and looks younger than in 2007, and this may well be the first sign of his rebirth, a real rebirth this time.