Greg Oden has reeled in a lengthy list of individual accolades over the years, but also has a list of potentially career-derailing injuries to his name.
He was named 2006 Indiana Mr. Basketball and 2006 Naismith Prep Player of the Year. Oden made the decision to attend Ohio State and play for coach Thad Matta, but his health woes would begin even before he set foot on the court for OSU.
Oden had surgery on his wrist just under a year after making his college decision and ended up missing the first part of his OSU career. When he did return, the concerns were gone as he became one of the most dominant players in the NCAA, lefty free throws and all.
After just one year of donning the Scarlet and Gray, which would ultimately be his only collegiate season, Oden was named a first team AP All-American, picked up the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Defensive Player of the Year award and was given the Scalding Pete Newell Big Man Award.
Oden went on to be picked No. 1 overall in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers and what was projected to be a career similar to NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson. Instead, his career turned into a sad story of injuries and even alcoholism.
At least for a while.
In September 2007, Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee — one year in the NBA; zero games played.
Oden hurt his foot in his debut the next year, missing two more weeks, before chipping his knee cap in February 2009 and missing about a month of action. Dec. 5 of the same year, he again injured his left knee and left on a stretcher with a fractured patella.
Oden has not played a regular season game since.
In a 2012 interview with former OSU teammate Mark Titus, Oden admitted he was close to becoming an alcoholic during his career.
“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,” Oden told Titus.
From the point he last stepped off the court, many people, myself included, believed Oden would never again play in the NBA.
There was a time when I questioned his passion to return. I mean, how can you have the drive to keep coming back when every effort presents a new setback?
His name had fallen out of the spotlight as other former Buckeye bigs like Kosta Koufos, Byron Mullens and Jared Sullinger were attempting to make a mark in the NBA. Then, in January, rumors began surfacing that multiple teams, including NBA champion Miami Heat, were interested in signing Oden.
The Heat signed him in August and Oden returned to the court Oct. 23 in a preseason game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Against all odds, Oden is back. From what it looks like so far, he is currently a shell of his former self, but his ability and drive to even attempt a return, let alone make it back, is inspirational.
Many would have thrown in the towel after the first few knee surgeries, but Oden did not.
It might be his passion for the game, it might be outside pressure or he might simply have a point to prove, but Oden should be an inspiration for anyone, athlete or not.
When presented with what has to be some of the worst luck in the history of sports, he never backed down and now finds himself a favorite to wear a championship ring by the end of the season.