I just learned that the Portland Trailblazer’s often-injured center, Greg Oden, will miss the entire season. I don’t think I can possibly feel worse for an athlete. It is being reported that Oden will soon undergo micro-fracture surgery on his left knee. Oden, the former NBA overall number one draft pick in 2007 has been incredibly injury-prone.

This season should have been Oden’s fourth in the NBA. Sadly, he has only played 82 NBA games since leading Ohio State to the NCAA championship game in 2007. Even then, as a college freshman phenom, and first-team All-American, Oden missed a number of games at the beginning of his single collegiate season, while nursing a lingering injury from high school.

One can only wonder why Greg Oden is sidelined yet again. But there may never be an answer that makes sense. Sometimes things just happen. But the fact is, this once promising seven-footer, who some saw as the second coming of Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwan, and Patrick Ewing, rolled into one, has now been injured for most of the last five years.

I first heard about Greg Oden seven or eight years ago. He was then a promising young high school center from Indianapolis – my hometown. Oden, along with teammate and future NBA point guard, Mike Conley Jr., led Lawrence North High School to three consecutive Indiana state basketball championships.

Oden wasn’t just any young man, and not just any athlete. He was more importantly an outstanding student; earning nearly straight A’s throughout high school. He was also engaging, funny, and kind. It seemed Oden’s lone “Achilles Heel”, if you can call it that, was that he looked years older than his actual age. Oden who is not yet 23 years old, can pass for 38. But he has nonetheless always found a way to laugh about his aging looks and make you laugh with him.

This latest bad news about Oden, comes a mere eleven months after he was injured last season. Oden broke his knee cap while attempting to block a shot. While Oden didn’t play another game after that, he was expected to be back ready to play by the start of this season. But he never suited up.

Will Greg Oden go down as the biggest bust in NBA history? Even though I hope not, he most certainly could. But there are a couple of others with whom Oden is often compared in the injury-plagued department, and ironically both of them also played center for Portland – Sam Bowie and Bill Walton.

While many of us are constantly on the lookout for the next great player, we also hope that person can, not only be a gifted athlete, but additionally, a smart, upstanding and humble, human being. Greg Oden is exactly that guy. But unfortunately, Oden’s dream as a player, and our dreams for him as fans will have to be deferred at least another year. That’s too bad, because this good young man deserves a chance to show what he can do.

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