While the NBA trading deadline has come and gone, the news that really caught my attention and saddens me, didn’t involve a trade.  It was word that the Portland Trailblazers had finally given up on center Greg Oden.

Greg Oden

Portland waived the injury-prone seven-footer after waiting what seemed like forever for Oden to get well and stay that way.

But five years into his pro career, the NBA’s unluckiest man, literally has nothing to show for it.

Greg Oden has played a grand total of only 82 games, and has missed three entire seasons.

That Portland let him go is not exactly surprising.  Several weeks ago Oden had his third micro-fracture knee surgery, one of the most unpredictable medical procedures an athlete can undergo.

I couldn’t possibly feel worse for this young man.  Oden not long ago was considered the next Patrick Ewing, with a little bit of Hakeem Olajuwan sprinkled in for good effect.

Yes, the raw center was a work-in-progress, but in the very best way possible.  At the time of the 2007 draft he had just led Ohio State to the NCAA national championship game.  As a freshman that year he dominated the middle in a close loss to the University of Florida.   The accolades and honors followed.  He was named first team All-American and it was clear no more college games were needed.  It was time to turn pro.   He was the first pick in the NBA draft that year, just ahead of a legend in the making, Kevin Durant.   Five years ago Greg Oden’s basketball future seemed unlimited.

But now clouds have ominously darkened Oden’s once bright sky.  The former phenom will have to realistically contemplate a future without basketball.  Oden’s saga is one of sports saddest stories.

It’s a simple tale of a brittle big man with a long list of injuries to his huge body.  Oden has broken or torn something every year since he was a senior in high school.  But while the first injury, a damaged wrist, healed in time for Oden to terrorize the Big Ten, and lead Ohio State to a national title game, another injury quickly followed, causing him to miss his first season with Portland.

This is a truly heartbreaking story, not just because he had so much potential as a player, but he also seemed to be a young man with high intellect, an engaging sense of humor and insight far beyond the basketball court.  From all appearances Greg Oden is a genuinely nice guy.  The kind of guy the NBA can proudly market.

I have closely followed Greg Oden’s journey since I first heard about him dominating the high school basketball scene in Indianapolis.  During his time at Lawrence North High School, Oden led his team to three consecutive state championships.  He emerged as the number one high school player in the country.

Even now, I refuse to believe that Greg Oden will never play again in the NBA.  But  it is starting to look less and less likely with each new season and every new injury.   But if there was ever a young man who deserved the miracle of healing and a chance to finally live up to his bright promise, Greg Oden is that guy.  I’m praying for him.


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