“With the first pick in the 2007 draft… The Portland Trail Blazers select Greg Oden from Ohio State University.” With those words, the modern-day Bill Russell was now in Portland.
One of the greatest high school athletes ever, Oden had it all: tall, athletic, strong and an immaculate defender.
The next pick was some guy who called himself KD.
To this day, people will tell you the choice was more of a debate. That they always thought Kevin Durant should have been picked first, and knew that he was going to change the game.
Those people are lying to you.
Of 15 mock drafts, 14 had Oden going first. In 2004 mock drafts had Oden going first, and if it was not for the one and done rule, Oden would have gone first in 2006.
But why is it that Oden, as a 32-year-old, is not being debated as one of the best big men of all time, while the other half the internet mock him for his perceived personality? Why is it that he is not included in today’s NBA memes for a funny play or a playoff moment?
He missed out on all the perks of being a superstar and the reason for that starts before he was ever an NBA player.
Oden had microfracture surgery on his right knee, which delayed his rookie season. It was the first time a No.1 draft pick missed his true rookie season since David Robinson, except he sat out to fulfill his commitment to the navy and Oden – a seven-foot, 250 lb man – just had knee surgery. Not the same.
At least they had Zach Randolph, their leading scorer since 2004. Nope, traded him for Steve Francis who they waived and Channing Fry.
Portland fans were rattled. Things were starting to look up. A duo of Brandon Roy and Oden were all they had been thinking about all year, just like how Oden had Mike Conley to dominate in school. And the more Roy – who just came off a Rookie of the Year season – continued to shine, the more fans prayed for a healthy and speedy recovery.
Roy shined all right, averaging 20 points a game in his sophomore season. LaMarcus Aldridge made himself known that year, averaging 18 and eight. Two players, both in their second year, carried the Blazers to a 41-41 record under coach Nate McMillan.
Only two seasons earlier, McMillan adopted this team and finished dead last in wins in both conferences and dead last in fan attendance.
Now they were two spots out of the playoffs.
And with another deep roster for Blazer fans to watch, with guys like Jarret Jack and Travis Outlaw, it only added to the already immense pressure for Oden to recuperate and come back next season.