Greg Oden Makes First NBA Start Since 2009, Replacing LeBron James in Lineup

Bleacher Report MilestonesB/R StaffFebruary 23, 2014

MIAMI, FL - February 23: Greg Oden #20 of the Miami Heat looks to pass the ball against the Chicago Bulls at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida on Feb. 3, 2014. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: Copyright NBAE 2014 (Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)
Issac Baldizon/Getty Images

With LeBron James sidelined by a broken nose, Miami Heat center Greg Oden started Sunday's 93-79 win over the Chicago Bulls, marking the 26-year-old center's first start since Dec. 5, 2009.

Back in 2009, the thought of Oden replacing James in a starting lineup was inconceivable. At the time, both players had already been deemed franchise-changing cornerstones after getting selected first overall in the respective 2003 and 2007 draft classes.

However, following extremely different career paths, Oden went more than four years between starts. In the time between the center's two starts, James won three MVP awards and a pair of NBA championships.

While James was setting the world on fire, recurring knee injuries forced the once-promising Oden out of the league with just 82 career games played across two seasons. Fortunately, Oden resurfaced in NBA circles last offseason.

This time around, the expectation was for Oden to catch on with a team and rehab his knees along the way. The seven-footer signed with the two-time defending champions in the offseason and appeared in his first game for the Heat on Jan. 15.

He's made 11 appearances so far this season, averaging a mere 8.3 minutes per game. Oden matched a season-high by logging 13 minutes Sunday, and he chipped in with five points and five rebounds—hardly what you'd expect from a former No. 1 overall pick, but a sign of progress, nonetheless.