In case you haven’t heard the news yet, Greg Oden is scheduled to have another micro fracture surgery, thus ending his 2010 season before it even began.
Oden has played in 82 games since he was drafted number 1 overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2007.
The parallels between Oden and Sam Bowie, another highly touted Portland draft pick, are unavoidable.
As many of you know, Sam Bowie was taken #2 overall in the 1984 NBA draft—one spot ahead of future Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan.
Hindsight is 20/20, and of course it is easy to criticize the Blazers for not taking Jordan, but at the time the Bowie pick made a lot of sense.
Bowie was chosen as the heir apparent to another oft injured big man, Bill Walton.
Bowie would have a very successful rookie campaign, playing in over 75 games and averaging almost a double-double en route to be named to the NBA All-Rookie Team.
Unfortunately for Bowie and the Blazers, that would be his most successful run with the team. The injuries that had plagued him throughout college would begin to take their toll, and Bowie was seldom on the court.
After four injury-riddled seasons, the Blazers finally gave up on Bowie and traded him to the New Jersey Nets.
Although he never panned out the way Portland had hoped—especially in light of the player taken immediately after him—Bowie actually had a solid NBA career when he was able to stay on the court.
Fast-forward twenty years.
Portland had been the laughingstock of the league for the last few years, and even earned the dubious nickname “Jail Blazers” for all of the character issues the team had.
It took several years, but Portland was finally able to rid itself from all of the bad contracts and off the court issues that had plagued the team for so long.
In the 2006 Draft, the team hit it big when they drafted shooting guard Brandon Roy.
The team was finally starting to make headway and it seemed they just needed one more piece to return to their past glory.
Enter Greg Oden.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, the similarities between these Bowie and Oden is eerie.
Like Bowie, Oden was a highly touted big man that was going to be the face of an improving franchise.
Also like Bowie, Oden will have a shadow cast over him in the figure of Kevin Durant.
Now, of course, it would be sacrilegious to compare Durant to Jordan, but the similarities between those two players are very relevant.
Portland gave serious consideration to taking Durant with the top overall pick in the 2007 Draft before ultimately deciding—just as the front office did in 1984—that Oden’s presence in the post would help put the improving Trail Blazers become perennial contenders for years to come.
As Oden as struggled to remain healthy and be a factor for the Blazers, Durant has already transformed himself into one of the top five players in the entire league. He has rapidly improved all aspects of his game, and is viewed as a viable MVP candidate.
Perhaps Durant’s greatest performance to date occurred this past summer when he led the United States to the gold medal at the FIBA World Championship for the first time since 1992.
Oden was at home nursing his injured knee.
It is still too soon to pass the judgment of Oden being another draft day mistake by the Portland front office. He is still young and the team has a wealth of talent surrounding him.
One can only hope that Oden can stay healthy next year and provide the Blazers with more of those glimpses of promise he has shown since the team drafted him in 2007.
Otherwise, fairly or unfairly, Greg Oden will have a place next to Sam Bowie as one of the NBA Draft’s all time busts.