From Bill Walton and Sam Bowie to Greg Oden: Is Portland Cursed?

Matt SmithCorrespondent IDecember 8, 2009

PORTLAND, OR - OCTOBER 27:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers watches a free throw attempt by the Houston Rockets during the season opener on October 27, 2009 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. 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.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Injuries are a part of sports, but the latest injury to Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden was just plain sad.

He was looking every bit the dominant center he was projected to be, leading the NBA in blocked shots and improving in all phases of the game.  

When he went down, it made me wonder if Portland should ever use an early draft pick on a big man ever again.

I'm usually not one who believes in curses, but, from the 1970s to now, the Portland Trail Blazers have had a history of highly-drafted centers.

Three of them have had their careers marred by injury.  

Bill Walton was drafted No. 1 by the Blazers after a stellar college career at UCLA, and it seemed he was destined for a long dominant career.

Walton battled injury his first two seasons breaking his nose, foot, wrist, and leg, and he did keep it together long enough for one magical run, winning the NBA championship in the 1976-77 season.

Winning that title helped to ease the pain of the disappointment that Walton's injuries brought, but from here it got worse.

In the 1984 draft, the Blazers had the second pick in a star-studded draft, and, in their defense to that point in NBA history, a dominant center was considered a necessity to win a title.

Portland already had a star wing player in Clyde Drexler, and, with Houston drafting Hakeem Olajuwon first, it made sense at the time to pass on the college player of the year, Michael Jordan, and opt for the other dominant center in the draft, Sam Bowie.

Unfortunately for Bowie and the Blazers, Sam was just as brittle as Bill Walton, and injuries kept him from fulfilling his promise, which was further magnified by Jordan's brilliance.

Now fast-forward to the 2007 draft, and the Blazers again have the first pick of the draft.

They have in front of them two stud prospects, one a dominant center in Greg Oden and the other a lights-out shooting forward Kevin Durant.  

Portland went with the size and picked Oden, and, just like his Blazer big man brethren from the past, his career seems to be doomed with injury.

I hope and pray for Oden to return to health, regain his strength, and live up to his potential, but it makes me wonder if the Blazers might not be better served never using a top draft pick on a center ever again.

Blazer fan and Bleacher Report reader Scott Hercher, correctly points out to me the bad luck goes back further to LaRue Martin the Blazers drafted this 6"11 center with the first pick of the 1972 draft ahead of future legends Julius Erving and Bob McAdoo, Martin is considered by many to be the worst first overall draft pick in the history of the NBA draft.

Then there's Arvydas Sabonis the great Lithuanian center who the Blazers drafted in 1986 but the Soviet Union would not allow him to play in the NBA untill 1995 at the age of 31.  Sabonis is considered one of the greatest centers of that era but the Blazers were unable to have him throughout his prime years, again more bad luck.

Free agency or through trade is fine, but, from here on out, I recommend drafting guards and forwards.

Is this a curse or a coincidence?


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