Letter to Greg Oden

Dear Greg Oden,

Hope that this letter finds you in great spirits and health. Sorry, G.O., I start all my letters that way. No slander. I recently found out about your necessary season-ending knee surgery. I’m sorry to hear that…again.

The wise street philosopher, Tupac, once suggested, “Keep your head up!” I hope you take heed of his message, sir. I know that you have been hit with numerous setbacks to what many thought would be a promising and era defining NBA career. You were heralded out of high school, winning the National Player of the Year award as a junior. Only Lebron did it before you. Then you repeated the feat as a senior. You went on to have a decent career at Ohio State University, becoming the first freshman, along with Kevin Durant, to earn All-American honors since 1990. Then you were selected the number one draft pick of the 2007 draft. Dream career and trajectory thus far!

And this is where your story, unfortunately, takes a devastatingly horrific nose dive into the sea of injury and unfilled potential. You and Kevin Durant will forever be linked together because of the hyped discussion around the 2007 #1 pick. Do you pick a defensive stalwart, who could anchor your franchise to multiple championships a la Bill Russell? Do you pick a offensive stalwart, who will light up the scoreboard and fill arena seats for your franchise while winning multiple championships a la Michael Jordan? The Blazers picked defense over offense, and selected you ahead of Kevin Durant. Like Sam Bowie before you, injuries have halted your career, while Durant’s career, similar to Jordan’s high scoring career, has exploded!

Since that moment, your lives have been divergent. Durant has gone and has won scoring titles, has been named to NBA First team twice, and has been named an All-Star three times. He is considered by many to be the best offensive player in the game at the ripe age of 23.

At the ripe age of 24, Greg, you have played in a total of 82 games over four seasons, missing 246 games. You have declined any interviews since news of your latest season ending surgery, and I assume that you have asked yourself, “Why me?” numerous times. When I was going through a particularly rough patch in my life, I abhorred when people nonchalantly told me, “Everything happens for a reason.” Bullshit, I thought. Thank for meaningless advice, I screamed at them, directing my angst, hurt, and disappointment at those nonsensical words of encouragement.

No one knows why your knees won’t let you be great. However, use this opportunity to help others. Continue to work with your Team Oden organization in Portland. Use this opportunity to do what you want to do. I remember in an interview that you said you wanted to be a dentist but because of your large hands, you couldn’t fit them inside of someone’s mouth. Maybe you cannot be a dentist, but become a dental spokesperson. Do something, other than basketball, that will make you happy.

Whatever you do decide to do, make sure that you, “Keep your head up!”

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