Greg Oden was once hailed as the next big thing in basketball. He was the first overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, a towering center with immense potential and talent. He was expected to lead the franchise to glory and become one of the best players in the league.
Fate had other plans for Oden. His career was plagued by injuries, especially to his right knee, which required multiple surgeries and forced him to miss many games. He only played 82 games for the Blazers over five seasons, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He never lived up to his hype or his contract, and he became a symbol of disappointment and regret for many fans.
Oden left Portland in 2012 as a free agent, hoping to revive his career elsewhere. But he only played 23 more games in the NBA, with the Miami Heat in 2013-14. He then tried to play overseas and in various leagues, but he never found his groove or his health again.
Oden recently revealed that leaving Portland was one of the lowest points of his life. He said that he locked himself in his house for two weeks after he departed from the Blazers, because he felt like a loser and was too ashamed to go outside. “I just secluded myself from everybody,” Oden said. “I felt like a loser. I felt like a failure. I felt like I let a lot of people down. Letting Portland down, letting the whole entire staff and organization down. I felt like I let my family down and everybody who coached me and believed in me”.
Oden’s story is a heartbreaking example of how mental health issues can affect athletes who fail to live up to their potential or their expectations. Oden struggled with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, guilt and shame throughout his career and beyond. He also battled with alcohol abuse and domestic violence charges.
Oden is not alone in facing these challenges. Many other athletes have experienced similar difficulties when their careers did not go as planned or when they faced injuries or setbacks that derailed their dreams.
Some of these athletes include:
- Brandon Roy: Another former Blazers star who had chronic knee problems that forced him to retire early.
- Derrick Rose: The youngest MVP in NBA history who suffered multiple knee injuries that diminished his explosiveness and effectiveness.
- Markelle Fultz: The first overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft who developed a mysterious shooting disorder that affected his confidence and performance.
- Andrew Luck: The star quarterback who retired from the NFL at age 29 after dealing with constant pain and injuries.
- Ronda Rousey: The dominant MMA fighter who lost her title and her aura after two devastating knockouts.
These athletes have faced different degrees of criticism, ridicule, sympathy and support from fans, media and peers. Some have been able to cope better than others with their situations, finding new ways to express themselves or pursue their passions. However, all of them have shown that being an athlete is not easy or glamorous all the time. It can be stressful, demanding and unpredictable. It can also be rewarding, fulfilling and inspiring.
The key is to find a balance between one’s identity as an athlete and one’s identity as a human being. To recognize that one’s worth is not defined by one’s achievements or failures on the court or field. To seek help when needed from professionals, friends or family . To appreciate what one has done rather than what one has not done.
Greg Oden has been trying to do that lately. He has been working as a student manager for Ohio State’s basketball team while finishing his degree. He has also been coaching young players at Butler University, sharing his knowledge and experience with them.