“I Felt Like A Crackhead” | There’s Much More To Greg Oden’s NBA Nightmare That We Don’t Know

Greg Oden, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, is now the director of basketball operations at Butler University and hopes to become a head coach one day. He will forever be linked to one of the great what-ifs in NBA history, something he is still learning how to handle day-to-day.

Who Was Greg Oden?

Fresh off a trip to the national title game where he scored 25 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, and had four blocks Oden was an All-American and the defensive player of the year. Taken with the No. 1 pick of the 2007 NBA draft, he was a can’t-miss, generational prospect that was projected to anchor the middle for an NBA dynasty.

He missed his entire first season due to microfracture surgery, dealt with a chipped kneecap and various leg issues his second year. His third year he fractured his patella and only played in 21 games. Oden did not play the next three seasons due to his knee and began to drink and abuse painkillers.

“I felt like a crackhead,” Oden told The Ringer. “I was kind of numb to it. It’s just at a point where you get used to them and to get some type of relief. And then at one point, I was taking them just to take them.”

Oden began taking painkillers his rookie year after his first surgery, unable to sleep without them. He said he was on Percocet, Vicodin, Tylenol P.M., Benadryl, and a drink just to get five hours of sleep. 

Oden Will Forever Be Linked With Kevin Durant

In five years Oden had only played in 82 games. Making matters worse was the player selected directly behind Oden, Kevin Durant, was morphing into a superstar. Through the same five years Durant was named rookie of the year, four-time All-NBA, four-time All-Star, and three-time scoring champ.

Years later Durant was asked about Oden being a bust, and said that was an unfair label due to the injuries. Oden became a fan of Durant’s for life, because of the support.

“That was big time,” Oden says. “I’m a KD fan for life.”

Oden began working at Butler in 2022 under his college head coach Thad Matta. While coaching Oden at Ohio State Matta knew that Oden’s love for basketball was strong. Not just because of how he dominated physically, but how he could also think the game. A trait Matta believes will serve Oden when he becomes a head coach.

“When I coached him, he had a great mind for the game of basketball,” Matta said. “It wasn’t only his physical characteristics. His understanding [of the game] is what made him special.

“Now, he’s in that position where he is studying and he has to teach more because the guys that we’re dealing with aren’t as talented as he was, and they don’t have the characteristics that he had. I think that in the end’s going to make him a lot better basketball coach.”

Oden has a ways to go before he earns his stripes as a head coach, but his love for the game and willingness to learn and grind will possibly grant him a successful but different career than the one he initially imagined.

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