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Greg Oden on being an introvert, a bust, and an alcoholic

In a game of NBA word association, the name Greg Oden would get you an eye roll.  It’s either in a “I can’t believe his luck,” or “he’s a total bust” or maybe both.  

But we never really knew much about him because he never did interviews.  That is, until he did one that published today on Grantland.  And its a fascinating look at who Greg Oden is.  

Starting off with his reticence, Oden says 

“…I don’t understand why they are so excited to meet me,” Greg responded. “I’m just a person. I guess I didn’t really mind it when I was at Ohio State and even right after I was drafted, but it just seems so fake now. Like, why are you bothering me at dinner for a picture when I’m nothing now?”

“I get that,” I countered, “but you’ve never really been yourself around fans, even when everything was going well and you were dominating at Ohio State. Why not just let loose and give people the chance to get to know you a little bit?”

“I don’t know,” Greg said, “but I’ve always been this way. I only open up to my family and friends because I trust you guys. Nobody else needs to know anything about me. That’s why I don’t like when people come up on the street to talk to me, and it’s why I don’t like to do interviews.”

It’s a quote that almost makes me feel bad for continuing on with this post.  But this interview is the most viral thing in today’s NBA news cycle.  It makes me feel for him, though I know he’s not looking for that reaction.  It might be the opposite reaction he’s looking for. 

On being a bust…

“That’s the worst part about all of the injuries and the criticism. It would be one thing if I had been healthy for five years and just sucked when I was on the court. But I can’t prove what I can do because I can’t stay healthy. Not having control over the situation makes it tough.

Lack of control can be the most difficult thing in a person’s life.  But here’s the most shocking portion of the interview:

…after longing for a veteran role model the previous season, Greg got exactly what he wanted in his second year, only the results were disastrous. That’s because it wasn’t an NBA veteran who took Greg under his wing in his second season — it was his veteran cousin from the Air Force who moved into Greg’s house in Portland.

“If you know anything about guys in the Air Force,” Greg explained, “it’s that they drink a ton. My cousin got wrapped up in the NBA lifestyle and threw parties at my house all the time. So I got wrapped up in it too. When I played well, I’d drink to celebrate. And when I played poorly, I’d drink to forget. That second year in Portland I pretty much became an alcoholic.”

It’s an amazing look into Oden’s life so far.  This entire piece is just gripping.  And while I pulled out a few sizable chunks, there is a LOT more in the piece.  I’d add more of my own words to it here, but it’d just ruin a great piece of work.

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