An Open Letter to Greg Oden

By Johnny Ginter on January 28, 2014 at 11:15a

Dear Greg Oden,

I have an apology to make.

In 2007, after your Ohio State basketball team lost the national title to Florida,  I saw you walking around campus on a particularly crappy April afternoon. It was raining, and you had your hoodie up, but since you're also seven feet tall and look roughly like Tolkien's description of an Ent, I'm reasonably sure that it was you.

Anyway, you looked sad. Real sad. Which makes sense, because you had just lost a national championship game. I was sad, and all I did was yell at people in Eddie George's restaurant. You on the other hand had 25 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks in maybe the best performance of your college career, and looked on as your teammates bricked on 19 of their 23 threeball attempts. No amount of David Blaine DVDs can snap a guy out of that kind of funk.

So I probably should've told you something supportive when I saw you, and when I saw that douche make fun of you behind your back as you walked away I definitely should've punched him in the balls.

Still, my fist was swayed from any groinal attacks because I reminded myself that soon you were going to be a big NBA star, with millions of dollars, legions of fans, and the opportunity to hire body guards to do your own ball-punching for you.

There's an assumption that we make as college sports fans, and that's that the players we root for will inevitably go on to be incredibly successful in the NBA or NFL or MLB or the Olympics or whatever. Because of our overall allegiance to our team, it's hard for us to be objective about the Antonio Pittmans, Anthony Gonzalezes, or David Lightys or the world. We watched and celebrated these guys at their best, and if they end up failing at the next level, it comes as a shock to us.

You weren't that guy. I watched your brief collegiate career with anticipation, because for once I saw a player who I knew beyond any doubt had the skills and ability to be an instant NBA star. Your game was (and is) an increasing rarity in modern basketball, but you didn't play like a curious anachronism, you played like a force of nature that could bend the nature of the game you play to your will.

Noooowwwww march!Everyone likes basketball, even the very tall!

And then you got hurt.

In fact, your knee had microfracture surgery before you even played one minute in the NBA, causing you to miss the entirety of your rookie NBA season. And it somehow got worse from there. In 2008-09, you missed weeks and weeks of playing time because of various injuries. You came back the following season, played well... and then in December suffered yet another season ending injury.

Cue the jokes.

See, here's the thing I've always wondered, Greg. Overall you seem like a really solid dude. I've never heard a single negative story or anecdote about anyone's personal interactions with you, and given that you could've picked up the aforementioned random doucher by the skull and shaken him around like a bottle of orange juice and yet didn't says a lot about your character overall. And look, if taking naked selfies is a crime you might as well lock up half of the United States under the age of 30.

The ire directed your way has always kind of mystified me. I'm a big fan of The Onion, but I'm not sure that five or so potshots directed at a guy in obvious and continuous pain was really warranted. I'm less of a fan of Twitter, and the incessant need to rip on a guy who spends his offseason going back to class at his former college seems to justify my general feelings.

And even me: though I'm happy about your NBA return, sometimes I still catch myself worrying about whether the next play you make will be your last, if the next time you land awkwardly in the paint is the last time that you land awkwardly in the paint. Which is dumb.

See, here's my point: a few weeks ago, you played in your first NBA game since 2009. And you dunked on your first possession. It was awesome; you reminded me and everyone else you even casually watched you in college that guess what, you're only 26 and still capable of feats of athleticism that we can only really dream about. Since then you've appeared in only a handful of games, but to be honest, I still thrill at every block and steal and dunk on Tim Duncan's goofy face that you make. Because at this point, you really don't have to prove anything: you're playing basketball. And you like basketball.

"No way man, if that's the card I signed my name on in your wallet I'm getting the %#&! out of here!" Greg Oden, Center, Portland Trailblazers

Note: Mr. Oden ran out of the room shortly after the above statement was made.

Er wait, wrong quote.

"After three years of being out, I’m just going to go out and do what I can," Oden said, according to the Associated Press. "If somehow (my body) says no, then it says no. But for me, I’m not even worried about that. Just go play and not even think about that. I’ve signed on the dotted line, put it like that. I’ve got a contract. As y’all can see this smile, I’ve got a contract. I’m excited."

That's zen as hell, dude. The rest of us can squabble and snark and play around in the garbage of negative sports fandom all we want, but you're getting paid to play professional basketball and enjoying it. For anyone that's great. For you, who's been through physical and mental hell and back, that's awesome.


Comments Show All Comments

BuckeyeTennis91's picture

Nice article. I hope to see Oden in top form and being productive in the NBA. He gets ripped on too easy by media and everything, and at the end of the day as you said he's still only a 26 year old. Plenty of time left to play.


BuckeyeInOrlando's picture

Great Letter Johnny... especially the ball punching parts!
Hopefully Oden can have some more dominating moments this year and contribute to his teams success... even if it is the Heat.

thatlillefty's picture

Obviously, wish Greg nothing but the best... but those onion articles are pretty funny.

Johnny Ginter's picture

yeah tbh i read them and laugh and then get mad at myself

BierStube's picture

If you are going for groin shots on douches .. wear a green bodysuit!

"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai

NoVA Buckeye's picture

The offseason begins when your season ends. Even then there are no days off.

seafus26's picture

Man, I'm rooting for this guy. It'd been easy for him to get down or turn in a dark direction, and he hasn't. Good for him. He should be proud if that. That one year at OSU, I'd never seen a big man with his kind of leaping explosion. I saw Olajuwon play alot in his prime while in Houston, Oden was already bigger, stronger and more explosive than Olajuwon ever was. He seemed to posses some of the gental touch and finesse moves of Olajuwon too (or at least early stages of that kind if game). I wish Greg the best and healthy years to come.

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

ScoobyKnows's picture

Might be the first time I've seen the word "doucher" on 11W.  Nice article.  I've always liked Oden.  If he could have stayed healthy there is no telling how dominant he could have been. 

DJ Byrnes's picture

The saddest I ever saw Greg Oden was during the 2012 Purdue game. He was at Little Bar and was getting mobbed by people for pictures, smh.

Californian by birth, Marionaire by the Grace of President Warren G. Harding.

Killer nuts's picture

By all accounts Greg seems like a very down to earth and likeable guy, I wish him the best and I'm proud to call him a Buckeye

Buckeyevstheworld's picture

bricked on 19 of their 23 threeball attempts.

That would mean Ohio State actually made 4 three pointers. I don't remember anything like that happening.

"YOLO" = I'm about to do something extremely ignorant/stupid & I need an excuse to do it.

seafus26's picture

But Matta kept ignoring the inside advantage. Oden Cleaned up on several attempted drives mainly by Conley (otherwise he sees little attempts). No shot blocker in the house but lets resort to the 3's with the planets best center in decades on our squad?  

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

zacisone's picture

Best wishes to Greg and Mike Conley! Go Bucks!


RufusVonDufus's picture

What a great time that was!


jamesrbrown322's picture

I still love that team. It was great to watch them. I truly think they were the best OSU team since the 60s. Had they played virtually any other team from the last 15 years besides that UF squad, I think they would have been national champs.
I am grateful for the opportunity to watch that team, and am thankful for that recruiting class, which re-made OSU into a powerhouse and nationally relevant basketball program after a relatively poor decade...
Thanks Oden for the memories and good luck in the NBA!
Damn it's great to be a Buckeye!

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." - Winston Churchill

gm3jones's picture

Yeah that team had "it". But Florida had a crazy loaded roster.

There is nothing more remarkable as learning to think better.

avail31678's picture

Yes.  But Oden singlehandedly out-played Florida's 3 big men.  I remember them flashing the stats.  We owned the paint.  If we had just made like 3 or 4 more of those three point attempts, we win.  Our shooters were uncharacteristically off that day.  Besides that I really believe we went toe to toe with them, despite what the final score was.

Squirrel Master's picture

Don't forget he also had all three of them in major foul trouble. I think Horford and Noah had 4 fouls each midway in the second half. They kept having to play Speights for long amounts of time on Oden.
It was unreal how dominating he was, just wish they would have won that game!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

tennbuckeye19's picture

I agree with you. Oden dominated in that game. He just didn't get a whole lot of help.
And Billy Donovan's game plan was sound for defending Oden. He rotated his 3 bigs knowing they wouldn't be able to stop Oden. When one picked up 2 fouls, he'd bring in another, and then another, so Greg always had a fresh guy guarding him and making him work to get his points and rebounds. 

seafus26's picture

Or, if at the time (while healthy you have one of the Earth's most gifted big men) you actually go inside an rely on his MAN game or the reffs that will have to bail out the underdeveloped ( not really but not every one is a full grown man like Mr. Oden) opossing team. Yes, there were stud forwards on FLA. But we had a center. Real Centers don't come around very often. So we had a big block and lost to a six cylinder. 

Go Bucks and michigan STILL SUCKS!

vitaminB's picture

This offseason I got into a heated debate about whether Bynum or Oden was the better sign.  Needless to say I'm going to chalk up a victory on this one.  Good luck, Greg.  I wished you'd signed with any other team but the Heatles, but I'll root you on nonetheless.

stevebelliseeya's picture

"Look roughly like Tolkien's version of an Ent"    That's funny.


"We are eternal. All this pain is an illusion." - Tool

ToledoMan's picture

I'm glad someone else commented on that, because that was my favorite part of the article.  I hope Oden keeps the comeback going.  A true post player is like gold.

tennbuckeye19's picture

Here's a blonde Greg Oden singing karaoke with Shane Battier and Ken Jeong at a charity event from last night.

Baroclinicity's picture

My God, 2007 was a bad year for sports for me.  Buckeye football, Buckeye hoops, Cavs swept in the finals, and the Tribe blows a 3-1 series lead on the Red Sox.
If Oden has a meaningful part on the Heat in terms of playing time, I'd gladly see the Heat three-peat this year.

When you're holding a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Squirrel Master's picture must mean Junk Punch!

You know why!

I saw a UFO told me to have a goodyear!

45has2's picture

Great article, Johnny. The only adder I have is that G.O. did all that in the N.C. game with ONE HAND. Best wishes for Greg in all he undertakes. GO BUCKS.

"I don't like nice people. I like tough, honest people." -W.W. Hayes

niblick's picture

i can never see anything greg oden related ever again without having Ramzy calling him a human tripod come to mind lol

BuckeyeChief's picture

This was pretty insightful to the injuries.

"2014 National with it!!!"

Crumb's picture

Oden is forever a Buckeye legend, I'm still impressed with how amazing his one season here was and how it seems like he played over half of it left handed. If the Heat win more titles, it'll be bearable if he's on the roster and contributes.

"The only good thing about it is winning the d*** thing" - Urban Meyer on The Game The War

Seattle Linga's picture

Kind of like fantasy football - I want G.O. to play well but the Heat to lose.

klfeck's picture

Can we outlaw the use of the word "snark" along with "YOLO"?



Proud parent of a Senior at The Ohio State University