by Lang Whitaker| @langwhitaker

News broke yesterday that Greg Oden will be having season-ending microfracture surgery on his left knee. This, of course, represents just the most recent entry in Oden’s already-voluminous medical file.

There are two names brought up whenever Greg Oden suffers an injury: Kevin Durant and Sam Bowie. Durant gets mentioned because the Blazers picked Oden over him. I understand the comparison, I guess, although it’s a bit unfair since Oden’s injuries have kept him from ever being the player we thought he might become.

In some ways, Sam Bowie is a more fitting comparison, I suppose. Both he and Oden were big men, both drafted by Portland, both with suffered a lot of injuries, both with the supreme misfortune of being picked ahead of guys (Michael Jordan and Durant) who quickly found a home among the best players in the League.

But what do we really know about Sam Bowie? I started thinking about that this morning as I read about Oden. It’s such an obvious comparison to make between Oden and Bowie, but is it really accurate?

I did some digging today, as much for my own edification as yours. Bowie played three good seasons in college at Kentucky, though he also missed two entire seasons (guessing he got a redshirt) with injuries. As a rookie with Portland, Bowie made the NBA All-Rookie team, playing almost as many games as a rookie (76) as Oden has played in three-plus seasons (82). Bowie was injured for most of his second season, and then five games into his third season he suffered a compound fracture of his tibia during a game. It was such a severe injury that Bowie the following 77 games of that season (‘86-87). He was going to return for the following season (‘87-88), but re-broke the same bone during the preseason and missed the entire year. Bowie returned in ’88-89 but played in just 20 games, and the Blazers traded him to New Jersey.

And that’s where things changed. The next four seasons—from ’89-90 through ’92-93—Bowie had the best years of his career. He averaged 70 games per season over that span, and in ’91-92 he played in 71 games and finished the season averaging 15 ppg and 8.1 rpg. He wasn’t Michael Jordan, but this Sam Bowie wasn’t terrible either. After four productive seasons in Jersey, he played two years with Lakers, then called it a career.

I guess the most obvious difference, besides their ages — Oden was one year younger than Bowie as NBA rookies — was that Bowie had a history of leg injury problems in college. Oden had that one freaky wrist injury and missed a few games, while Bowie missed two entire years with shin injuries.

Is it fair to compare Greg Oden to Sam Bowie? I think it is, at least in a general sense with as much as the two have in common. But is it an accurate comparison? Meaning, we CAN compare Greg Oden to Sam Bowie, but SHOULD we compare Greg Oden to Sam Bowie? I don’t think so, not yet, at least. Oden’s still young and we don’t know — he could still have a long career ahead of him.

Say what you want about Sam Bowie, but he did have at least one sizable chunk of his career where he was consistent and productive. And that’s something we’ve yet to see from Greg Oden.

• Speaking of Oden, The Onion ran this eerily prescient story on Oden earlier this week.

While I was reading that, I ended up clicking around on their site and coming across this hilarious fake story about Obama’s fake plan to replace high-speed trains with high-speed buses, which cracked both me and Ben up pretty good, particularly the animated buses on the highway.


Obama Replaces Costly High-Speed Rail Plan With High-Speed Bus Plan

• Did anyone catch this Ben Wallace story on Yahoo? After Wallace retires, he wants to become a defense attorney.

“That’s my ultimate goal,” Wallace said. “It’s always been one of my dreams. I think I can argue a pretty good case. I think I can convince a couple of people to see things my way.”
“I’m very serious about it. Very.”

The story also notes that Wallace watches Court TV 24/7, and the one drawback might be that he doesn’t own a business suit or a tie.

I’m calling for it right now: Whenever Wallace does anything in a Pistons game (scores, gets a rebound, blocks a shot) they need to play the Law & Order sound effect. You know what I’m talking about…

Also, I think NBC should invent an iPhone app based on that sound effect, where you can play that sound with one click of a button. Let’s say you walk into a restaurant: DUH-DUH! You sit down at your desk: DUH-DUH! Your wife screams, “Where were you last night?!” DUH-DUH!

(Something else I struggled with: How do you spell the Law & Order sound? I went with DUH-DUH, though there seems to be a lot of argument as to how to spell it.)

• One other thing: A new issue of SLAM is going to drop next week, and we’re going to debut it in a way we’ve never debuted a mag before. Stay tuned for details…