Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 at 5:45 pm  |  62 responses

Greg Oden Says He Became an Alcoholic in His Second NBA Season

Former top Draft pick Greg Oden is currently without an NBA job, and there have been whispers of him possibly having to retire. In a revealing interview with Grantland, Oden opens up the multitude of challenges he’s faced since he entered the League (and even well before that.) Here’s an excerpt, but be sure to read the whole thing: “Greg’s emphasis on privacy also explains why you probably didn’t know that, during his lone season at Ohio State, his best friend since childhood, Travis Smith, died in a car accident the same night that Greg scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in a two-point home win over Michigan State. Travis had planned on coming to that game until Greg’s mother and grandmother stepped in and claimed Greg’s remaining tickets. But a few hours before the game, Greg was informed they weren’t coming because his grandma didn’t feel well, which meant Travis could have attended the game after all. Greg found out about Travis’s passing shortly after the game. When he heard the news, he promptly left the gym and drove around the outer belt of Columbus while sobbing. He wasn’t seen or heard from until practice the next afternoon. A few days later, he served as a pallbearer in Travis’s funeral just hours before 14,000 Purdue fans rained boos on him at Mackey Arena during pregame introductions. […] It’s almost like a cloud has been following Greg since high school. He even had bad luck with the 2007 draft, landing in the same class as Kevin Durant. Experts spent two months comparing them and picking apart Greg’s résumé, which didn’t stop Portland from selecting him with the first overall pick. That summer, his right knee started bothering him and doctors determined that he needed microfracture surgery. Greg’s rookie season was over before it even began. Portland fans, who endured the injury-ravaged careers of Bill Walton and Sam Bowie, freaked out. What those fans didn’t know was that Greg’s heart was still aching because of Travis’s death; he was already headed down a destructive path of drinking and ‘doing things I shouldn’t have been doing’ (his words at dinner). The knee surgery only made things worse. ‘For starters, Portland isn’t a great city to live in if you’re a young, African American male with a lot of money,’ Greg explained with an embarrassed grin. ‘But that’s especially true if you don’t have anybody to guide you. Since I was hurt the entire season, I was on my own a bunch and didn’t have veteran teammates around to help me adapt to the NBA lifestyle.’ Even while adjusting to the change in culture, Greg successfully rehabbed his knee and played in 61 games the following season, averaging nine points and seven rebounds in 21.5 minutes. He wasn’t dominating like he had in high school and college, but he provided enough highlights to make Blazers fans feel optimistic about the team’s future. It seemed to me while watching Greg on TV that he would be able to recover from his surgery and in a few years’ time could be one of the premier big men in the NBA. But 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.’”

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  • http://www.slamonline.com Red

    Hope he heals & can play again. But, I’m sorry, no grown man should use “I need guidance” as an excuse. You know right & wrong, people lose loved ones everyday, eventually you have to move on.

  • http://www.twitter.com/gerardhimself Gerard Himself

    that’s quite an article. Very interesting read.

  • Shecky Shabazz

    Fantastic read. I feel sorry for the young guy. Hopefully he can make a comeback and be a solid NBA player.

  • http://Roosterteeth.com Caboose

    Well written article. Read it if you have the time. Always had respect for Oden and disrespect for Portland’s medical staff, but some of the stuff Greg did seems self-inflicted. I still want him back in the NBA though, hopefully finishing the 2014 season.

  • OEasy

    Of all the things they talk about in that article you chose that for the headline? Shameful.

  • PeteK

    Sound like he has lots of excuses. I kinda lost a bit of respect after reading how he ‘needed veteran guidance’ and how theres nothing to do in Portland for a young rich black man. Boo hoo

  • PeteK

    I do love an underdog story though and would like to see him overcome his problems and be a solid player.

  • Jerome

    @RED: Bitter from some personal experience? Or just lacking empathy?

  • http://www.slamonline.com Red

    Lacking empathy by saying I hope he heals & can play again? DEFINITELY! Again, he’s a grown man & shouldn’t blame not having guidance whilst knowing right & wrong.

  • http://www.twitter.com/gerardhimself Gerard Himself

    Red: the guy was 19, living a completely different lifestyle in a new city all while being sort of alone (and rehabbing) Of course he needed guidance.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Red

    I get what you mean to an extent. Who’s to say how I’d react while having so much money & living by myself? Well, that’s when you decide to find people who have good moral character & make them friends. But in the end of the day, at 19 you know right & wrong. I’m sorry if I seem like a jerk or as if I’m trolling. I assure you I’m not & mean no harm.

  • http://www.blogspot.com LLC#12

    So did the guy who drafted him…

  • feez_22

    @Red … Look further into his comments. Drinking the sorrows away, Drinking when there is fun, 2nd season ending injury, etc, etc… I think the kid was depressed honestly. So much stuff happening @ one time. Away from home… People respond to adversity differently. It’s not about right v. wrong to me. Him saying he needed guidance… IMO that means he needs help. Cry for help.

  • toinefan88

    I remember when he said he wanted to win 10 championships… believed him. I hope he gets to have a good career. He could be easily one of the best centers in the league if healthy.

  • Matt Park

    Terrible that SLAM chose this for the headline… I just read this over at Grantland and knew that this piece would be on SLAM. I didn’t think you would choose this headline though.

  • Top$helf

    Yeah you should know right from wrong at 19 but as a teenager do you really care about or even realize the consequences me myself at 19 I did a lot of things wrong and made bad decisions I was broke tho this kid was rich so it was a lot more things that were accessible to him

  • http://idunkonthem.blogspot.com albie1kenobi

    not bashing on Red on his sentiment, but KNOWING right from wrong is a whole lot different than DOING the right thing. i mean, how many of us knows the importance and the benefits of eating healthy and exercising regularly? then how many of us actually avoid eating terrible fast food and sitting on the couch all weekend?
    in addition, how much more difficult it is to surround oneself with good people who are honest to you when one is rich and famous? Wealth and fame only attracts the wrong kind of people, and we all know that.
    on top of that, he was already in a weak state of mind. depression is one hell of a b~tch to deal with.

  • http://www.nba.com Red

    I agree, again I’m not trying to sound like an old man but yeah you are right it must be hard with so much at once. I’m happy he’s still seemingly positive. Itd be mad hard to do so with the injuries he’s had. So I’ll take back what I said it must be hell dealing with that hopefully he’s learned, the guy could’ve been right there next to Dwight.

  • ai come back

    respect to u Red it takes a man to admit hes wrong

  • http://slamonline.com The Philosopher

    He’s had plenty of people around him to “guide” him.
    Mike Conley Sr. (who happened to be, at one time, a world class athlete)
    He has Mike Conley Jr. A mature lad.
    In my opinion, Oden is making excuses on that front, though I can definitely be wrong.
    As far as the injuries… I can’t even try to call it.

  • JB

    @Greg Oden way to stereotype guys in the Air Force. You’re a loser.

  • http://www.alllooksame.com Tarzan Cooper


  • PeteK

    He’s really making excuses and at the same time playing the race card. He made bad choices and needs to accept that he himself created his hardships and learn from his mistakes not create excuses.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Red

    Post-my admitting I’m wrong, everyone takes Oden apart lol.

  • LA Huey

    Great article.
    It’s a shame SLAM used this as the headline.

  • Brad09

    Great Article

  • http://Roosterteeth.com Caboose

    Much respect Red.

  • Dungeon Family

    Lamar Odom should be an alcoholic…I would if I married a woman that was built like T Hawk from Street Fighter 2

  • Clydesays

    Teams have a responsibility to looking after the kids they make millionaires. It’s unrealistic to think a 19-20 year in a new city with millions to spend is always going to do the right thing. Raising the age limit to 20 would be a start.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/D12FSU D12FSU

    if you haven’t checked out Grantland yet, you’re missing out

  • http://cnbc.com JTaylor21

    It amazing that alcohol ruins thousands of lifes each year yet it’s as legal as a walk in the park but weed gets you time in the big house. That’s the American “Justice” system for you.

  • http://www.triplejunearthed.com/dacre Dacre

    Oh Greg… Come on there is still time to get this sorted out. If it’s a decent role model you want get at me…

  • AiRsMiTh

    feez_22, I agree with you. All these injuries (or articles about) are depressing. Especially with Junior Seau killing himself; sports-related news has seemed a bit grim in the past week or so. Strange.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Co-sign JT. Funny thing is, it’s often easier for kids to buy illegal drugs and pharmaceuticals than it is for them to buy alcohol.
    That reminds me… Have you heard the story of Ronald Reagan? The one about the piece of redneck sh!t who jailed black/brown people for selling drugs, all while funding the Nicaraguan contras who in turn smuggled drugs directly into California to pay for their terrorist activities?
    Or the story of the CIA, and how they funded the Kosovo Liberation Army which was also one of the biggest international smugglers of illegal drugs? Or their friends the Taliban and Mujaheddin/Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, now the single largest exporter of heroine in the world?
    Or the CIA’s former buddies in the Chinese Nationalist army under Chiang Kai Shek, who ran the Golden Triangle? (Ever wonder why heroine is aka “China white”?)
    Yep, there’s totally a “War on Drugs”…….

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    Now that that rant is over, I wish Greg the best and a speedy recovery. Hopefully he makes it back in the league and taps into that potential of his. Hang in there, big fella.

  • EJ

    When you think about it, Blake Grffin is the same story, but with the better ending (based on how things are looking right now).

  • http://Slamonline.com nbk


  • Mike From Spain

    that does not sound like nbk. Slam, you need a logon system

  • http://www.slamonline.com Red

    I think it should be normal for humans to recognize error, thankfully I don’t get caught up. But JT, weed ruins families too but provided it’s not as harmful. But, weed usually gives u a slap on the wrist, but regardless it’ll never be legalized. All the people they’d have to take outta prison & all the money they’d lose..geez.

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    Alcoholism is a disease often brought on by depression, another disease. Not sure how anyone can ‘make excuses’ about being depressed. How many of you have dealt with the disappointment of almost fulfilling your dreams, then having an injury snatch it away in it’s infancy? Anyone here an NBA player whose career never materialized? If anyone could explain to me how they can dictate a man’s emotional state without having the slightest clue about what it’s like to go through his situation I’d appreciate it. Also not sure how anyone can ‘make excuses’for not having guidance. Maybe he should’ve taken imaginary advice from his absentee dad. Maybe he should’ve had long distance guidance fom Mike Conley’s dad, even though he was across the country guiding his own child. Bunch of internet shrinks smh.

  • SiMoney

    noo thats definitely NBK, he’s getting upset again lol smh…but that is sad about Oden, couldve been better than Dwight…

  • NinerFan

    Oden… Give Garrison Hearst a call

  • http://www.twitter.com/_dfrance dfrance

    Having money is not going to change who you are, it only accentuates it. He was a depressed recluse before the money he became an alcoholic depressed recluse after it. These guys are humans at the end of the day, just like us, just with a lot more money. Its easy to say someone is weak, or making excuses when you are not dealing with what they’re dealing with.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Teddy is like a walking liberal encyclopedia…
    Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  • bike

    Have some cheese with that whine. Granted, the guy had immense pressure on him being the no. 1 pick and rotten luck with his knees but the nba is tough on all players. Very tough. He needs to suck it up and accept he probably will never fulfill the expectations but he still could have a solid career as a backup center playing limited minutes. It could be worse Greg, a lot worse.

  • T-Money

    i have a lot of empathy for greg because of the multiple injuries. i totally get how that could lead to depression – especially when your failures are so public. however, i give zero f-cks about all that noise with his cousin and all that. there were plenty of role models for him to follow if he wanted to. the conleys have been in his life forever.

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    Damn, y’all are hardcore. He was depressed, he had a cousin living with him who liked to drink, party and smash random broads. He got caught up. Is it that hard to feel sorry for him? What does it cost? It’s not like he’s asking your anything, hell he doesn’t even want to get to know you as fans.
    yes, the story came across as overly sympathetic, but why exactly did it make people angry at Greg Oden. He didn’t write the story. Mark Titus did.

  • vtrobot

    It is reeeeally hard not to visit Portland strip clubs on a regular basis. They have so many nice ones out there. It’s really sad to think of what B. Roy, Greg, and LA could have done. Pretty messed up. Nothing’s guaranteed.

  • http://abcnews.com charliewinning

    People keep bringing up the Conleys like they were right there living with him. These people must be omnipotent beings if they have the ability to supervise and guide from across the country. Maybe I’m in the dark about the plentiful role models Greg has. Maybe you guys know something about his inner circle and personal life that only you and he know.

  • B Peters

    Look, I know it easy to point the finger of blame at a 19 yr old black man, labeled a star, who has to sit and collect a huge check—–and can have whatever he wants——but instant fame and fortune are difficult to handle, even for the best of us, harder in many cases than handling failure. Portland invested the money, if they wanted a big return, they should have sheltered him, leaving him to do what he can do, play ball, and not leaving him to do what he can’t do—–stay healthy, invest his money, market himself, and stay out of trouble. Sure he can have fun, just not the wrong kind. First comes money, then come friends, then come girls, then parties, then booze, drugs, loans, and meeting the wrong people. A little guidance to a young man can go a long way towards making his life successful on all ends.

  • jayb

    i dont feel sorry at all for oden..it is unfortunate he got hurt but drinking your sorrows away i do not feel bad for one who makes millions of dollars and has not earned it. we all have our own problems..all of us are not alcoholics or smoke weed to ease the pain. i for one focus on what i have to do to solve the issue or improve what i need to in order to get out of a bad situation period! real easy to just drink your problems away which solves nothing anyway! causes more!

  • http://slamonline.com Allenp

    How did he not earn his money? He was drafted based on his potential. He was injured.
    I believe in personal responsibility as much as the next guy, but some of y’all are a little weird. It wasn’t like dude was so drunk he couldn’t play.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    ha thanks Allen… Although I’m no liberal.

  • http://thetroyblog.com Teddy-the-Bear

    here’s another good question: which team was harder hit by injuries, the rockets or the blazers?
    Which team had the most potential?

  • Rob

    Purple drank up in mah cup

  • http://none Black Man

    Young man, refocus, get healthy, get strong, make life a priority, then come back and play.

    Do not quit.

  • http://slamonline S Bowie

    Man we all been there……

  • http://twitter.com/TwelveInchFinch Creflow Dollars

    I dont get why people are killing him for saying he needed guidance, I wonder how many of you had the foresight to realize you needed guidance in your early 20s. And for those of you not understanding his comment about being young black and rich in a place like Portland, let me explain…When you’re rich and black, you stand out. When you’re young black and rich, you really stand out. And when you’re young, black, rich and seven foot tall you can forget about not being noticed. I challenge anyone here to tell me they wouldnt do something stupid and regrettable being a 19 year old millionaire professional athlete.


    wow that is the only thing i can say

  • Kid Viscious

    Wow that just shows you should never judge a book by its cover..

  • Quantumphysix

    I became an alcoholic waiting for Oden to get game

  • markjsunz

    I feel sorry for this gentleman. Sam Bowie was taken ahead of Jordan and Oden was taken ahead of Durant, Maybe some club can bring him to camp with a chance at a backup role. Oden already made his money maybe now he can work on staying injury free and have a career.

    If Oden works a 12 step program he may be able to have a shot at a good life.