Oden has re-enrolled at Ohio State, where he dominated the Big 10 a decade ago. Now 28, he is a sophomore sports industry major and speaks about his basketball career in the past tense.
“I wish,” he said when asked about playing again. “It’s over.”
It’s a difficult end for the can’t-miss prospect whom the Trail Blazers drafted ahead of Kevin Durant in 2007. Oden was a 7-foot freshman who led the Buckeyes to the national championship game and was expected to quickly become one of the NBA’s top centers. Instead, he suffered through a series of injuries that limited him to 82 games in two seasons in Portland and 23 in a season with Miami.
Oden got a four-year, $22MM contract from the Blazers, but had to sit out his rookie season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee. A foot injury took away the early part of the next season, which was later cut short by another knee injury.
After 21 games in 2009/10, Oden suffered a patella injury that required another microfracture surgery. A setback in rehab was followed by two more surgeries.
“Honestly, it was definitely unbelievable,” Oden saids. “With the third injury in a row, I was like, ‘Are you kidding me right now?'”
Oden tried to revive his basketball career last season in China, but he was cut in January. He made headlines for a domestic violence incident in 2014, but has mostly been out of the spotlight since leaving Miami. He became a father for the first time five weeks ago and is looking to move on from basketball.
“I wouldn’t say I regret anything,” Oden said. “I would say I just wish I did things better.”