Former top pick Oden returns to NBA action
MANILA – Greg Oden, the top pick in the 2007 NBA Rookie Draft, played in an NBA game for the first time in four years after suiting up for the champions Miami Heat in a pre-season game against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Oden, a seven-foot center out of Ohio State, was picked first by Portland in the 2007 NBA Draft but suffered from several debilitating knee injuries, and twice had microfacture surgery.
Since entering the NBA in 2007, Oden has only played in 82 regular season games. He last played a competitive game in December 2009, and was waived by Portland in March 2012. He was eventually signed by the Heat as a free agent last August.
Oden made his debut for the Heat against the Pelicans in their last game of the pre-season, entering the game in the second quarter and dunking in his very first possession, to the delight of the Miami bench.
“It’s been a long time,” Oden later said in an interview with ESPN.com. “It’s been a long road for me, just to get them off my back, my first step tonight. I’m happy I’m able to walk off this court and I’m able to play another day.”
Oden played for nearly four minutes, tallying two points to go along with two rebounds, two turnovers and two fouls, in what was his first game in 1,418 days.
On Twitter, Miami superstar LeBron James expressed his happiness for Oden, saying: “I’m so happy for GO tonight! Couldn’t imagine being away from the game for three years. Feel like a proud big brother. Determination wins.”
James also told ESPN that it was a “very special moment.” “I was so excited for him when he got on the court and he checked in – and his first basket, he gets a dunk. Can you write it any better?”
“Obviously, he’s not where he wants to be, but the process is going great,” James added.
“We are just so pleased for him,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “It was just great to see him do something he loves to do. It was taken away for him for four years. We just continue to make patient, steady progress forward from here.”