Greg Oden said this spring, “I’m one of the biggest busts in NBA history, and I know that it’ll only get worse.”
He was referencing how the gap between himself and 2007 No. 2 pick Kevin Durant was widening. Durant had just won Most Valuable Player, and more success is certainly in line for the Thunder star. Oden, the No. 1 pick, appeared stagnant, at least – which was a big improvement from the downward trend he’d been on since his first injury set him back as a rookie.
But, sadly, Oden has continued in the wrong direction.
It seems Oden’s previously admitted drinking problem played a role in the incident, and warning signs existed while Oden was on the Heat roster this season.
Privately, his battle with personal demons still raged, according to multiple sources. Alcohol abuse remained a concern last season as he sat out many games because of soreness in his knees and back. When he was left in Miami during road trips early in the season, he often was spotted at local sports bars and restaurants, including a Hooters across the street from AmericanAirlines Arena, to watch the games.
Oden struck the victim at least three times in the face, causing a laceration across her forehead, a swollen eye and a nasal fracture, according to court documents. A friend of the ex-girlfriend told police Oden stopped punching her only after he saw blood splattering onto the sofa.
"Stop! Stop! Get off her!" witnesses shouted at Oden, according to police records.
"He really wanted to punch the [redacted] up outta her," Zoe Oden told investigators, according to the police report.
Oden placed one of the two 911 calls made from the residence to police after the altercation, according to court records. There, he admitted he got into a fight with his ex-girlfriend.
"I already know how this [redacted] gonna go," he said. The dispatcher asked Oden if an ambulance was needed.
"Um, somebody is bleeding, so yes," he said. "But it’s not that deep. So yes, send an ambulance."
The responding officer arrived at Oden’s home around 3:30 a.m. and observed Oden was "calm, apologetic and cooperative," and that he "took full responsibility for his action."
According to the report, Oden told police: "Things got out of control and I started to go after [the victim]. My mother and [the victim’s friend] tried to hold me back but I swung my arms to move them out of the way and then punched [the victim] in the face. I was wrong and I know what has to happen."
The victim was initially uncooperative with authorities but later told police Oden, who has admitted to developing a drinking problem while rehabbing in Portland, had been drinking shots of alcohol and a few beers at the nightclub. She also told police Oden "sometimes gets upset when he drinks" and admitted they had relationship problems.
The legal system will determine Oden’s fate now, but it sounds as if he needs serious help. I hope he gets it.
For one – and this matters a lot – Oden is not that good anymore. He’s a third center at best. Nobody is going to take a chance on a player with his troubles without getting more upside.
Secondly, at a time when Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy are making national headlines for off-field violence, the public’s tolerance for domestic abuse by athletes is at an all-time low. The NBA has – undeservedly – avoided the controversy currently plaguing the NFL. Seriously, read this. The NBA has not earned the high road. But perception favors the NBA, and the league surely wants to keep it that way.
Of course, these concerns should be secondary. The victim’s welfare should be of the utmost importance, and hopefully Oden gets the help he needs.