Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Friday, March 23, 2007

God bless Greg Oden

He jumped over his own teammate to block the shot that decided the game. How many minutes he played. How many fouls he committed. How many points he was limited to. All of that was made irrelevant when Greg Oden jumped over his own teammate to vault Ohio State into the final eight.

I have never met young Mr. Oden. I have never even seen him play in person. Yet I am doubly intrigued by him.

First his talent on the court. Last week watching David Robinson as a senior only heightened my expectations of what the young freshman will do as a professional. Oden is already farther along that Robinson was then. Oden is a raw talent that doesn't come along. He is a freight train and yet a tree. His injury will make him a better player in the long run. And even when he had what some would call a nightmare game. Yet he had the confidence and the talent to win the game.

You hear the debate Oden or Kevin Durant. For me there is none. Of course I still believe Houston made the right pick when they took Hakeem Olajuwon. I know, I know Michael Jordan went third and the Bulls one day won six titles. The Dream only brought home two but it wasn't his fault Ralph Sampson got injured. If Jordan had went to Houston, there would be Pippen and no Phil Jackson. As great as Jordan was, it was a process that took years and it needed the pieces parts to make it as we are learning right now with LeBron James. When choosing between two stars, I will take the big man every time. Oden will make some NBA team a contender one day, I have no doubt about that. As general manager I think it will be easier to fill the roles with the big man in place rather than the talented guard or forward.

But what intrigues me just as much is the man Oden is. He looks older than his age. He seems more mature than his age. With one hand almost tied behind his back, he had to learn the college game this year on national TV every week. And with a loss of a close friend, he had to grow up this year faster than any of us would want our teenage son to do.

So when stories are filtering out that he wants to stay in school I believe him. Sources close to him say it is the real deal and not a pr move. Yet I won't be put off if he does leave. College is fun. College is a oasis to the real world. I know you can find stories everywhere of how college athletics is now all big business and maybe it is. But it is still more of a cocoon than life on the road in the NBA. The money is there to take. No risk, guaranteed. The thought he is still not sure says a lot about his character.

I have rambled and lost track of my point. But all you need to know about Greg Oden was summed up in one play.

Saddled with four fouls, with the AP wire guys ready to hit send with the unfair headline "Oden is the goat", he jumped over his own teammate to block a shot and win the game.

He never hesitated.