The Curse Of The ‘Big Man’ Continues In Portland

By L.A. Batchelor
Updated: September 20, 2007

NORTH CAROLINA — The news is out about the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft this past season and it’s not good. Ohio State’s Greg Oden, the latest “savior” for the Portland Trailblazers is out for the 2007-08 season after exploratory arthroscopic surgery performed revealed cartilage damage to rookie’s right knee.

It’s bad news for Oden and even tougher news for the Blazers, a franchise mired in controversy, turmoil and character issues. This franchise not only wanted the best player, but they also wanted a character player.

They wanted a dominating force inside who can paved the way for wins and championships for years to come. Instead, they are left wondering if “years to come” is a phrase fit for Mr. Oden and if so, will they be positive and productive years.

It may be surprising to Blazer fans and others that Oden was hurt because you can’t anticipate these types of injuries. But some would say this is one of many injuries and incidents in the soap opera called “As The Blazers Turn”.

Seriously, the Blazers history of player injuries span at least three decades and Oden’s injury is no exception. Let’s take a look at three major player injuries that made the difference between Portland going from potential contenders to pretenders.

Bill Walton: The No. 1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, Walton had the pressure of coming out of the most successful college program (UCLA) in history and the pressure of most experts expecting him to be as good if not better than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain. He played with Portland from 1974-1979 and was a member of the team’s NBA Championship squad of 1977. Even with his title, the promise of a dynasty was cut short for Walton and the team with numerous injuries over his brief six-year career especially coming out of UCLA where he had so much success under Coach John Wooden. Walton went on to win another championship with the Boston Celtics and even the Boston organization and their fans will tell you, Walton was just a shadow of himself and played more of a cheerleader role with the team.

Walton Career Stats:

Games 468

Points 6,215

PPG 13.3

RPG 10.5

Blocks 1,034

Sam Bowie: Another former Portland player that can feel Oden’s pain is the former Kentucky standout. “But there’s not a bigger Greg Oden fan in the world than Sam Bowie. I feel terrible for Greg,” Bowie said in a recent interview. “I’ve never talked to the young man, but he’s always come across as very professional, very mature. Obviously, with the past history of the team and my situation, he’s walked into some quicksand, shall we say. I just hope this kid gets a chance to prove all of the doubters wrong” .

Bowie had just as much pressure and promise as Walton did coming out of a basketball mecca at the University of Kentucky and especially since he was chosen in the 1984 NBA Draft ahead of the eventual “best player on the planet”, Michael Jordan. Like Walton, promise quickly turned to pain. Pain for both the Blazers and for Bowie, the second overall pick. The first pick was Houston center Akeem Olajuwon.

The third pick was Jordan, a 6-foot-6 swing player from North Carolina. While Olajuwon has gone on to have a Hall of Fame career and Jordan and I alluded to, is considered by many as the greatest player of all-time, Bowie led a long but unremarkable career, coming back from a string of career-threatening leg injuries.

For most of Bowie’s career, when healthy, he was a good rebounder and passer, demonstrating excellent touch for a man his size. His dedication to rehabilitate and play despite the option of quitting the sport while keeping his contract was inspiring. However, his basketball presence was mostly a shell of his former playing self and certainly what the Blazers envisioned when they drafted him so high.

After four injury-plagued seasons with Portland in which he averaged 10.5 points per game, Bowie was traded, along with a draft pick, to the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Buck Williams on June 24, 1989. After two more injury-riddled years with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bowie retired from professional basketball in 1995. Over his career, Bowie averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.78 blocks per game.

I think most people are cheering for Greg Oden, especially those in the Blazer organization, the fans and as you’ve read, former players. Hoping he can make a full recovery, go on to a successful career and finally break Portland’s “Curse of The Big Man.”