In an extensive, surprisingly candid interview with Mark Titus of Grantland, former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Greg Oden opened up about his five years in pro basketball and admitted he became an alcoholic early in his career with the Portland Trail Blazers.
"My cousin got wrapped up in the NBA lifestyle and threw parties at my house all the time," Oden said. "So I got wrapped up in it too. When I played well, I'd drink to celebrate. And when I played poorly, I'd drink to forget. That second year in Portland, I pretty much became an alcoholic."
Oden showed great promise as a freshman in Ohio State in 2007 but has played just 82 games in pro basketball due to injuries. Now a free agent, Oden opened up to Titus about his friend's tragic death during his year at OSU, the pressures of being compared to No. 2 draft pick Kevin Durant, and his difficulty grasping the NBA lifestyle as a young, rich, black male living in Portland.
"Portland isn't a great city to live in if you're a young, African-American male with a lot of money," Oden said. "But that's especially true if you don't have anybody to guide you. Since I was hurt the entire season, I was on my own a bunch and didn't have veteran teammates around to help me adapt to the NBA lifestyle." Oden, who turned 24 in January, will be looking for a new job next year. The Blazers have released Oden, and he plans to take the 2012-13 season off, but he'll be looking to return to the NBA down the road.