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Blazers' C Oden has plenty of promise left to fulfill

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Eric Rosales - TSN.ca staff
11/18/2010 6:48:13 PM
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Two days after witnessing the best performance in the history of Monday Night Football, we were all witnesses to another setback for an athlete whom greatness was deemed upon.

While sports fans were still glowing over Michael Vick completely eviscerating the Redskins, news broke Wednesday that Greg Oden, the number one pick in the 2007 NBA draft, would be shut down this season, needing micro fracture surgery on his left knee.

Vick produced a statline that may never be recreated in the NFL again:20-28, 333 yds, 4 TD, 150.7 passer rating AND 8 rush, 80 yds, 2 TD.

Meanwhile, Oden's statline is devastating on another level:right knee micro fracture surgery, foot injury, chipped knee cap, fractured patella, left knee micro fracture surgery.82 games played over 4 seasons.

What made Vick's performance so amazing had plenty to do on the field, but it had so much more to do with what we look for in the gifted athletes that come across our landscape.

When special athletes are brought into the public eye, we instantly become attracted. We want to see what the fuss is about. We need just to catch the brilliance of one play to gauge just how far we're willing to place our lofty expectations on what they can accomplish on their field of play.

And after we've given them a certain bar, we watch each performance incessantly as the athlete reaches that expectation we've built for them.

Vick absolutely smashed that bar on Monday night at FedEx Field. His smarts, skills and natural talent all worked in perfect synchronicity to reach a level that no quarterback had ever reached. That special athlete showed what could be achieved. If you're a sports fan, isn't that what we look for? To marvel at something we've never seen before?

It's why the Lawrence Philips' of the world get chance after chance after chance. Why we wait and watch for Tiger to complete a true Grand Slam. Why Len Bias' death will forever hang with a question no one can answer: just how good could this kid have been?

Which brings us back to Oden. No, he wasn't blessed with Vick's electric God-given talents. But he showed all the signs of potentially being the next dominant big man in basketball, following a lineage of centres that has or will soon have 'hall of famer' on their resume.

That promise was so strong that the Blazers took him over Kevin Durant in that draft. And we know how that's turned out so far.

But special athletes hold out promise to hang on to. And Oden is just 22 years old. Although micro fracture surgeries have ended many careers in the Association, there are cases that show you can still play, and at a high level. Jason Kidd and Amare Stoudemire come to mind immediately.

But the biggest road block will be how bad he truly wants it.

In Vick's case, he needed to be stripped down to nothing and placed in a jail cell to realize that his gifts were being wasted. When he finished serving his time, few figured he'd be able to get back into football, let alone be a starter and now an MVP candidate.

Maybe all this reflection time for Oden will be just what he needs. Maybe that will inspire him to work harder then he's ever worked, and rediscover that love for the game that may have gotten away from him with all the negative publicity and unmatched hype to date.

One thing that is for sure now is that the odds are stacked against him, much like they were for Vick. But in the world of professional sports, Oden will be given every opportunity to realize that gift.

It's only taken Vick 10 years to realize his.

Greg Oden (Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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