In addition to his lumbering frame and damaged knees, Greg Oden reluctantly carries a pair of names with him everywhere he goes: Sam Bowie and Kevin Durant. He's probably never met the man, but you can't examine Oden's crash and burn NBA career without dusting off the legacy of Bowie—the Wally Pipp of the basketball—a players whose name will forever be linked to Michael Jordan. The (not entirely true) version of the story is that in 1984 the Portland Trail Blazers walked away from Michael Jordan (and Charles Barkely, John Stockton, and even the awesomely-named Lancaster Gordon) to take Bowie with the second pick in the draft. It wasn't a wise move, but history has been written by Jordan, and we tend to forget the sweepstakes to draft Akeem Olajuwon, the infamous coin flip the Blazers lost, and the team's need for a center to accompany Clyde Drexler (Does anyone still taunt the Kansas City Kings for picking Ennis Whatley before Drexler in the 1983 draft?). Not only did the Blazers ignore the greatest player in league history, they lost the story, letting the myth of Bowie-over-Jordan haunt this franchise to this very day.
And then it happened again.
But this time around you can't fault the Blazers. Yes, Kevin Durant is a goddamn saint. He has all the skill of LeBron James, but without being an insufferable prick with an ego the size of South Beach. Unless he releases a sextape with a Kardashian, gets caught in a puppy fighting ring, or tosses Cole Aldrich in a woodchipper, Durant's legacy will remain unsoiled as one of the league's best players and best personalities. But despite what you tell all your friends now, you still wanted the Blazers to draft Oden over Durant in the 2007 draft. At least, you should have. Most every NBA GM and league expert* agreed on this and despite how many times you honked your car horn everyone knew that Oden was the player destined for greatness. He was Bill Russell (hell, he looked like Russell did in 2007), or more importantly, he was Olajuwon. Not only did the Blazers take the best player available, they finally had a chance to kill the Bowie story once and for all.
Of course, things didn't quite work out that way and once again the Trail Blazers found themselves on the losing side of history. Durant is Jordan. Oden is Bowie. (I guess that means Stanko Barać is Ennis Whatley?) Even if he does return to Portland—or any team for that matter—Oden will never surpass Durant. Only one player (Kenyon Martin) has ever recovered from double microfracture surgery, and Oden has a long way to go before returning to the hardwood and winning back the support of this franchise. Until then, all the Blazers can do is ignore the shadow of the past and keep moving forward, knowing that the names Bowie and Durant will linger with this franchise for a long time to come.
* The exception: Ben Golliver of CBSSports.com and BlazersEdge. Golliver even went as far to launch this site before the draft.