Miami Heat's Greg Oden Battled Depression & Alcoholism

Depression & Alcoholism

The Miami Heat’s newest player Greg Oden appeared destined for greatness from an early age. He was one of the most recruited basketball players in high school, ultimately choosing Ohio State. In his one year at Ohio State he led his team to the NCAA championship game and was the 2007 first overall selection in the NBA draft to the Portland Trail Blazers. What could possibly go wrong?

What followed was not supposed to happen, not to people on the fast track to success like Greg Oden. The passing of a good friend, the pressure to succeed, three devastating knee injuries, a sexting scandal, the tragic death of his dog, losing his cousin to cancer, and being cut by the Portland Trail Blazers is an unimaginable emotional burden to be dealt to a kid in his 20s trying to live out his dream.

Last year Greg Oden gave a candid interview to revealing that he suffered from depression and alcoholism as setback after setback robbed him of the career and life he had been working so hard to obtain. His story is relatable to almost anyone and can be used as a lesson for teenagers. Whether you are an average Joe or a rising superstar it can be difficult to manage emotions when things don’t go as planned. A large part of developing social and emotional skills in teenagers is learning how to cope and respond to disappointment and failure.

Greg Oden is a giant among men. He stands at 7 feet tall and reportedly weighs in at around 280 pounds; however, the interview from paints a picture of a shy and private person who struggled to deal with his sports stardom and even more so with his fall from glory.

Depression from injuries

Suffering a significant physical injury that requires time away from the game, school, friends, and life can lead to social isolation and in some cases depression. Greg Oden explained that because of his constant injuries he was on his own a lot and did not have a role model to help him get accustomed to the NBA lifestyle. Student athletes are also vulnerable to social isolation after suffering injuries. All of a sudden, they are no longer able to socialize like they once did, friends stop calling, they may have trouble driving, and they lose a lot of their independence.

Former Olympic Skier Picabo Street suffered from depression for 20 months after breaking her leg in a skiing crash. She said, “I went from being a very physical person, a very powerful athlete, to barely having any strength to get from my room to the kitchen. You’re stuck and you can’t do what you normally do and it makes you crazy.”

Coping with alcohol

Greg describes turning to alcohol and “doing things I shouldn’t have been doing” to find relief from the trauma he experienced from the death of his childhood friend. Getting news that he needed micro fracture knee surgery and he would miss his entire rookie year only exacerbated his situation. In his second season in the NBA, he describes that he would drink when he played well to celebrate and drink when he played poorly to forget using the word “alcoholic” to describe himself.

It’s common for teenagers and young adults to find an escape when presented with difficult circumstances. It is a way to suppress and mask emotional difficulties. While many adults are guilty of drowning their issues with alcohol, teenagers are very susceptible due to peer pressure and immaturity. They are less likely to ask for help because they do not understand their emotions.

Sexting & Humiliation

After his second season, Greg decided to stop drinking and prepare diligently for the upcoming season. 20 games into what was shaping out to be his best season, he broke his kneecap and was ruled out for the rest of the season. In fact, he hasn’t played in an NBA game since that day in December of 2009.

A month after being told he would again miss the rest of the season due to his latest knee injury nude pictures of himself that he had taken began circulating around the internet. As a very private and shy person, he was humiliated and locked himself in his home until team officials dragged him out to continue his rehabilitation process.

The potential for social humiliation through the consequences of sexting are dire. Teenagers especially, who generally place so much stock in their social standing, often think it will not happen to them. Not only can sexting be illegal in certain circumstances, its aftermath can result in depression, anxiety, and social exclusion.


Following the sexting scandal and yet another debilitating injury Greg sought out a psychologist to help him address his issues. The psychologist was soon after hired by his team, the Portland Trail Blazers, and he grew suspicious that their counseling sessions was being shared with team officials.

This is unfortunate situation for Greg Oden. Seeking the help of a mental health professional can be a huge stride forward in someone’s life. Choosing the right mental health professional, be it a psychologist, family therapist, or mental health counselor, is a big decision. Licensed mental health professionals are bound by ethics and law to keep sessions confidential unless the patient is at risk of hurting themselves or others. It is important to feel comfortable with your therapist and establish a professional relationship based on trust.

Persistence, Determination, and Second Chances

After 6 tumultuous years filled with challenges, setbacks, and what-ifs, Greg Oden is getting a chance few athlete get; a chance to resurrect his career with a championship team. Although he has worked hard to rehabilitate his knees and psyche Oden admits he is not yet 100%. Despite everything that he has gone through, several teams were pushing to give him a second chance and he is grateful.

After reading his sincere interview with and all the challenges he has overcome I hope he achieves success on the court with the Miami Heat. 

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By Miguel Brown