Blazers' Oden addresses private photos
TUALATIN, Ore. — They were the photographs that would not go away.
And so Trail Blazers center Greg Oden was forced to publicly address private nude photos of himself that made waves on the internet.
“I would like to apologize to everybody: Portland, fans, the organization,” said Oden, during a hastily arranged press conference Tuesday evening at the team’s practice facility. “It was very embarrassing. It was something that happened over a year and a half ago. … I’m very sorry, and I’m definitely embarrassed for my family and everybody around me.”
Walking with a brown wooden cane and wearing a red jumpsuit, a soft-spoken Oden answered questions about the photos for more than eight minutes.
He said he has severed his relationship with a “ladyfriend” who he originally sent the photos to, and added that he hopes that all traces of the revealing images will be removed from the Web.
“(They) were just for her, and definitely were meant to keep private,” Oden, 22, said.
Asked for his reaction when he first saw the photos, Oden said: “My heart dropped.”
BDA Sports Management, a publicity firm that represents Oden, issued a formal letter to several Web sites declaring that anyone displaying or passing along the images would face legal repercussions. However, Oden said he has no interest in pursuing judicial action.
“I really just want to move on from it,” Oden said.
He added: “To go that far, I really don’t think there’s (any) need to.”
But Oden did acknowledge that the situation could damage his reputation, while also hurting his relationship with current and future sponsorships.
As of Tuesday evening, though, Oden said he had not been dropped by any sponsors.
News about the photographs began spreading early Tuesday morning. By the early afternoon, the photos had made the rounds on the Web, been discussed on a variety of regional and national talk shows and television news outlets, and also been the subject of widespread humor and scorn on the internet.
By Tuesday evening, it was clear: The topic was gaining steam, not losing it. And the Blazers felt the best way to address the issue was by having Oden answer questions as soon as possible.
“It is the best for us just to come out and get it all out in the open and hear it from me before people start to talk and make up other stuff,” Oden said.
The 7-foot, 285-pound center stated that he received a phone call about 6 a.m. Tuesday informing him of the situation.
Normally, Oden said he hears about scandalous photos of him on the Web, only to quickly learn that they are fakes.
But these were real.
“When I actually got up and saw (them), it was very, very embarrassing and hurtful,” Oden said.
Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard briefly acknowledged Oden’s photos following a morning shootaround, referring to the situation as “disappointing.”
Pritchard said the organization has gone to great lengths to warn its players about the downsides of new social media and the harm it can cause high-profile athletes such as Oden.
“You have to be careful with what you do and who you trust,” Oden said.
Tuesday’s drama marked another struggle for Oden, whose tantalizing blend of overpowering muscle and raw basketball talent has been hampered by two major knee surgeries in three seasons.
It was also yet another setback for a Blazers organization whose once-promising season has been derailed by an alarming series of injuries and health concerns.
Oden, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft, has missed the Blazers’ last 25 games following a season-ending knee injury. He fractured his left patella Dec. 5 during a home game against the Houston Rockets.
The former Ohio State standout was playing the best basketball of his career prior to the setback, though.
He won the team’s starting center spot during training camp, beating out incumbent starter Joel Przybilla. And Oden averaged 11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 60.5 percent from the field as he started 21 games.
Oden had kept a low profile since the injury, speaking in detail with the media only once — Dec. 17 — and referring to his fractured patella as a “freak accident.”
But the publicity of his private photos forced him to suddenly come forward and address the situation.
Oden said the incident will not be a distraction during his rehabilitation, though.
Ironically, the Blazers’ big man had just received good news about his comeback. A recent visit to the doctor and a follow-up X-Ray showed that Oden’s knee is healing well, and he has been cleared to begin stretching exercises.
Oden even found a little humor in the fiasco: A friend sent him a graph showing a “volcanic” spike in Google searches of his name based around the time the photos were made public.
But during his eight-minute interview, Oden only smiled once.
“I know it was a thing of the past, and I know I’ve grown from this,” he said. “And I’m definitely still a really good guy, and I’m going to keep putting that out there.
“And even if it involves other people, I just hope they learn you’ve got to be careful with what you do and who you trust.”
Interview: Check the Blazer Banter blog at columbian.com/blazerbanter for a full transcript of Oden’s press conference.