USA Today: Greg Oden gets job counseling young athletes on financial pitfalls of success

December 26, 2019

By Adam Jardy | The Columbus Dispatch

For years, Greg Oden’s life lessons have served as teaching points for a younger generation of basketball players.

Now, he’s officially in the business of telling them himself. After graduating from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in sports industry last spring, the former No. 1 NBA draft pick who helped lead the Buckeyes to the 2007 NCAA championship game has a new job.

Oden is officially an athlete adviser for Edyoucore Sports & Entertainment, a Baltimore-based company that provides financial education and consulting services to individuals, including amateur and professional athletes. For Oden, it consists of one primary responsibility: be yourself.

“I’m not saying I did terrible things with my money or lost it all, but if I was a little more knowledgeable about money then I probably would’ve made some better decisions and went a little bit differently in my life away from the court,” Oden told The Dispatch.

“Some of (the lessons learned) were definitely hard, especially from my standpoint, which is what I think I bring to the team: You’re making this money and you have these decisions and you’re not as knowledgeable as you should be, but I never thought I wouldn’t be playing the game or at this time that I wouldn’t be playing.

“It happened so quick you need to be prepared for when the big checks actually do stop coming.”

After his season with the Buckeyes, Oden was taken first overall by Portland in the 2007 NBA draft, but multiple knee surgeries ultimately ended his career after 105 games spread across six seasons.

Following his playing career, he was encouraged by former coach Thad Matta to return to Ohio State, be around the program and pursue his degree.

That led to a job as a student manager and, ultimately, his degree earlier this year.

But Oden also has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons since his career ended. In 2015, Oden struck a plea deal with prosecutors to settle battery charges involving a former girlfriend after he allegedly punched the woman in the face.

The hope upon graduation from Ohio State was to secure a coaching job, but when no opportunities presented themselves, Oden was recommended to Edyoucore by representatives of both the NBA and the league’s players association after he served as a counselor at the NBA’s rookie transition program.

“The coaching route right now wasn’t picking up steam,” Oden said. “This opportunity came about, and I knew being around basketball and players, just sports in general, and being able to help in some way with talking about things I’ve actually lived and went through was a no-brainer to me.”

At Edyoucore, Oden’s responsibilities include helping tailor presentations to different teams by using his personal experiences to help the company explain the financial realities that come with being young and highly paid. In his case, Oden said, that meant earning $4.2 million at 19 years old.

In the first few weeks at his new job, Oden said he’s spoken to a couple of NBA teams and has plans to get to college and even high school teams. In a news release, Edyoucore founder Drew Hawkins said Oden’s story “will resonate with our audience” and added that his experience will make their presentation more authentic.

Oden said he hasn’t closed the door on coaching; he still hopes to work his way into the profession. For now, though, this is a welcome spot to be in.

“I am a basketball player through and through and I got my degree, but I don’t want to be looked at as just a basketball player,” he said. “I feel like my life means something right now where I can help these kids or anybody to be better in their life, be happier, be more positive. That’s really what I hope to bring to this life and to this world.

“When the right (coaching) opportunity comes, I would love to take advantage of that. But right now I’ve got to keep on moving, I’ve got to keep on providing for my family, and this is something that’s providing my spirit and my happiness. This is where I’m at now.”