BOCA RATON, FL–As the NBA lockout threatens to preclude a 2011-12 season, the crop of players finding employment elsewhere has officially grown by one. Greg Oden, formerly a center for the Portland Trail Blazers, signed with the Seniors Basketball League yesterday morning.
Based in Florida, the SBL showcases basketball’s most talented wheelchair-bound retirees, whose former professions range from insurance adjuster to professional gambler. Admitting Oden into the league is the most controversial event to impact the league since blood thinners were ruled a performance-enhancing drug in 2006 by SBL Commissioner Norman Goldfarb. At 55, Oden will be the youngest player to ever wear an SBL uniform.
Since the league is already into its second week of play, Commissioner Goldfarb called for a provisional draft contest in order to give every team an equal chance to acquire Oden, whose greatest asset since getting drafted by the Trail Blazers in 2008 has been his potential. Oden’s history of knee surgery did not dissuade SBL team owners, who are quite familiar with insurance risks among their players. Representatives from every team—Gainesville, Sarasota, Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Key West, Winter Park, and Vero Beach—met in Conference Room B at the Hilton in Miami to decide who got the rights to Oden in a best-of-10 Bingo challenge.
After Sarasota won the first 2 rounds, there was the expected bickering among the participants about the legitimacy of the card distribution. But when Boca Raton accumulated 3 bingos by the end of the contest (more than any other team), the ire for the Sarasota Phosphates became envy of the Boca Raton Rat Pack. To celebrate and spread goodwill, Rat Pack owner Hiram Klein treated all the other owners and league officials to the blue plate special in the Hilton dining hall, followed by a double decker bus tour of South Beach.
In an interview on Boca Raton’s community morning talk show, Straight from the Boca, Greg Oden expressed his excitement about joining the Rat Pack, saying, “I’m glad the SBL is taking this chance on me. I don’t blame all the other leagues here and overseas for not being nervous about my insurance coverage. I’m just glad for the opportunity to show the fans what I can do. I’m thankful that my knees won’t be a problem at all in this league.”
When asked about the benefits of playing 10-minute games, Oden responded with a laugh, “It’s definitely something I was immediately interested in.”
Another aspect of the SBL that Oden said he enjoys is the 12 noon start time for all games, which accommodates the schedules of its players and its most loyal fans. “The SBL is prime time entertainment for people in Florida, which is great,” Oden said. “But at my age, it’s nice to have a few more hours after games to decompress with a crossword puzzle over some Lawrence Welk before bed. This is a good situation for me.”
The terms of Oden’s deal with the Rat Pack have not been fully disclosed, but a rumor has surfaced that it includes an all-expenses-paid, pre-need funeral package and a Ben-Gay endorsement deal. Oden’s response to the question of whether he would stay with the SBL once the NBA labor dispute is resolved was, “WHAT?”
Oden is expected to suit up for Thursday’s game against the Winter Park Frost. Tickets are still available because online sales are tough for SBL fans are so darn confusing…and the kids could help if they ever called…God forbid some disaster happens and Florida sinks into the ocean, but it’s fine because little David’s got his conference calls and his little Puerto Rican girlfriend to tend to…nevermind that the person who brought him into this world might want to know if I’m still alive every 6 months, but apparently THAT’s too much to ask.