NBA / Dec 23, 2009 / 1:45 pm

The Bill Walton Curse

Greg Oden

“Portland selects Sam Bowie, University of Kentucky”

That is where most NBA fans think the Trail Blazers big man woes began, when they selected Kentucky center Sam Bowie over a guard from the University of North Carolina. The big man curse however, stems from a draft 10 years early, in 1974.

Portland had the number 1 pick and selected the man who was seen as their franchise’s savior, Bill Walton. Unlike Sam Bowie (and later Greg Oden) there was no debate over who the Blazers should select, Walton was a proven winner and the clear number one pick. Walton led the Blazers to the 1977 NBA Championship and collected various individual accolades, including the 1978 MVP. For all the good the Big Red Head did for Portland he has cursed his former franchise.

As good as Bill Walton was in Portland he barely played. His rookie year he played 35 games, followed by 51 games in his sophomore season. In his championship season he played in 65 games and in his MVP season he played in 58 games. Everyone knew BIll Walton was a walking (or limping) injury. In 1978, the Blazers had the first pick in the draft and wanted to draft Larry Bird. According to When the Game Was Ours, when the Trail Blazers tried to bait Bird with the idea of playing with Walton, Bird simply replied “he is hurt all the time”. Walton’s injuries laid the foundation for the curse and Walton put the curse in full motion during the 1978-1979 season. Walton demanded a trade during the off season citing unethical and incompetent treatment of his and other players’ injuries by the Blazers’ front office. The Blazers didn’t budge and Walton sat out the entire 78-79 season before leaving the Blazers via free agency.

Fast forward back to the 1984 draft, the Trail Blazers selected oft injured center Sam Bowie. His rookie season was somewhat successful, he played in 76 games, averaged 10 ppg and 8.6 rpg earning a spot on the all rookie team. The Walton curse struck Bowie over the next 3 season when injuries limited him to 63 games. When Bowie was traded to the Nets he shook the curse and experienced his four healthiest seasons, never missing more than 20 games and averaging 12.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg.

That brings us to the current day Trail Blazers. The Blazers drafted Greg Oden, an oft injured center from Ohio State, first overall. Due to microfracture surgery on his knee, Oden never suited up for his first season in the Association. Oden was predicted to be the ROY during his second season (he qualified since he didn’t play in his first) but Oden fell to injury 14 minutes into his NBA debut. He returned for moderate success, but missed another three weeks when he injured his knee that February. During his 3rd season Oden began to blossom, scoring a career high 24 points on November 23rd and pulling down 20 rebounds on December 1st. Oden finally looked like the defensive anchor the Trail Blazers needed to take the next step. Four days after setting a career high in rebounds, Greg Oden was injured when Aaron Brooks fell into his knee, fracturing his patella. Portland looked like they could survive the injury because they had the best back up center in the league, Joel Pryzbilla. The Walton curse struck again, when Pryzbilla went down with a ruptured tendon and dislocated patella last night.

The Trail Blazers will look to make a trade or to the D League to fill their void in the middle and add some size to play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Juwan Howard. With the Walton curse looming over the Trail Blazers’ organization you have to wonder who will be the next big man to fall.

Follow Kellan on Twitter at @itskels22.

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  • http://www.WhyCandaceWhySheldon.thatbastard.com Chicagorilla

    wow, didn’t know Bowie bounced back like that. Also didn’t realize anyone else was trying to draft Bird. So now you’re saying the blazers passed on Bird and Jordan and Durant…. holy $h!t. If it wasn’t for the clippers, the blazers would have the worst luck in the NBA.

  • Kellan White

    The Blazers decided not to draft Larry Bird first overall because he was planning on staying for his senior year in college. Instead they draft Mychal Thompson with the 1st and planned on drafting Bird with the 7th. Boston scooped in and drafted Bird with the 6th. Crazy!

  • Jack Flash

    As a lifer Blazers fan, your story is both accurate and horrifying at the same time…as the injuries pile up, it’s becoming harder and harder to chalk em up to ‘freak accidents’.

    The only thing I would argue is that when Oden was drafted his previous serious injury history consisted of a broken wrist at Ohio State – i.e. he could hardly be described as ‘oft injured’ at that point in time.

  • Ducky The Truth

    @ Chicagorilla
    WTF? I also didnt kno that…

    This changes everything i thought about the Blazers. They have them Al Davis type Draft decisions. I STILL support/like the “new” Blazers, no doubt.

  • quest???

    Peter John Ramos anyone?….lmfaoo hahaha couldnt keep a straight face with my comment.

  • Colton

    wow! passed on him, im wondering if i could see bird in a blazers jersey?

    im not big on curses, but that is pretty unfortunate that they skipped out on 2 hall of famers, and one future hall of famer. im a huge blazers fan and all these injuries have got me a l;ittle depressed. i think andre miller needs to go for a quality big man, any options?

  • Colton

    really, i think with all these injuries, a look at some possible trades, d league call ups something about the options of the blazers would be an interesting article. i need something. please dime, just entertain my imagination.

  • Celts Fan

    Smartest move here is to ship out Andre Miller (who never really fit here anyway, and cover like $10M of his deal – Paul Allen’s got the $$$ and has said many times he’s willing to spend it for a winner) for a serviceable big man. It clears up PT for Bayless and gets you a bridge-the-gap big man for the year…

  • Gunner J. Matthews

    Maybe it isnt the Blazers themselves or management or the Bill Walton curse. Maybe it’s the training staff they have. Strange how big men on this team always get injured at some point

  • Michorizo

    I don’t remember the Jailblazers ever getting hurt for long durations of time … The power of the herb can heal quicker than people think!…Sticky Greens, No Seeds!

  • http://twitter.com/therealknowbody GABRIEL BROGDEN

    i guess big men and oregon don’t mix.

    i bet dr. asante, leader of the afrocentric movement, would argue, “well you see my brother, for every 96 dudes and gals, my brother – There’s only 2 homeboys and sistas, my brother. That just aint healthy, my brother. Get my drift, my brother??”

    but that throws the whole walton theory outta the window

  • http://dime eyes

    Very wise opinion. They’ve messed around with Oden’s weight since he was drafted. Not all players are able to play at heavier weights. I think a lot of teams need to have their staff overhauled. You can’t use all the same methods from past. Bad Knees & top heavy is a killer. Cause water and cartilage damage to knees. Thin & Strong are the way go. Howard,Kobe,Gil,Roy. If anyone of them were to get bigger they’d suffer knee problems or injuries. Greg’s knee just gave way on that play. Brooks didn’t touch him. It’s sad that more teams haven’t caught up to Denver or Phx or even L.A. standards. I think Kobe is in a class by himself with his workout regimen.

  • Bill

    Check out injury at Texas A&M vs. Huskies Game last night.


  • LakeShow84

    Good piece DIME..

    In Portlands defense you can say if they had Bird they wouldve been in no position to draft MJ lol.. Maybe Stockton?? Damn can you imagine playing against Bird AND Stockton?? Malone wouldnt be so high on the Pts list and Bird would have hit WAY MORE 3’s lol

    Ahhhhh in some crazy alternate universe..

  • http://www.petsocietyhelp.com Pet Society Help

    Wouldn’t actually call it the bill walton curse, the guy did bring a championship to portland. Call it the sam bowie curse instead.

  • http://www.trade-keys.com cheap nfl jerseys

    a team destroy the big man

  • Kellan White

    @Pet Society Help

    I said it is the Bill Walton curse because after leading them to a championship and winning league MVP he demanded a trade citing unethical and incompetent treatment of his and other players’ injuries by the Blazers’ front office. Those are strong words that seem to hang over the organization

  • specialguydurr!

    fyi Oden put all that extra weight on his first year, because all he wanted to do was lift weights on his upper body, since he couldn’t work on his legs. The training staff were not the ones pushing him to develop his upper body further, but they also didn’t want to discourage him from staying in shape. At the beginning of last year, mcmillan expressed concern about greg’s weight, and he has since dropped down closer to his playing weight at college. But it was NOT the training staff that wanted to manipulate his weight.
    Also Dime, it was not the collision with Aaron Brooks that caused the fracture in the patella. It was that his quadriceps muscles exerted too much force on the bone itself. The kneecap is held in place and attached to the muscles and bone by ligaments on top of the kneecap, and the patellar tendon on bottom. His quadriceps pulled against the kneecap on the top, while the patellar tendon was in a state of tension on the bottom, and the thing that gave way was the bone. In a way, this injury happened not because his legs were weak, but actually quite the opposite. His muscles and tendons broke his bone. The good news is there was no soft tissue damage, and bones are the one part of the human body that grow back stronger than they were before.
    Also, the Blazers have a completely different training staff now then when the franchise started in the 70’s. While it’s convenient to draw a conclusion that there must be a curse or supernatural power at work here, it’s just not the case. Curses aren’t real, and although this is kind of fun to ponder, it’s certainly not anything that carries any weight.
    The injury at the start of last year had more to do with Greg not being in game shape, and Andrew Bynum pulling him down awkwardly and off balance, then with Oden being injury prone. The microfracture injury is something that seems to be more prevalent in recent years, but part of the reason that more players have had this procedure recently, is it is a recently developed procedure. It didn’t really exist until the 1990’s, and before then, it’s quite possible that many players simply played through the pain of having not enough cartilage, or cartilage tears, only to suffer long term effects from this activity for the rest of their lives. I heard an interview from Larry Bird who only after retiring found out that he had Plantair Fasciitus in his feet, which can cause excruciating pain while running, walking, or even standing for any period of time. He would complain to the Celtic’s trainers about it, and they would tell him to just “Tough it out”. The same could be said for many injuries that we are seeing player’s go down with more and more in professional sports. Detection, and treatment of injuries has continued to advance so now it is just more common to act to repair known injuries in a player in order to potentially prolong that player’s career.
    It has been a terrible three years for Mr. Oden, who this year was really starting to show why he deserved to be a number one pick, he’s a great guy, and he wants to play at the highest level. He doesn’t deserve this.
    As to all the people who want to clown the Blazers for not picking Jordan, or Durant, well go ahead. But just because you can now look back and use history to back up this argument does not mean that anybody could have looked into the future when those decision’s were made. The year Jordan was drafted was the year after Clyde Drexler became a Blazer. They played the same position, and when they were that young there was certainly not enough to show that Jordan would have been enough of a better player to cause the Blazers to draft him, and subsequently replace Drexler. The Blazers at the time needed a center, so they drafted Bowie, simple as that. The same goes for Durant. The Blazers already had some nice sf’s, and one thing about Durant is although he is a scoring beast, he needs a lot of touches to score as much as he does. He needs to be the focus of his team’s offense, and we already had a guy who makes a very good focus of this teams offense. Brandon Roy. Drafting Durant would have meant the Blazers were shifting the focus away from their Rookie of the Year, All-star, and the player many people in portland regard as the guy who changed the face of this team from it’s jail-blazer days. Sorry to take up a whole page on this stuff, just had to get it off my chest.

  • ab_40

    there is no curse… be real. their medical staff sucks. and because of that their weight training isn’t balanced. most of the players bodies aren’t balanced and when that isn’t the case your body startst to compensate with other muscles. when this happens injuries occur very easy and fast. ask half the blazers team. the medical staffs in houston, portland ans washington should all be fired

  • Jade

    Finally…someone gave a coherent detailed argument by someone !!! Anyway, I love this site and try to keep up as much as I can.

    Would love it if someone can explain the sense of keeping Bayless, Blake AND shelling money for A. Miller, whom I love and is a solid SOLID pointman.

    Also, I know Danny Manning returned twice after his ACL tears….does anyone know any other players that came back after ACL issues….and how ???

  • steve

    It is known as the Curse of the Sasquatch, and has been documented for decades.


  • Jerry

    And, lo, these few weeks later, the newest article over this entry is about Blake Griffin (not even a Blazer) bowing out for the season with a knee injury, without so much as a single Clippers regular-season game under his belt.