With the majority of high profile sports trying to put a t-bone on their collective black eyes it is refreshing to see an up and coming star like Greg Oden. Greg Oden doesn't seem concerned with the beloved street credibility that is haunting the league.
Oden enters a world where street cred seems to be placed higher than a player's respect for himself. Now this certainly isn't always a player's faulf given who the media and sponsors tend to focus on. ( Companies are less likely to look to Nash and Nowitzki for shoe deals while lesser playoff talents like T-Mac get multi-year ones straight out of Mt. Zion. Who was the last Caucasian player to have his own shoe by the way? That should be a Did You Know on Sportscenter. Kidding.) But it seemingly pays to play the role of a thug even if behind closed doors you are more like Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air than 50 Cent.
That certainly is not to say that all players who claim a street background are faking it. And the truth is sometimes that part of your life stays with you and will dictate how you live your life. But a human being, even high profile celebrities like NBA players, should be encouraged to embrace their individuality. It is what made players like Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas interesting. They didn't fit the cookie cutter mold of what America likes to believe an African American is like, because when it comes down to it American shouldn't be trying to put any individual of any hope into a box.Oden seems to be happy with who he is and does not feel the need to desperately grasp for credibility in the street sense. His play gives him enough credibility as it is. And be honest. How many players in the NBA would admit they know every song from Will Smith's collection? But that is the beauty of Greg Oden. He is perfectly comfortable with being himself and soon enough the NBA public will grow to love him for it.
With any hope the NBA will lift up players like Oden, Kevin Durant, and Dwight Howard to carry the torch into the next decade of the NBA. Who knows. Maybe Oden can take a page from Carmelo Anthony and inspire popularity in street merchandise. But instead of wearing "Stop Snitching" shirts people will be forced to wear "Stop Smiling" shirts, because Oden's personality and his love for life are just too infectious. And for the NBA that is a very good thing.