Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NBA [Print without images]

Monday, January 12, 2009
Just two Buffalo guys picked No. 1

By Wayne Drehs
ESPN.com

Oden & Kane
Oden, left, saluted the "little diesel dude" while Kane praised Oden's "hockey mentality."

CHICAGO -- They are an odd couple in professional sports, one of them a 7-foot, 285-pound NBA center, the other a 5-foot-10, 175-pound NHL right winger. One of them is black, the other is white. One of them looks like he's eligible for Social Security, the other doesn't look old enough to drive.

And yet Greg Oden and Patrick Kane have more in common than one might think. They are both 20 years old. They were both born in Buffalo. And they were both drafted with the No. 1 overall pick in the summer of 2007, Kane by the Chicago Blackhawks and Oden by the Portland Trail Blazers.

But here's where it gets interesting: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, dating back to 1970, they are the only pair to be born in the same city and drafted No. 1 overall in any of the four major sports in the same year.

So as strange as it may have seemed Monday night to see Kane standing next to Oden, the hockey player barely coming up to the chest of the basketball player, there was good reason for it. Ever since Oden and Kane were drafted No. 1 overall, four days apart in June 2007, Patrick Kane Sr. had hoped to get the two together.

"He's had this fetish for about two years where he wanted me to get a picture with Greg," said the Blackhawks' leading scorer. "And I was always like, 'Whatever, Dad. Why would Greg Oden take a picture with me?' But over time the idea grew on me. It made sense. And tonight, it was pretty cool that it finally worked out."

It worked out thanks in part to Blackhawks PR guy Brandon Faber, who formerly worked for the Bulls. Faber used his NBA connections to reach out to the Trail Blazers and help set up the pregame meeting prior to Oden's first NBA game in Chicago. It was only a coincidence that the Blackhawks host the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday and Pat Kane Sr. happened to be in town as well.

"Typical Pat, he didn't even tell me about the Oden thing until an hour or so before we got here," Kane Sr. said of his son. "But it was pretty cool. It's a good thing for Buffalo. I mean, what are the odds that two kids from the same city both go No. 1? And when I look out there and see my son standing next to Greg Oden it's like, 'Whoa.'"

Oden, who said he had never before met a No. 1 overall pick in any sport besides basketball, was just as impressed. The 7-footer was born in Buffalo, but moved to Terre Haute, Ind., with his mother and younger brother when he was 9. Like Kane, he returns to Buffalo each summer to visit his family. But although he had been aware of the connection between him and Kane since 2007, the two had never met before Monday.

"I knew of him, but I didn't realize he was such a big deal," Oden said. "I didn't realize he made the All-Star team and was having so much success. He's a cool dude.

"It's pretty special for us to both be from Buffalo and be able to say that, at the time, we were the No. 1 pick. It speaks to how hard we both worked that we both earned that No. 1 spot."

The meeting lasted all of three minutes, just long enough for the two to shake hands, pose for a few pictures and briefly discuss their favorite Buffalo restaurants. Kane was impressed by Oden's laid-back demeanor, pointing out that the center was strolling around the United Center in a pair of sandals Monday night. Oden, meanwhile, was taken aback, believe it or not, by Kane's size.

"He was wearing his jersey so I thought he had shoulder pads on," Oden said. "But then he took his jersey off and I was like, 'Really? Really?' I mean, he's a little diesel dude."

While Oden's parents often had to show his birth certificate to prove his eligibility, Kane spent much of his childhood being criticized for being too small. His father still jokes that his son's biggest fans are 11- and 12-year-old kids, "because they all think they're Patrick's age." The difference between the two wasn't lost on the NHL All-Star.

"I feel like he's twice the size of me," Kane said. "Thank God he came out in sandals or that might have added a few more inches. And he looks like he's 40. When you stop and think about it, it's pretty crazy all of everything that are different between us."

Everything except being two of the world's top young athletes and belonging to one of the most elite fraternities in sports, a group that not even Michael Jordan, Tom Brady or Albert Pujols belong to.

Oden and Kane both know what it's like to be seen as saviors. While Kane excelled in his first season, winning the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL's rookie of the year, Oden missed his rookie season due to a knee injury.

This season, Kane will represent the Western Conference in the NHL All-Star Game while Oden is developing into the reliable post presence the Trail Blazers envisioned when they drafted him. On Monday night against the Bulls, Oden put on a show for Kane and the other 19,000 fans in attendance, scoring 17 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.

"You have to like the way he plays," Kane said. "I remember when he was at Ohio State and he had a broken hand and was still throwing all these dunks down. He has that hockey player mentality. And you don't typically see that in a basketball player."

Wayne Drehs is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at wayne.drehs@espn3.com.