<
>

Oden paired with Hall of Famer Russell in first deal

Greg Oden has been drafted by a trading card company, and will
be on the same team as Bill Russell.

A possible No. 1 draft pick, Oden signed a three-year contract
worth at least $3 million Tuesday to become a spokesman for Topps
Co. His first deal? A card featuring him and Russell, the Boston Celtics Hall of Famer, on the 50th anniversary of the company's
first basketball set.

Like Russell, Oden is known for his ability to dominate a game
on the defensive end with his rebounding and shot blocking.

"Certainly there's been a lot of comparisons to Bill Russell,
which we don't run away from," said Bill Sanders, a vice president
for BDA Sports Management, which represents Oden.

"I think that Greg has got a lot of that in him, but he's also
got other skills in him that people don't necessarily associate
with Bill Russell. Certainly he's honored to be mentioned in that
kind of company. I think one of his goals is to accomplish a little
bit of what Bill Russell did."

Topps will also help create Oden's official Web site.

Still to be determined is what team Oden will be on when his
card is issued in August.

By winning last week's lottery, the Portland Trail Blazers
earned the right to choose between Oden and Kevin Durant.

Wherever he lands, Oden hopes longtime teammate Mike Conley Jr.
will be with him.

Oden and Conley won titles at Lawrence North High School in
Indianapolis before leading Ohio State to the national championship
game. They were back home over the weekend for the Indianapolis 500
before heading to Orlando, Fla., for the predraft camp.

"I mean two kids that won in summer basketball, won in junior
high school, won in high school, won and were successful in college
and then go pro together, that's probably never happened before in
the history of the game," said Conley's father, Mike Conley Sr.,
who works for BDA Sports Management. "And if they were successful
at the NBA level, that would be a marketer's dream."

It would be difficult, however, to get the on the same team
because Conley Jr. is perhaps the top point guard in the draft and
figures to be off the board quickly. He could go as high as No. 3
to Atlanta, which is desperate for a point guard after passing over
Deron Williams and Chris Paul with the second pick two years ago.

Though Oden would be the top pick of many teams because
franchise centers are rare, the Blazers, with Zach Randolph and
LaMarcus Aldridge on the roster, could be one of the few in
position to consider Durant.

Durant, the freshman who starred at Texas, beat Oden in the card
contract race when he signed with Upper Deck earlier this month.