Outside entities would be shoe companies. LeBron James got a seven-year deal from Nike worth $90 million, more than seven times his Cleveland Cavaliers contract. But, says Vaccaro, "Nobody [will get] close to LeBron money for a long time. You take that deal out of the equation." In that case consider this one: Point guard Sebastian Telfair, out of Brooklyn's Lincoln High, was drafted 13th last June by the Portland Trail Blazers; in addition to his three-year, $5 million NBA contract, he received a six-year, $15 million package from Adidas.
Zoe, 41, will be an important voice in her son's decision. She has raised two sons on a modest income, working tirelessly at a succession of jobs. (Greg has kept in touch with his father, a plumbing and heating contractor, who helps support Greg and Anthony.) "We make bad choices in life," she says. "I got married too soon, had kids too soon. I always told Greg, 'I've worked so many hard jobs, and if I had a college degree, I wouldn't have had to work so hard.'
"The NBA talk, and all that money, it sounds great," says Zoe. "I expect that age limit to come into effect, but if it doesn't, Greg can just take that money and run. Even if his career doesn't work out, he still has the money. But he really wants to experience the things you experience in college. It's a big decision, and it's very scary."
A predawn fog hung over Lawrence North High when Greg arrived for a workout with teammates before school recently. He practiced post moves with his brother and dribbled two balls back and forth across the court. When he recognized a reporter in the gym, he jogged over to shake hands and addressed him as Mister. Buses began dropping off students outside and a bell rang. Oden darted for the locker room, hurrying to prepare for the school day, rushing to cram his entire youth into a tiny window.