Spurs

Bidding Adieu to Silently Spectacular LaMarcus Aldridge

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As if the 2020-21 NBA season couldn’t get any more peculiar, an abrupt retirement news sent shockwaves among NBA pundits and fans alike. 15-year star LaMarcus Aldridge recently announced that he will hang up his sneakers for good after a health scare.

The unfortunate news came as a surprise to many, considering LMA has been playing consistent minutes starting for the Brooklyn Nets. However, an irregular heartbeat, traceable from his Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, prompted him to call it quits after a remarkable career since getting drafted 2nd overall in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Aldridge’s numbers speak for itself

Aldridge’s decorated career comes with an array of accolades that few players have matched. He is one of only 25 players in history to hit more than 19,000 points and 8,000 rebounds. A seven-time All-Star and a five-time All-NBA selection, his silent excellence and consistency are often overlooked among his flashier peers, but the stretchy star has always commanded respect on and off the court.

With career averages of 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds, Aldridge’s then-unique skillset made him a tough cover for most teams. In notable stops with the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs, he was mostly the centerpiece on offense. His midrange turnaround will forever be emblazoned in his name. He was the precursor to the new era of jump-shooting big men. Just ask former Defensive Player of the Year recipient Tyson Chandler.

The beauty of Aldridge’s game is the consistency of his stellar play. From 2007 to 2020, his lowest scoring average was 17.3 in 2016-17. Whether it was with the Trail Blazers or the Spurs, LA stuck to his own ways, knew his role and masterfully executed it to the T.

Though ring-less, LA shone in the postseason

While not having a championship to his name, the numbers are more than enough to solidify LA as one of the league’s best in the modern era. His silent excellence, a mix of his unassuming personality and playing on small markets, does not truncate his illustrious career, one that braved through the evolution of the game in recent years. He will go down with a good chance of entering the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Pundits will unsurprisingly clamor about his ring-less tenure, but there is no denying his prominent roles in championship-caliber teams. He was the head of the snake in those 2013-2015 Portland squads that kickstarted an era of competitive Rip City basketball, which still stands in the present. He helped extend an illustrious Spurs dynasty after the inevitable retirement of Tim Duncan and the unprecedented exit of franchise-cog Kawhi Leonard.

Postseason brilliance is a rightful measurement for star players. And even though fans in both Portland and San Antonio would say otherwise, the numbers present a different picture of elevated play. In 72 playoff games, he averaged 20.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, both figures higher than his regular-season norms. In a way, it may be said that he was a victim of circumstance, especially in the uber-competitive West.

In 2014, they were smacked by the historic 2014 Spurs. In 2015, they were an unhealthy squad trumped by Memphis. In 2016, after an excellent first year with San Antonio which ended up 67-15, they flunked against Oklahoma City in a highly-controversial series. 2017 saw San Antonio succumb to eventual champs Golden State after the “Zaza” moment. The anomalous 2018 Spurs did not stand a chance without Leonard. 2019 with DeMar DeRozan was a competitive first-round ouster by Nikola Jokic and the upstart Nuggets.

Aldridge has his own share of blame, and circumstantial excuses cannot mount him atop his limitations, but it is clear that he never really wavered when teams needed him the most. He shied from the limelight, but not in the game lights.

LA’s greatness not downplayed by silence

I will always remember LA for being a silent killer. I will never forget watching him carve his way towards 56 points by being hyper-efficient in the post, stroking his pristine mid-range game, and swishing on freebies. No three-pointers, no flashy dunks, but he was always one to surprise opponents by sticking to who he is.

He was never a premiere name, but he was a class act; no dramas, no antics, just playing the game the right way he knows it.

I will never forget his excellent season in 2017-18 with the Spurs. In a tumultuous season that saw a roundabout of drama with Kawhi, and after a frustrating season which urged him to try to force his way out of Alamo City, he carried a San Antonio squad to the playoffs Aldridge arguably played the best season of his career at age 32 to the tune of 23.1 points per contest on 51% shooting from the field.

The Spurs fan in me laments that another star is largely underappreciated by most, as it is only in his retirement that most people are starting to realize what made him a bonafide star with a good chunk of legacy to leave behind.

San Antonio loves him and so does Portland. Ultimately, LA’s exit from basketball is still a glorious one. While prompted by an unfortunate precedent, his greatness will always be etched in basketball history and more importantly, in the hearts of many.

Hail LaMarcus Aldridge, King of the Left Block, Lord of the Turnaround J!

About Kyle Pring

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