“Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced. With that being said, I’ve made the difficult decision to retire from the NBA. For 15 years, I’ve put basketball first, and now, it is time to put my health and family first.”
Shy and quiet off the court, Aldridge, 35, established himself as a Hall of Fame candidate with his signature midrange jump shot, well-honed post moves and versatile defense. The five-time all-NBA selection and seven-time all-star retires as one of only 25 players in NBA history with more than 19,000 career points and over 8,000 career rebounds. When he played his final game Saturday, Aldridge ranked third among active players in field goals made (8,059), fifth in rebounds (8,478), sixth in points (19,951), and eighth in blocks (1,140), according to Basketball Reference.
A former standout at the University of Texas, Aldridge was selected by the Chicago Bulls with the second overall pick in the 2006 NBA draft. His rights were traded to the Portland Trail Blazers shortly after and he was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie first team the following year.
He played 63 games during his rookie campaign, but he was ruled out for the remainder of the season just before April, when he was diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, a condition that causes periods of rapid heart rate.
The team identified the condition after he experienced dizziness and an irregular heartbeat playing just seven minutes against the Los Angeles Clippers on March 31, 2007. Initially diagnosed with dehydration, he was taken to the hospital, monitored and later referred for additional tests.
He started 76 games the following season but underwent surgery in 2011 to correct complications associated with the condition. Six years later, as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, he missed two games because of a minor heart arrhythmia. He helped lead San Antonio to the conference finals later that year.
The pieces never quite fell into place for the understated Aldridge to maximize his NBA fortunes. Portland’s vision of building a contender around a “Big Three” of Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and Aldridge was sidetracked by injuries to the other stars. Aldridge emerged as a franchise player for the Blazers before electing to join the Spurs as one of the most coveted free agents in 2015. In San Antonio, he expected to compete for championships every year, only to see Tim Duncan retire and Kawhi Leonard ask out of town in the years that followed.
Through nine postseason runs with Portland and San Antonio, Aldridge averaged 20.8 points on 45.5 percent shooting from the field.
Seeking the first title of his career, Aldridge agreed to a buyout with the Spurs and signed with the Nets last month. He stepped in immediately at starting center, and his departure will leave one of the East’s top contenders with fewer options against elite opposing big men.
Aldridge last played against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, and missed the Nets’ last two games with what the team described as a “non-Covid related” illness. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.8 rebounds in five games with Brooklyn before his retirement announcement.
“The Nets organization fully supports LaMarcus’ decision, and while we value what he has brought to our team during his short time in Brooklyn, his health and well-being are far more important than the game of basketball,” Nets General Manager Sean Marks said in a statement.