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LaMarcus Aldridge on what it was like to retire, “The first day didn’t feel real”

Indiana Pacers v Brooklyn Nets

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 29: LaMarcus Aldridge #21 of the Brooklyn Nets in action against the Indiana Pacers at Barclays Center on October 29, 2021 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Brooklyn Nets defeated the Indiana Pacers 105-98. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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Every NBA player dreams of retiring on their own terms. Few get to.

It looked like LaMarcus Aldridge was in the majority. After a 15-year career that would earn Hall of Fame consideration — five-time All-NBA, seven-time All-Star — a heart condition forced him to suddenly walk away from the game last season. It was stunning.

And it was hard for Aldridge to adjust to, he told Sopan Deb of the New York Times, in an honest assessment of what a lot of athletes go through when they hang it up.

“The first day didn’t feel real. The first day felt like I had an off day. And then your second day, you feel like it’s a game day, so you’re just at home. And after like a week or two, you’re like: “Man, I’m not at the gym. I’m not with the fellas. I’m not traveling, not playing.” Like two weeks in, I was like: ‘Man, this is what it is. I have to find my new interest, shift my focus to something else.’ That’s when it hit me, like, ‘Man, what’s next?’....
“Your first week or two is tough, because you go from busy, busy, busy to just — your phone’s quiet. Not even just from teammates. Just like, “Be at practice” or “Be at shootaround.” It goes from that to just this tranquil quietness that you could enjoy, but you’re also uncomfortable with, because you never had it.”

Aldridge didn’t find what was next because he found a way to return. Aldridge had known for years he had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a congenital condition where symptoms can develop later in life and lead to a rapid heartbeat. But it was treatable, Aldridge saw specialists and got that treatment, and this offseason he was cleared to return to the NBA, and he re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

This season he is coming off the bench averaging almost 20 minutes a night, scoring 11.6 points a game, and the nets have been 6.7 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. He’s part of the reason the Nets are off to a 7-3 start even without Kyrie Irving.

Hopefully next time Aldridge retires, he gets to do it on his terms.