The NBA world was shocked on Thursday when just weeks after signing with the Brooklyn Nets, LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement.
Citing health issues, the seven-time all-star decided to step away from the game. "My last game, I played while dealing with an irregular heartbeat," LaMarcus Aldridge wrote in his retirement announcement on social media. "Later on that night, my rhythm got even worse, which worried me even more… Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve experienced."
Aldridge steps away after 15 years in the NBA in which he averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds. He spent the last five seasons with the San Antonio Spurs, but he will be most fondly remembered for his nine seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now that LA has called it a career, the logical question is, should the Trail Blazers retire Aldridge's No.12?
NBCSNW asked the question on social media earlier today. As expected, the results were polarizing.
Basically a 50/50 split. While there is a large part of the fan base that loves Aldridge for what he did in PDX, there is still a large part upset with the feeling that he bailed on the organization when he left.
Regardless of how you feel about LA since his time with the Trail Blazers ended, there is no doubt he is one of the greatest to ever play in Portland but is he jersey retirement great? Rasheed Wallace once famously said, "Ball don't lie," and in this case, the numbers don't lie.
LaMarcus Aldridge ranks among Trail Blazers career leaders:
- No.1 in total rebound (5,434)
- No.1 in defensive rebounds (3,389)
- No.2 in 2-point field goals made (5.060)
- No.3 in points scored (12,562)
- No.3 in offensive rebounds (1,736)
- No.3 in field goal made (5,121)
- No.4 in blocks (658)
- No.4 in free throws made (2,259)
- No.4 in minutes played (22,972)
- No.5 in games played (648)
- The fifth-best Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) in team history (20.5)
- The sixth-best Player Efficiency Rating (PER) in team history (20.3)
- His 46 points vs Houston in 2014 are the second-most ever scored by a Blazers player in a playoff game
- ... and he is one of only six Blazers to ever record 25 or more rebounds in a single game.
The statistics show that Aldridge is one of the best Blazers to ever take the court.
That alone should get his number in the rafters next to the likes of Terry Porter, Clyde Drexler, and Bill Walton.
If those stats don't convince you, just look at the on-court success he had. The Blazers had missed the playoffs for three straight years prior to drafting LaMarcus Aldridge and were still living with the stigma, perhaps unfairly, or the "Jail Blazers" era. Just two seasons after being drafted Aldridge and fellow star Brandon Roy had the Blazers back in the playoffs, would put together back-to-back 50 win seasons, the Jail Blazers era was firmly in review.
Aldridge and Roy ushered in a new era of Blazers basketball but that ended quickly. Roy had medically retired in 2011 and the Blazers would have to chart a new course. Portland was fortunate to replace Roy's star power in 2012 with Rookie of the Year, Damian Lillard. The Blazers were now in a revamped era of Blazers basketball, and it was still being built on the back of LaMarcus Aldridge. In 2013-14, the Blazers would put together a 54 win season - tied for the fifth-best season in team history. They would go on to beat the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, a series that was started with Aldridge's then Blazers record 46-point performance in Game 1, and would advance to the second round for the first time in 14 years.
Aldridge put his name all over the record books in his nine seasons in Portland, and although his tenure ended on a sour note, there is no doubt that the team was in a better place when he left than it was prior to his arrival. Aldridge joined a team that was having its worst stretch of seasons since the early 70s when they joined the league and he got them back to winning ways. He got the Blazers back to the playoffs in his final two seasons, and although he left in the summer of 2015 the groundwork he helped lay and left for Lillard to take over has helped the Blazers make the playoffs seven seasons in a row. The postseason streak is currently the second-longest in the NBA. The longest active streak is eight, held by the Houston Rockets but they are currently the second-worst team in the Western Conference. The Blazers could very well have the longest active playoff streak in the league come May.
Although Aldridge left a long time ago, his imprint can still be felt. The fact we are even having the debate about him having his jersey retired proves how impactful he was in the first place.
If none of this convinces you that No.12 belongs in the Moda Center rafters, I present the only argument you need: The thoughts of Damian Lillard.
For years we have debated if Brandon Roy's No.7 should hang in the rafters, too. And while that argument is neither here nor there, it's worth noting that even though No.7 isn't retired, no Trail Blazer has worn the number since Roy retired. Not even future Hall of Famer Carmelo Anthony could get the No.7. In that same vein, no player has worn No.12 since LA left town. There is already a respect factor with the number. Why not make it official?
The way he left still tastes bitter, and that's ok. But even if you burned your Aldridge jersey the day he left you can't honestly look back at his nine years of service and say he wasn't an all-time great.
The numbers prove it. The on-court success proves it. The thoughts of his peers and former teammates prove it.
The L-Train has reached its final stop and it's time to let the No.12 rest high about the court, next to the great where it belongs.