LaMarcus Aldridge Opens Up on Sudden Retirement, Life After Basketball
In what has been a whirlwind of a year, the sudden retirement of All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge left the entire NBA world in a state of disbelief.
Known around the league as one of the better human beings in the game, Aldridge was forced to step away from the court due to an ongoing heart condition. After a successful start with the league powerhouse Brooklyn Nets, Aldridge stepped away from the sport just 5 games into his tenure with the team.
Early this week, Aldridge spoke for the first time since his retirement in an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic.
“I’ve been depressed, and I’m trying to figure out how to navigate through not competing on the floor, learning not to be depressed,” Aldridge said. “I still love basketball. I still feel like I have a lot to give. But even now, I’m still trying to find myself. When you go from doing something you love for so long and you lose it overnight, it’s a shock.”
For Aldridge, the opportunity to win a ring seemed to be within reach and in a moment’s notice, it was snatched away from him.
“That was the hardest part,” Aldridge said. “It was a chance for me to make that next step, a chance for me to add to my legacy and see what it feels like. I felt if I stayed with the group, we definitely could get to the Finals and do something special. Those guys rooted for me just as much as I rooted for them. That’s what makes the game fun; when you have a bunch of guys with no egos and everyone’s cheering for each other to do well.”
During the interview, Aldridge also touched on his relationship with his former Portland Trail Blazers co-star Damian Lillard.
LaMarcus Aldridge opens up in his first wide-ranging interview since abrupt retirement: On the scary night that ended his career, battling depression, refinding himself, biggest NBA regret involving Damian Lillard, more.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 1, 2021
“They say hindsight is 20/20,” said Aldridge. “As you get older you get more wiser and you see things more clear. I think as you get older, you have less of an ego, you’re less sensitive. Maybe all those things are true. The only thing I look back on is I wish I would have worked at it better to have a relationship with Dame (Lillard). I feel like we both had our circles talking to us. Maybe that helped stifle our relationship, but we definitely have gotten a better relationship since then. But I think just trying to get a better relationship with him. It’s just tough because people see the career I had, but people don’t realize how I got there.”
“I was picked No. 2, but (team people) said I was an actual project. So they didn’t pick No. 2 and say, ‘Hey, he’s our guy, we’re going to play behind him.’ I was No. 2, and I didn’t even play much my first year. I missed camp. They jumped behind Brandon Roy. I was the No. 2 pick, which I thought, hey, I’m No. 2, they’re all in. But they weren’t really all in. I was on the back burner. And then we got Greg (Oden). So then when Greg was playing well, I was on the back burner again. And they tried to trade me. So I wasn’t the guy that they believed in right away. That’s why at times things were a little iffy there, because every time we were healthy with Andre Miller and Brandon Roy and Greg Oden, it was like … OK, I was more of the guy that they would put on the back burner or try to trade. And then all those guys got hurt, and I was thrown to the front out of a necessity. That’s when I finally got my opportunity to be who I became. It’s just funny to me how when you’re a No. 2 pick, most of those guys come in … Hey, you’re a part of this and have opportunities. With me, it was like … I was a project and I was like, well, who picks No. 2 as a project? I understand they have Zach Randolph.
“So my start wasn’t ideal. I was always the easy one to try to get rid of. Unfortunately, those guys got hurt, and I became the man. And it was like: Oh, man, he’s good. I feel like if they would have gave me the opportunity earlier, we could have been even better earlier. My role wasn’t as easy as everyone might think it was. I had to really go earn this thing of having your own team. I had to go fight for that for a bunch of years. When I got it, it was a proud moment for me.
“I just feel like I wish Dame and I would’ve talked more and tried to develop a better relationship. Part of it was he was young, trying to find his way, and I had worked so hard to get to this spot I was at. I wish I would have worked harder … the only regret I have is I wish I would have worked harder to have a relationship with Dame.”
In 15 seasons in the NBA, Aldridge averaged 19.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game while making seven All-Star appearances.