In a wide-ranging interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, LaMarcus Aldridge looked back on his stints with the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Nets, and went into detail on why he abruptly decided to retire as a player this spring following a heart-related health scare.
Aldridge spoke about wishing he had made more of an effort to build a relationship with Damian Lillard when both players were in Portland, and said that joining the Spurs was like being part of a “family.” However, his most eye-opening comments were about the last NBA game he played, on April 10 vs. the Lakers.
Aldridge, who has dealt with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome throughout his career, told Charania that he felt his heart race in an irregular manner on the morning of April 10 and believed it would return to normal once he got out on the court.
“I had a weird game against the Lakers, my heart was just beating weird and out of rhythm. I had irregular rhythm the whole game, and I hadn’t experienced that before,” Aldridge said. “Normally when I get on the court, my case study is that I would go into regular rhythm as I got my heart rate up. It had never been out of rhythm in a game and then it was out of rhythm for the Lakers game and I was just off and couldn’t get no energy. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
“… It was still off after the game, but at like two, three in the morning, it got really, really crazy. My heart was beating really crazy, and that’s when it got really bad for me. From two to five in the morning, I was just trying to evoke some breathing and then around 5:30 or so, I texted the team doctor and I went to the hospital. It was probably the scariest night ever.”
Here are a few more highlights from Aldridge’s conversation with Charania, which is worth checking out in full if you’re an Athletic subscriber:
On making the decision to call it a career following that April 10 health scare:
“It was very tough. I definitely wasn’t ready to hang it up and I still felt like I had more to give to a team and I feel I had a lot to give to the Nets. … Basically, that night being so freaked out — and knowing I have kids, my mom, a lot of people depending on me and a lot of people that I want to see going forward — I just felt like I was blessed by God to play 15 years with this condition, and I didn’t want to push it anymore.”
On informing his teammates of his decision to retire:
“It was tough, man. I talked to Kevin (Durant) right away, I wanted to give him the respect because when I hit the waiver market when I got my buyout, he was the first guy to hit me. So I felt like I wanted to hit him first, because he was owed that. And I think he was more in shock in the beginning because he didn’t really believe or understand what I was saying. And then we talked again. I felt like those guys were really excited to have me. So I didn’t get emotional on the phone, but afterwards I was a little emotional.”
On why he joined the Nets after being bought out by the Spurs:
“I didn’t choose Brooklyn because I was trying to get there and make a super team. I chose them because if you look at what they need, what they needed and what they were trying to do, I fit exactly what they wanted. The only thing they wanted to get better was having a big that could score, and that’s what I do. And they wanted a shooter at the end of the games, but also a big that could guard bigger players. That’s who I am.
“… I know everyone’s gonna say it’s a super team, but I think it’s funny how I was sitting at home in San Antonio because the Spurs were younger, which I totally get. And Blake (Griffin) wasn’t playing for Detroit, because they wanted to go younger. So it was like I was washed up, he was washed up. But then when we get on the same team, the (discussion was) was they were cheating. … It was just funny to me to watch this whole narrative play out.”
On adjusting to no longer playing basketball and not getting a chance to compete for his first title:
“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. 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.”