In his first public interview since abruptly retiring back in April due to his ongoing battle with Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome, former Spur LaMarcus Aldridge recently sat down the Shams Charania of The Athletic for a one-on-one interview (subscription required).
After five-plus seasons with the team, Aldridge was bought out by the Spurs back in March and appeared in five games with the Brooklyn Nets before retiring. He explains that despite battling with WPW for the entirety of his 15-year NBA career, minor episodes of irregular heartbeat were not an uncommon occurrence, and case studies by his doctors showed that him getting stretched out and running would usually help elevate and regulate his heartbeat. (In other words, basketball was a good form of medicine.)
However, over the course of April 10, it never regulated before getting even worse during the night, leading to further worry and his decision to retire.
“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. . .
“My first time in 2006, I blacked out on the bench. That’s when we first found out that I had this condition. So what if I’m on the court and a big guy is coming down the lane, my heart is beating funny, and then I black out? He runs into me, and I can hurt my head on the floor. I can be paralyzed. What if I’m going for a dunk and I black out? There’s so many things that can happen in a bad way.”
After playing out all the scenarios with his family and doctors, he decided that the time had come to call it a career: a decision he doesn’t regret for his family’s sake but is still coming to terms with.
Later in the interview, after discussing his time with the Portland Trail Blazers, including his biggest career regret of not trying to work things out with Damian Lillard sooner, he goes on to discuss his time with the Spurs, including all the what-ifs surrounding the 2017 postseason, and the support he received from the organization throughout this season and since he left.
“I had fun. You join a family when you go to the Spurs. When they bring you in there, they bring you into the family.
“They take good care of you, and once you’re in, you’re in. I had fun playing with Hall of Famers. Tim (Duncan), Manu (Ginobili), Tony (Parker). Those guys make the game easier for you and being a part of their story is cool for me because we had those back-to-back 60-win seasons. It was fun for me being from Dallas. I always thought of playing for the Mavericks or the Spurs so to actually get to the Spurs and be a part of that dynasty of those three guys, I definitely enjoyed my time. We were right there if Kawhi (Leonard) doesn’t go down. You don’t know what can happen. That series still wakes me up at night sometimes. We’re up (25) points in the first quarter and the first half we’re up and in control, then Kawhi goes down. They double me and it’s easier to take me out of the block when I’m by myself. We end up losing that day, but if Kawhi stayed healthy and we finished that game off, anything was possible that year. So that year was definitely a tough year to walk away from. I never won a ring, but this was definitely my chance. It just slipped away. The run to get there was fun, you had great seasons, guys had fun.
“We left it good on both sides. Pop (Gregg Popovich) and I talked a lot in the end, and he called me after I retired. And he said, ‘Are you OK? If you need anything, let me know.’ Pop and I talked the whole time through. He wanted to play Jakob Poeltl and go young, and I wasn’t ready to like take a big drop in minutes as far as not playing as much anymore. We both agreed it was better for him and the organization if they went with the young guys. We were on the same page with that, and we communicated and we had a bunch of great discussions about it. I feel like I had a great run there. I enjoyed my time there. We had some unbelievable seasons. Toward the end, it wasn’t ideal, but we had some great moments and great times. I feel it’s no hard feelings on either side. Every team has to pick at times to go young. That was kind of their time. And I ended up joining a team that was kind of more fitted for my stage of my career. So nothing but love and respect from me.”
Despite not winning the championship he came here to get and the unideal way it ended, it’s good to know that he was understanding of what the Spurs needed to do this season and respected their decision. Nothing but love and respect back to you, LMA, and enjoy your retirement.