This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made them one of the most successful organizations of all time. As we look back on the Silver and Black, we recognize the top 50 players in franchise history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.
11- LaMarcus Aldridge
Perhaps Aldridge should have been listed as #12 in this countdown since that was his number while he played for the San Antonio Spurs. A number that had to be taken out of retirement for his use. Through the generosity of Bruce Bowen, the latter’s retired jersey was once again on the court from 2105-2021. It was the first of many gestures to make Aldridge feel as at home as possible in his transition from Portland to the Alamo City.
LaMarcus Aldridge came to San Antonio via free agency during the summer of 2015. He was one of the biggest off season acquisitions the Spurs ever pulled. But it seemed the feeling was mutual for 2006’s #2 draftee. Having former Trail Blazer Patty Mills as one of the key liaisons in acquiring a meeting with the former UT Longhorn.
Even before UT, Aldridge had ties to Texas. He was born and raised in Dallas. Additionally, his children were in San Antonio, making the Spurs a balance between family and career.
From a basketball perspective, the Spurs had just won their 5th NBA title in 2014 and been knocked out in a nail-biting first round playoff series in 2015. The addition of Aldridge maintained the Spurs hopes of raising one more Larry O’Brien before the eventual retiring of the Big 3.
With Kawhi Leonard, the 2014 Finals MVP and and then-current Defensive Player of the Year (with a back-to-back to come), the Spurs looked to pass the torch from Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker to Leonard and Aldridge (and Danny Green if you want to make it a true “3”).
Aldridge had a rough preseason start against the Phoenix Suns and did something unprecedented- he headed back out to the court to practice shooting after a game.
There was also an incident in which LaMarcus felt he wasn’t being utilized in a capacity that maximized his potential. Unsubstantiated conversations began prompting rumors that Aldridge was unhappy and possibly looking to be traded. Fans wanted him to stay and one went so far as to pay for a billboard simply showing him in a Spurs jersey.
The gesture pleased Aldridge. He had all the makings of the Spurs next generation and he was hungry for a title.
LaMarcus had some of his best years in San Antonio. I recently found a piece where he has amassed 9 30+ scoring games, and it was just midway through the 2017-18 season.
Aldridge was also an excellent fit for the off-the-court Spurs culture. There were numerous events where the big man had spent his own money to outfit San Antonio youth with technology, clothing, and opportunities normally not afforded to them.
Unfortunately, the San Antonio Spurs dynasty took a turn. The loss of Kawhi Leonard sent put the Silver & Black in a strange limbo in which they attempted to pair aging All-Star caliber players with a heavy mix of younger players.
A trio of Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay helped one Pounder coin the term “Mid 3” for the fact that all three shot a higher percentage of mid-range shot than the new three-ball game that was seen by so many other teams.
Eventually, Aldridge saw the light and this time he did request a trade in hopes of being sent to a contender. The Spurs bought out his remaining contract, making him an eligible free agent after waivers. LMA went to Brooklyn (where he connected with Patty Mills for a third time).
He retired after two weeks after an irregular heartbeat became an immediate health concern. He did return last season after being medically cleared to play.
Next up: The 80s wouldn’t have been the same without him.
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