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LaMarcus Aldridge announces retirement from NBA after heart issue

LaMarcus Aldridge announced his stunning retirement from basketball on Thursday. The ex-Spurs big man, who played five games with the Nets after leaving San Antonio, said in a statement that he played Saturday night against the Lakers with an irregular heartbeat.

“Though I’m better now, what I felt with my heart that night was still one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “For 15 years, I’ve put basketball first, and now it is time to put my health and family first.”

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Aldridge barely got comfortable in Brooklyn. He negotiated a contract buyout with the Spurs on March 10 and left upwards of $7 million on the table in San Antonio to become a free agent and sign with the Nets for a chance to win a championship. His best game as a Net came on April 7, when he scored 22 points, made two three-pointers and blocked two shots in a 28-point win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Aldridge then played one more game, against the Lakers, before sitting out the next two with an undisclosed, but not COVID-19 related, illness.

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“Last but not least, I want to thank Brooklyn. You wanted me for me,” Aldridge wrote. “In a game that’s changing so much, you asked me to come and just do what I do, which was good to hear. I’m sorry it didn’t get to last long, but I’ve definitely had fun being part of this special group.”

The abrupt retirement is reminiscent of the situation around former NBA All-Star Chris Bosh, who had to retire from basketball due to blood clots.

Aldridge spent the bulk of his career in Portland, where his smooth mid-range jump shot and bag of high- and low-post moves made him one of the toughest covers at the power forward in all of basketball. The 2014-15 season was his best: He averaged 23 points, 10 rebounds and a block for a Trail Blazers team that win 51 games and finished with the fourth seed in the Western Conference.

His time in San Antonio did not go how anyone envisioned. Aldridge and Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reportedly butted heads, with Aldridge nearly requesting his trade in his first two seasons.

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From his very brief time as a Net, Aldridge will be best remembered for his candor. The Nets lost to the Lakers in a game where Andre Drummond dominated every big man the Nets threw at him. Aldridge was one of those big men and was on the receiving end of a large portion of Drummond’s punishment. He owned that he needed to be better all around for the Nets to win.

“Just got to do a better job of trying to set the tone better. It starts with me. I started out kind of passive tonight and I think that was kind of contagious for everyone else,” he said after the April 10 loss. “It was hard for me to get going tonight but no excuses. I definitely need to be better and I will be better.”

Aldridge’s retirement likely means DeAndre Jordan will be inserted back into the starting lineup. It also gives the Nets an additional roster spot as they enter the latter stretch of the regular season and jockey for playoff positioning at the top of the East with the 76ers and Bucks.

It also adds another wrinkle to the saga of Brooklyn players in and out of the rotation due to injuries and health issues.

“You never know when something will come to an end, so make sure you enjoy it everyday,” Aldridge wrote. “I can truly say I did just that.”

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