San Antonio Spurs: LaMarcus Aldridge’s Hall of Fame case legitimizes small-market stars
Former San Antonio Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge deserves to be in the HOF
After five hard-fought seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and a brief stint in Brooklyn, LaMarcus Aldridge’s NBA career has come to a close. A sudden irregular heartbeat put things into perspective for the well-regarded NBA vet, who retired mid-season for his safety and the sake of his family.
Since coming to San Antonio, Aldridge put his head down and worked hard. He was a steady offensive presence throughout his stint as a Spur, averaging the team’s sixth-most points per game since the ABA merger. He finished 10th in total points and field goals in San Antonio Spurs history.
He’ll be remembered fondly by many Spurs fans for shouldering a heavy load during a transitionary period between two eras. Other sections of the fandom will remember him for attempting to defend 3-point shots from the free-throw line. Regardless of how his career finished, his body of work as an NBA player was extremely impressive.
"We’re grateful for his contributions, both on and off the court, during his time here in San Antonio."
Coach Pop's statement on LaMarcus Aldridge ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/todITwsweX
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) April 15, 2021
From the time he entered the league to the day he retired, Aldridge was one of the single most productive players in basketball. His effortless mid-range jumper and mastery of the post fadeaway made him one of the most reliable buckets in the sport. Since he was drafted in 2006, Aldridge was one of two players with more than 19,000 points and 8,000 rebounds in his career; the other being LeBron James. They are two of just 25 players in history to post those numbers.
All but five of Aldridge’s 1,029 career games were played between two teams: The Portland Trail Blazers (648 games) and the San Antonio Spurs (376 games). For ten seasons from 2,010 to 2,020, Aldridge averaged 21 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 49.2% from the floor. During that run, LaMarcus made seven All-Star teams and five All-NBA teams while continuously raising his team’s floor.
Unfortunately, the circumstances of Aldridge’s career never panned out for him to win a championship. He spent his career sharpening his craft and keeping a low profile on teams that are considered “small markets” by NBA standards. His closest chance was the Spurs’ Western Conference Finals run in 2017, which was derailed by the infamous Zaza incident.
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On many occasions, Aldridge put up excellent individual performances in the playoffs. He had a few rough patches as well, but his complete body of work says it all: Aldridge was as steady in the postseason as he was in the regular season. He averaged 20.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks across 10 playoff appearances in 15 seasons.
Maybe the postseason didn’t always go his way, but Aldridge’s consistency set him apart from the pack. However, it’s not guaranteed that Hall of Fame voters will see it that way. Beyond his All-Star and All-NBA teams, Aldridge only has one other major NBA accolade: An ’07 All-Rookie First Team appearance.
At this point, Aldridge’s Hall of Fame case is a reflection of the voters’ values. Do players who commit themselves to ‘small market teams’ miss out on the opportunity to meet HOF criteria? Portland and San Antonio aren’t necessarily free-agent destinations. After years of trying to make it in one small market, Aldridge gave it his all in another.
Will voters cast blame on Aldridge for not being able to reach that peak of an NBA championship? Or will he gain their respect for giving his all for the Spurs and Blazers? Only time will tell.