With seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge announcing an abrupt retirement from basketball after struggling with an irregular heartbeat, it felt only right to reflect on the big man’s career through a Clipper lens. It might be painful for LA fans to recall, but let’s look back at his best game against the Clippers: a 122-111 Spurs victory back on Dec. 29, 2018, in which Aldridge dropped 38 points.
At this point, Aldridge was already 33 years old, but his game was never predicated on athleticism or flash to begin with. He was by no means a boring player, but his style of play wasn’t exactly built for the highlight reel. If one were to go back and find the highlights for this game, you’d find a few flashy DeMar DeDerozan plays and some nostalgic Lou Williams/Montrezl Harrell two-man game, but when it came to Aldridge, it was predictable as ever: mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper.
"Yeah, he destroyed all of our bigs tonight," then Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers said postgame.
Indeed he did, Doc. Aldridge went off for 38 points (a career-high against the Clippers) on 14-23 shooting, adding in seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. He had 22 points in the first half alone, and the matchup nightmare he presented for the Clippers got him to the free throw line 12 times.
It didn’t matter if it was Boban Marjanovic, Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott or Harrell matched up on Aldridge—the result was the same. That was the beauty of his game: if he earned deep enough post position on the left block, his 6’11 frame and high release made his jumpshot (especially his turnaround) essentially unguardable. Aldridge is a big dude, and even as recently as two and a half years ago, opposing centers had no idea what to do with a player who was just as big as them, could bang down low for rebound position, but could also spread them out to 18 feet and pump-fake them to death.
San Antonio and LA would both go on to lose in the first round of the playoffs later that season. It’s a shame that, despite being in the same conference as the Clippers for all but five games of his 15-year career, Aldridge never matched up with LA in the postseason. When they were both in their primes, there was a genuine debate of who was the best power forward in the league between Aldridge and Blake Griffin; what an exciting series that might’ve been.
From all of Clipper Nation, thanks for a fun and memorable career, LaMarcus.