LaMarcus Aldridge Reveals Why He Called Kevin Durant First After Retirement Decision

LaMarcus Aldridge

Getty Former Nets center LaMarcus Aldridge watches his shot in the first half against the Los Angeles Lakers at Barclays Center on April 10, 2021 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.

The Nets have already cruised into the second round of the NBA playoffs after knocking off the Boston Celtics 4-1. Their offense has been humming with historic efficiency, their defense has been mostly solid, and they look every bit the championship favorite that sportsbooks and analysts made them out to be.

Still, a thought lingers in the back of Nets fans’ minds as they eye the second round: Imagine this team with LaMarcus Aldridge?

For a few weeks back in March and April, it was a reality. The Nets had a dynamic interior presence who could also stretch the floor with his 3-point range. But Aldridge, a seven-time All-Star, announced his retirement on April 15 after an irregular heartbeat prompted him to put his health first.

In an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Aldridge spoke for the first time about his decision to step away and how difficult it was for him to part with the Nets.

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Kevin Durant Was Aldridge’s First Call After Retirement Decision

Aldridge explained to Charania that leaving the Nets wasn’t easy. Informing his teammates of his decision to retire was emotional.

“It was tough, man,” Aldridge told Charania.

Aldridge’s first call after he had made his decision went to Kevin Durant, who had recruited Aldridge to Brooklyn in the first place. Both All-Stars are Texas alums.

I wanted to give him (Durant) the respect because when I hit the waiver market when I got my buyout, he was the first guy to hit me. So I felt like I wanted to hit him first, because he was owed that. And I think he was more in shock in the beginning because he didn’t really believe or understand what I was saying. And then we talked again. I felt like those guys were really excited to have me. So I didn’t get emotional on the phone, but afterwards I was a little emotional. Every time you say, ‘Hey, I’m retired’ to someone, when it just happened, I would definitely get emotional. I’m still trying to figure out ways to be happy now. I definitely was depressed and was trying to figure out how to bounce back from it, because it was so dramatic that I didn’t know how to re-find myself. I talked to James (Harden) also; he just wanted to know what happened. I was like, ‘You remember I kept saying I can’t get my body going?’ He’s like: ‘Yeah, I thought you meant rhythm, like shooting?’ I said: ‘Nah, like my heart.’ He said: ‘Man, I didn’t know that.’

They all seen signs that something was off. But they didn’t know what it was. So after I explained to them why I was saying that, it made sense for them. It was them trying to understand what happened from me being on the floor to leaving and retired.

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Aldridge Reveals the Hardest Part About Leaving Nets

The Nets, with their Big Three of Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, are absolutely loaded. They were just missing that interior piece that could defend a big without sacrificing scoring.

That’s why Aldridge was a perfect fit in Brooklyn. That’s why he was so enticed by the chance to join the Nets.

“I chose them because it was an opportunity for me to do what I do and not have to tweak or change anything,” Aldridge said. “They wanted a guy to be able to open the floor for James and Kevin and Kyrie (Irving), and that’s who I am. I can also guard the bigger guys on the floor. When it’s fourth quarter, last five minutes, and they have a dominant big on the other side, you can have me in the game and still keep scoring and not have to sacrifice scoring to be able to guard a bigger big.”

As far the hardest part in walking away, Aldridge said it was simple: Not being able to be part of this postseason run to compete for a championship.

That was the hardest part. Being in a position to get to the Finals and have an opportunity to be on that stage and be a part of history and make my mark. I had never been to the Finals. I’ve been to the West Conference finals, but not the actual NBA Finals. So it was a chance for me to make that next step, a chance for me to add to my legacy and see what it feels like. I’ve always prided myself on embracing moments and trying to grow and learn from every moment. I wanted to get there and see what it’s like, help those guys win and be a part of the journey. And then if we got there, hopefully we would go back two or three more times. So that was definitely the hardest part for me.

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