Portland Trail Blazers: Why it’s time to put LaMarcus Aldridge’s No. 12 in the rafters

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images)
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Chris Covatta/Getty Images) /
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LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images) /

Feelings and unfulfilled promises have muddied the relationship between LaMarcus Aldridge and those associated with the Portland Trail Blazers. But after time heals, here’s why No. 12’s jersey should hang high at the Moda Center.

To see LaMarcus Aldridge play once in his prime is to see him play every game in his prime. Regardless of whether you view him as a Pantheon, all-time great or not, he’s inarguably reached boss level on the “you know it’s coming, but you still won’t stop it” leaderboard.

He’s churned along and rocked to the same tune for nearly a decade-and-a-half: post fadeaways, hooks, and pick-and-pops in prosperity, and SportsCenter highlights and fan admiration in poverty. And while you were rarely wowed, surely you looked to the box score and wondered how he ended up with 25 and 10. His career has dovetailed between productive stints with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs — two entirely different cultures and play styles —  yet the same offensive monster has remained.

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Which makes arguably the biggest game in Aldridge’s Blazers tenure — the Rockets-Blazers Game Six in 2014 — all the more intriguing in retrospect. Once upon a time, the Blazers would put Aldridge on the left block, and let him explore his inner Allen Iverson with spins and snatch-backs. On one play (at 2:15), he even draws an and-one, and looks into the crowd, a moment that seemed to finally encapsulate the mutual understanding between the loud and quiet; understand and misunderstood.

But few seem to remember that in the biggest half the Blazers had in a decade-and-a-half, Aldridge had 21 points and 7 rebounds.

In small moments like that, you find the stories rarely told. The prevailing thought in that series is the last one: the Damian Lillard game-winner, followed by Mike Tirico’s timeless call of the Blazers, finally on the winning side for the first time in 14 years. The 29.8 points and 11.2 rebounds that Aldridge poured onto three-time Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard became something to appreciate at second glance, but a mere afterthought at first glance.

But as we’ve been “given” a break from current day basketball, and a chance to inspect Portland’s year-to-year struggle to find fixtures at the “4” spot, the chance to look up at Aldridge’s legacy as a Portland Trail Blazer has never been more available. And hopefully, someday, when we look up in the rafters at the Moda Center, we’ll see what deserves to be there: the No. 12 jersey. And here’s why.