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

What makes Aldridge’s Portland run worthy of a jersey retirement?

Put emotions aside for a second, and riddle me this.

Suppose we’ve got a player who produced an All-NBA star level for a decade. Along the way, that player: (a) ranks among the top-five in major categories such as games played, points scored, rebounds, assists, etc, (b) has the team thinking postseason — even championship contention throughout the decade, and (c) does both of those at the same time.

Do you think his jersey deserves to hang in the annals of history at the arena?

If you answered “yes” in those scenarios, you, just like me, believe that someday, Gary Payton’s No. 20 should hang in Oklahoma City’s rafters, as well as Carmelo Anthony in Denver, Shawn Marion in Phoenix, and even Chris Paul and Blake Griffin for the Los Angeles Clippers.

You also agree that LaMarcus Aldridge deserves a moment of perusal, a chance at his own consideration, too.

From an emotional viewpoint, there’s some ambiguity surrounding Aldridge’s stature in Portland. From a leadership and accolade standpoint, there isn’t. Just to run off a few, here’s where he ranks among the franchise’s index: games played (4th), points (3rd), rebounds (1st), win shares (4th), minutes (3rd). And looking specifically at his peak years from 2008-09 to 2014-15, those deserve commemoration, because they were the stuff of greats among the NBA.

  • Total points: 10,647 (8th)
  • Total minutes: 18,931 (2nd)
  • Field goals: 4,319 (3rd)
  • Rebounds: 4,544 (8th)
  • Blocks: 491 (12th)
  • Win shares: 59.7 (10th)
  • VORP (value over replacement level): 18.8 (T-21st)
  • PPG: 20.9 (10th) | Playoffs PPG: 22.1 (12th)
  • Net rating: +4.7 (28th)

Some will say that this discussion simply celebrates mediocrity. But two future Blazer stars who deserve a similar conversation later — Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum — have gone on record in pointing out something that should’ve never needed to be said: at the end of every NBA season, there’s only one NBA champion. If you consider every season title-or-bust, this might not be the conversation for you.

Sure, if you want to point to caveats, you could argue that there isn’t enough postseason success. But remember: this is merely comparing Aldridge to other Blazers. He was the leader of a Blazers team that played in 34 Playoff games, which ranks as the seventh-most among Blazers outside of the Drexler era.

As an individual, he was just as elite. In Blazers history, only five players have more than two All-NBA selections and two All-Star selections. Aldridge is one of them. And only two players have more All-Star appearances in league history. If you learn nothing else from that number, understand this: a lot of things grow on trees. Generational talents aren’t one of them. You can’t merely buy these sorts of players, or trade for them in the blink of an eye (unless you’re the Los Angeles Lakers).

Of course, we can’t convince the masses — not with emotions at play in a “what have you done for me lately” league. But for those people, an opportunity to look at the circumstances, or rather, obstacles surrounding Aldridge. They certainly deserve a look.