Should The Portland Trail Blazers Really Retire LaMarcus Aldridge’s Number?

On April 15, 2021, just 5 games into his new tenure with the Brooklyn Nets, 35-year-old LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement. He cited his irregular heartbeat, an issue that first popped up in his rookie season, as the reason for the sudden end to his 15-year NBA career. It was a sad day for NBA players and fans alike, especially for fans of the team he spent more time with than any other, the Portland Trail Blazers.  

There was an immediate outpouring of support and fond remembrance of the 6’11” forward/ center upon his retirement, and no one sang the big man’s praises louder than his old running mate Damian Lillard. On ESPN’s Jalen and Jacoby show, upon hearing the news of Aldridge’s retirement, Dame said, “It’s time for the Blazers to retire #12. He had an amazing career in a Trail Blazers uniform.”

Is Dame right? Should the Blazers add Aldridge to the 10 players with their numbers already retired by the organization? We’ll try to answer that question once and for all here.

Blazers Retired Numbers

The Blazers have retired the numbers of 10 players in franchise history and founding owner Larry Weinberg, championship coach Jack Ramsay, and legendary broadcaster Bill Schonely. The former players for the Blazers with their numbers retired are:

  • Geoff Petrie (45) – 1970 – 1976
  • Bill Walton (32) – 1974–1979           
  • Lloyd Neal (36) – 1972–1979 
  • Dave Twardzik (13) – 1976–1980     
  • Lionel Hollins (14) – 1975–1980        
  • Larry Steele (15) – 1971–1980
  • Bob Gross (30) – 1975–1982
  • Maurice Lucas (20) – 1976–1980, 1987–1988
  • Clyde Drexler (22) – 1983–1995
  • Terry Porter (30) – 1985–1995

Someday, Damian Lillard will absolutely be on this list. Aldridge, along with Brandon Roy and CJ McCollum, are more borderline cases, with Aldridge being the first test case. Here are the arguments for and against Aldridge’s #12 going up to the Moda Center’s rafters.

Why LaMarcus Aldridge ISN’T a Hall of Famer

When you look at the list above, the biggest thing that stands out is that every player, except for Petrie, was either on the Blazers for the 1977 NBA title or the early 90s teams that went to two NBA and one Western Conference finals. Aldridge took the Blazers to the playoffs five times in nine years but only made it out of the first round once.

He wouldn’t be the only great Blazer forward or center not to rise quite high enough to make the retired numbers list. Rasheed Wallace, Jerome Kersey, Buck Williams, Mychal Thompson, and even Hall-of-Famer Arvydas Sabonis don’t have their numbers retired. There is no shame in being on this list, and Aldridge does seem like he fits into this level of player.

Why LaMarcus Aldridge IS a Hall of Famer

Based on his statistics and longevity with the club, Aldridge deserves to be in, especially when you stack his numbers against the other big men with retired numbers. Aldridge played 9 seasons with the Blazers and averaged 19.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. He made the All-Rookie team, the All-Star game four times, and the All-NBA team three times as a Blazer. He is still their all-time leading defensive and overall rebounder. Comparatively, the bigs with retired numbers are Bill Walton (4 seasons, 17.1/13.5/4.4), Lloyd Neal (7 seasons, 11.1/7.7/1.5), Bob Gross (7 seasons, 9.2/4.5/3.0), and Maurice Lucas (5 seasons, 15.6/8.7/2.5).

The other, possibly more compelling reason Aldridge should have his number retired is what he meant to the franchise. Sure, he didn’t take the Blazers to new and exciting heights, but he did pull them out of some pretty low depths. The 2006 NBA Draft, which produced both Aldridge and Roy for the Blazers, marked the end of the tumultuous “Jail Blazers” Era and created a bridge of respectability to the Damian Lillard Era.

The Verdict

LaMarcus Aldridge is one of those cases, that many teams have, where a player is more important to the team than the league. Is Aldridge a Hall of Famer? Probably not. He was a good but not great player. Does he deserve to be honored with the other Blazers’ retired numbers? While he didn’t win as those other guys did, he did put up bigger numbers, and the fact that he helped the franchise recover from their disastrous Jail Blazers reputation is reason enough to take that #12 and raise it to the roof.  

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