We’re counting down the 25 best former Texas athletes still competing in their sport. Each day we’ll reveal a new athlete.
LaMarcus Aldridge was a McDonald’s All-American in 2004 while playing basketball at Seagoville High School. He was also a Parade All-American and the TABC Class 4A Player of the Year. After initially declaring for the NBA out of high school, Aldridge changed his mind and decided to come to Texas following a reported chat with Shaquille O’Neal. Aldridge joined an interesting roster that included Daniel Gibson, Brad Buckman, P.J. Tucker and more. He started all 16 games he played in before an injury ended his season early and played a role in Texas finishing 9-7 in the Big 12, sixth in the conference. Aldridge returned to school, as did most of the roster, and Texas had one of its best seasons under coach Rick Barnes. The Longhorns won a share of the Big 12 with a 13-3 record, finished 30-7 overall and reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. While Tucker won Big 12 Player of the Year, Aldridge just as easily could have taken the award. Instead he won Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year as he built his draft stock. After averaging 15 points, 9.2 rebounds and two blocks, Aldridge was named first-team All-Big 12 and a third-team All-American.
Pro career: Aldridge declared for the NBA Draft in April of 2006 and, at this point, he was considered a likely top-two pick. The Toronto Raptors took Italian prospect Andrea Bargnani No. 1, and the Chicago Bulls took Aldridge No. 2. A few moments later, the Bulls traded Aldridge to Portland in a three team deal that included the New York Knicks — or Knicks fans remember it, the deal that brought Eddie Curry to New York (that didn’t end well). Aldridge flourished in Portland alongside breakout star Brandon Roy, the sixth pick in 2006. Aldridge eventually became an All-Star in 2012, making every Western Conference team from 2012-2016, and was All-NBA second team in 2015. After nine seasons in Portland, Aldridge became a free agent in the summer of 2015 and signed with the San Antonio Spurs. Since then he’s become a lightning rod. While he has averaged 18, 17.3, 23.1 points in three seasons, Aldridge has often found himself the center of some Spurs fans frustrations, but that hasn’t stopped him from putting up All-Star numbers.
Why he’s here: There’s a bit of an eye-roll reaction I have when Spurs fans complain about Aldridge because he’s not 2002 Tim Duncan. Why more people didn’t give him credit for being the only reason the Spurs made the playoffs in 2018 is laughable. The fact is Aldridge is the second best Longhorn NBA player of All-Time, perhaps the third best player ever to wear a Longhorn jersey and has backed it up with six All-Star appearances in 12 seasons, three All-NBA third team selections and a second team selection in 2015.
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