In the 2nd Pick of the 2006 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select LaMarcus Aldridge, power forward from the University of Texas. Those were the words uttered shortly before he was traded to my beloved Portland Trailblazers for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa almost 10 years ago.
Ever since then, you’ve been an absolute class-act. I was one that doubted you, questioned why you were still in the uniform or playing for Rip City. Emotionless in your first couple seasons, there were questions about your toughness, your competitive drive, your will to win. But you answered all that and so much more. You developed a post-presence, strength on the defensive and offensive end, at times you were unguardable for opposition. To this day, you still have the best mid-range post game of any player in the NBA.
“Do I feel underrated? No, I feel that hard work pays off. If I’m doing something and I don’t get recognition for it, that’s fine as long as we get wins.” – LaMarcus Aldridge
There was Randolph, then Oden, Roy, Lillard, and yet you were the one constant on this young, developing team. A loyal, professional who stuck it out, without complaint or attitude. You ended up taking a leadership role on this team, helping everyone around you, developing a 50-win team multiple seasons.
For the first time in 14 seasons, we had a 1st-round playoff win, thanks to your MVP-like numbers in the playoffs last season. You brought tears and happiness to so many Blazer fans, getting our first playoff series win, having something for the Rose City to be proud of.
“The best part about being a Blazer is the fans. The fans here are so loyal it feels like a college team with how close the fans and players are. They have such a great passion for the team that it makes it fun to be a part of and makes you want to work harder to make the team successful.” – LaMarcus Aldridge
This season, not only did you play injured, you played like an all-star while injured and beat-up. A true warrior on the court, you continually battled and made your silky smooth post-up, turn-around jump shot look so-so easy.
“I take pride in just knowing how to do things. Whenever a coach tells me to do something, I always try to do it the way he said or do it to my best ability.” – LaMarcus Aldridge
Not only have you helped this team, you’ve been an inspiration to kids around the city on how to be a professional. A guy who never complains, keeps to himself, and focuses on the task at hand. You’ve been hammered for leaving, criticized for being soft, always thought of as a 2nd man, not the main star, but more of a Robin, then Batman. For what? Doing everything the way it should be done. For doing everything, absolutely everything for this city and the Blazers organization. Not only do you deserve a Thank-You, but you do deserve to go wherever you want. We all in Rip City will certainly miss you and the “L-Trainnn”. The guy who gave us 10 seasons of incredible and exciting basketball. You re-invented our expectations and helped all the guys out in our locker room.
“I’m about working hard and getting better. If I keep working hard, people will be able to see how good I am.” – LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge, I thank you for the hard work and dedication you’ve put towards the team, organization, and our communities. A formal good-bye and thank-you is the least I could do for such a talented, humble, once in a generation sports figure. Once in a generation, maybe once in a lifetime for a Blazer fan. An incredible journey that isn’t over for you, we’ll be rooting for the L-Train wherever you end up.
Oliver Maroney – PortlandMetroLive.com Contributor