NBA

LaMarcus Aldridge and other NBA superstars who returned from retirement

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, LaMarcus Aldridge has been medically cleared by doctors and will return to the NBA. He was forced to retire midway through the 2020-21 season due to a heart condition, which fortunately seems to be past him.

Now that we know Aldridge is set to make his return with the Brooklyn Nets, this is a good time to review the rich history of star players, who for different reasons, announced their retirement before returning to the league thereafter.

The league's first superstar, George Mikan, is part of that list.

After winning five championships (1949, 1950, 1952-1954) in his first six years across the BAA and NBA, the Lakers center retired at the end of 1953-1954 at the age of 30, wanting to focus on his family. The multiple fractures he had suffered during his career also played a role in his decision.

He sat out the 1954-1955 season and the three-time defending champions felt his absence as they fell to the Fort Wayne Pistons in the West Finals 3-1. He didn't return at the start of the 1955-56 season but in Jordan style, returned to Minneapolis midway through the season. However, Mikan was no longer the same and his place as the starting center had been taken by another future Hall of Fame in Clyde Lovellette, who was just in his third season with the Lakers.

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Mikan, who used to play 35-to-40 minutes per game, played an average of 20.7 minutes while averaging 10.5 points and 8.3 rebounds in 37 games. With him, the Lakers advanced to the playoffs but were eliminated in the first round by Bob Pettit's St. Louis Hawks, which included a heartbreaking 116-115 Game 3 loss where Pettit scored 41.

Mikan, who was already working as an assistant with the team, scored 12 points in that game before permanently retiring.

One of the peculiar cases of players on this list was Bob Cousy. The skilled New Yorker played between 1950 and 1963 with the Boston Celtics, part of six championship-winning squads and led the league in assists for eight consecutive seasons. For seven years after 1963, he didn't don a jersey as he transitioned to coaching.

However, in 1970, he returned for a brief spell of seven games as a 41-year-old to average 0.7 points and 1.4 assists. His return allowed for him and Oscar Robertson - two great point guards of that era - to play on the same team with the Royals (now, Sacramento Kings).

In the 1960s, there's another Hall of Famer that joined the list in Cliff Hagan, who spent 10 seasons with the aforementioned Pettit's Hawks. He won a championship ring in 1958 and was named to five All-Star teams. He retired in 1966 at the age of 34 and was off the court from 1966 to 1967.

However, in 1967-68, he would return as a player-coach for the Dallas franchise in the newly-formed ABA. Hagan maintained a high level in his first season (18.2 points) and followed with a solid second season (11.1 points in 16.5 minutes), but he retired permanently after only three games of little prominence in 1969-1970.

Now, to fast forward several years to Dave Cowens' case. The forward is remembered as a star for the Boston Celtics, a team he represented for 10 seasons when he won two titles and was named to eight All-Star teams. Overwhelmed by ankle injuries, he announced his initial retirement at age 32 in 1980, so the Celtics replaced him with two future Hall of Fame big men in Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

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He remained retired for two seasons but returned in the 1982-83 season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He played 40 games (34 as a starter) where he averaged 8.1 points and 6.9 rebounds. However, an injury towards the end of that regular season forced him to miss the playoffs, which would mark the end of his professional career.

On the same Milwaukee team that Cowens joined, a star guard Sidney Moncrief stood out. One of the best perimeter defenders in NBA history, he played 10 seasons with the Bucks (with five All-Star appearances) but was affected by serious knee problems, retiring in 1989 at the age of 32.

The guard stayed out throughout 1989-1990 but made a modest return in 1990-1991 with the Atlanta Hawks. For his new team, he played 72 games and averaged 4.7 points in 15.2 minutes per game. Following that season, when he shared the locker room with players like Dominique Wilkins and Moses Malone, he retired permanently.

The next player on this list is one of the best players in NBA history. After his glorious career between 1979 and 1991 with the Lakers, which included five championships, Magic Johnson shocked the world in 1991 when he announced that he had contracted the HIV virus which forced him to leave the game.

A year later, he resumed activity with the historic Barcelona Dream Team in 1992 and also played in the 1992 NBA All-Star Game.

However, Johnson's formal return to the league would have to wait for another five years. He returned in January of 1996, donning the Lakers' Purple and Gold once again. Despite embracing a sixth-man role, he still had a massive impact for the Lakers with averages of 14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists while shooting 47 percent from the field.

The Lakers advanced to the Playoffs but were eliminated in Round 1 by the Houston Rockets. That series would be Johnson's last for the Lakers, who months later added a young man named Kobe Bryant in the draft.

Magic isn't the only guard named Johnson on the list. Kevin Johnson began his NBA career in Cleveland but was quickly traded to Phoenix, where he played 11 seasons (three All-Stars), before announcing his retirement at the end of 1997-1998. After sitting out one season, he returned at the end of 1999-2000 to replace the injured Jason Kidd.

Johnson played six regular-season games, averaging 6.7 points and 4 assists in 18.8 minutes, while later seeing action in nine postseason games (3.2 points and 2.6 assists). The Suns eliminated San Antonio in Round 1 but would be eliminated by the future champions in the Lakers, marking the ultimate end for the point guard's career.

Arvydas Sabonis was another player to return from retirement to the same team. It is known that the Lithuanian came to the NBA with injury problems as a veteran, but even so he played six good initial seasons with Portland between 1995 and 2001. At the end of those 2001 Playoffs and a 3-0 loss to the Lakers, Sabonis announced a retirement that would only last a year.

After being out the following season, the legendary European center returned at age 38 for 2002-2003 and again represented the Blazers. Coming off the bench, he averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15.5 minutes Their numbers rose in the post-season (10 points and four rebounds), but Portland loss to Dallas in the first round and that was the last we saw of Sabonis.

Last but not least, we leave the best-known case of all - Michael Jordan and his three retirements. He first did so in 1993 to play baseball before returning in 1995, winning three titles in a row. He retired again in 1998, frustrated with the direction of the Bulls franchise before returning in 2001 to join the Washington Wizards. He retired once and for all in 2003.

As in any comparison, Jordan's case stands out. With his first return to Chicago, he regained his place as the best player in the league and later, he had two good seasons with the Wizards averaging 21.2 points.

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