Take a moment to appreciate late-career LaMarcus Aldridge
Ronald Cortes / Getty Images Sport / Getty

"Lunch meat!"

That's what LaMarcus Aldridge's Portland Trail Blazers teammates used to shout when Aldridge got the ball - usually in the mid-range or in the post - before he devoured his opponent.

Now four years removed from Portland and 13 years into his NBA career, the San Antonio Spurs big man still feasts on a healthy diet of helpless defenders. Just ask the Oklahoma City Thunder after Aldridge lit them up for a career-high 56 points in a double-overtime thriller Thursday night.

Look at Aldridge's second shot in the highlight compilation above (the one with 25 seconds left in the third quarter). Sure, you can quibble over the fact that if he'd stepped back another foot or so, the jumper would've been worth an extra point - or you can appreciate how difficult it was to not just get that shot off over Steven Adams, but to splash it.

Aldridge put up 56 points against the Thunder without attempting a single 3-pointer - a signature game for a veteran All-Star who's continued to thrive in an unprecedented era of youth, star talent, and shooting despite never truly adding a deep threat to his arsenal.

Aldridge has twice averaged at least one 3-point attempt a game. In his final season with Portland (2014-15), he shot a respectable 35.2 percent on 1.5 attempts per game. Last year, he bricked his way to 29.3 percent from deep on 1.2 attempts.

This season, only 2 percent of Aldridge's field-goal attempts have come from long range, and more than 44 percent of his shots have come from the dreaded midrange and long-two areas. That shot profile is often the recipe for an offensive disaster, and not the entertaining kind.

And yet, even in 2019, there's something enthralling about Aldridge's blend of smooth midrange prowess and his ability to bully opposing bigs inside when need be - probably the fact he's still so damn good at it. This kind of against-the-grain excellence deserves our attention, especially from a player six months away from his 34th birthday.

Aldridge's status as an elite big man appeared to be fading after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign. He posted his lowest scoring and rebounding averages since his rookie year, concluded the season with a feeble performance in the Western Conference finals, and then requested a trade out of San Antonio.

But in the two seasons since - still with the Spurs - Aldridge has put together a couple of the finest campaigns from a veteran big man in recent memory.

20+ PPG/8+ RPG/1+ BPG age 32 or later Season
Elvin Hayes 2x (1978-1980)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 3x (1979-1982)
Moses Malone 1988-89
Kevin McHale 1989-90
Hakeem Olajuwon 3x (1994-1997)
Patrick Ewing 3x (1994-1997)
David Robinson 1997-98
Shaquille O'Neal 2004-05
LaMarcus Aldridge 2x (2017-2019)

In addition to the 20-plus points and eight rebounds Aldridge can seemingly still give you in his sleep, he's actually improved as a defender in the back half of his career, anchoring a top-four defense last year while helping this season's depleted Spurs bounce back from an ugly start on that end of the floor.

Aldridge also remains resoundingly durable. He logged 49 minutes Thursday to give him 43 starts in as many games this season, during which he's averaging 20.7 points, 8.6 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.2 blocks on 50.9 percent shooting. He's still an All-Star caliber talent in the gauntlet that is the Western Conference, and he remains either the best or second-best player on a playoff team that's recently beaten the Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, Clippers, Nuggets, 76ers, Jazz, and Lakers on a 14-4 tear.

He's not going to shoot many threes, if any. Few of his buckets will end up on Twitter or Instagram, social media platforms that didn't exist when he was drafted. But at 33 years old, LaMarcus Aldridge can still get his, and we should appreciate that at every opportunity.

He just shows up for work, and he can probably still pack your favorite big man for lunch.

Take a moment to appreciate late-career LaMarcus Aldridge
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