Enough about the Saturday night game between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
The significance was already diminished before this latest development on Saturday. Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard was ruled out due to concussion protocol and the Warriors – already without ailing star Kevin Durant – decided to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.
But when the Spurs announced that five-time All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge was out indefinitely with minor heart arrhythmia on Saturday, indicating that he would “refrain from play until further tests and examinations are completed,” this became a whole lot bigger than basketball. Aldridge has a heart history that has been well-chronicled, as he was diagnosed in 2007 with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome while playing with the Portland Trail Blazers. He also had a recurrence in 2011, but Spurs spokesman Tom James reiterated that Saturday's announcement wasn't related to Aldridge's previous incidents.
"Unexpected, but it's a sensitive issue, so we want to make sure that he's fine," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said from Saturday's shootaround. "The most important thing is to have him healthy. We'll wait as long as is necessary for him to feel secure and sure, and the team, too."
The NBA audience knows all too well how health problems can threaten lives and derail careers, the most recent example coming last season when former Miami Heat big man Chris Bosh was forced out of the game because of blood clots. The NBA community mourned the loss of 46-year-old Sean Rooks last summer, when the longtime center and former Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach died of a heart attack.
From Rooks to Moses Malone to Daryl Dawkins, Anthony Mason and others, the trend of big men having life-threatening heart problems has become prevalent of late. The NBA has been proactive on this front for quite some time now, and certainly took notice of a Feb. 2016 study published in JAMA Cardiology. The study indicated that, while the heart's left ventricle is proportional to an NBA player's size, the aortic root does not grow proportionately and thus could pose significant risk. NBA legend Larry Bird, the Indiana Pacers executive who has an enlarged heart and was diagnosed with an atrial fibrillation in 1995, spoke openly about his own disturbing truth in a recent interview with ESPN's Jackie MacMullan.
"I tell my wife all the time, 'You don't see many 7-footers walking around at the age of 75,'" the 6-foot-9 Bird told MacMullan. "She hates it when I say that. I know there are a few of us who live a long time, but most of us big guys don't seem to last too long."
The league-wide hope, of course, is that Aldridge can face a far better fate.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Sam Amick on Twitter @Sam_Amick.
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