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Jay Simpson, a former Champaign Central High School and Purdue basketball standout, writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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Anytime a player has to step away from the sport they love due to health issues is a big deal and a tough pill to swallow.

Brooklyn Nets power forward LaMarcus Aldridge announced his retirement from the NBA on Thursday morning, and it took the breath away from the basketball world.

The retirement was so random, nobody was expecting it, especially seeing that he had just joined the Nets a week or two prior.

Aldridge has an irregular heartbeat that had gotten worse over the years, and he recently had a scary experience where his rhythm got even worse. He made the decision to step away from the game of basketball to focus more on his family, which is totally understood and respected.

Even though he has had an amazing NBA career thus far and has made more than enough money to where he and his family will be well off for life, it must still sting a little to be forced to leave so early due to health complications.

I know he had so much left in the tank; it’s sad to him go.

If anyone can relate to Aldridge in these times, it’s me. I’ve been through similar experiences, except I never made it to the league or had anywhere near as much money as he does, but the one thing we both have in common is the love for the game.

When something is all you know and literally what you put your all into, it’s hard to let it go. The good thing about it is he is a very bright man and I’m sure he will find another passion in due time.

We are more than athletes.

Jay Simpson writes for The News-Gazette. His column appears Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. He can be reached at jsimpson@news-gazette.com.

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