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San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge finds strength in his faith as Spurs do battle in NBA playoffs

The No. 7-seeded San Antonio Spurs and No. 2-seeded Denver Nuggets have traded wins throughout the first four games of their opening-round series in the NBA’s Western Conference Playoffs. The clashes have featured a DeMar DeRozan ejection, a 21-point fourth quarter by one point guard and a 36-point game by the other point guard. Only one game has been decided by more than 10 points. Both teams have won road games. Every win is a battle.

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Leading the way for San Antonio is seven-time All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge. The center led the Spurs this season in scoring (21.3 points per game) and rebounding (9.2), and in the playoffs is second on the team in scoring (20.3) while still the leading rebounder (9.0).

Aldridge is appearing in the postseason for the ninth time in his 13-year career — each of his four years with San Antonio, after previously helping Portland to the playoffs five times. Those nine seasons are more than many of his Spurs teammates have been in the league. So the 33-year-old is no stranger to battles on the court.

He’s also accustomed to fighting off the court. Aldridge was raised by his mother, Georgia, without his father in his life. More than once, he told the Oregonian, his family didn’t have enough food.

“There would be times we would have to wait a couple of days,” Aldridge said, “until she got paid again.”

In the midst of difficulties many children never face, Aldridge relied on the faith his mother instilled in him at a young age.

“I know it was God giving me the guidance,” Aldridge said of that time. “I am one of His children and He’s let me glorify His name with my game.”

The native Texan (born in Dallas) found his calling in the game of basketball. Aldridge grew to 6-feet-11 and developed into one of the best basketball players in the country. After two seasons at the University of Texas, he was drafted second overall in the 2006 NBA Draft by Chicago (and traded to Portland on draft day).

In the pros, another battle awaited.

Less than one season into his NBA career with the Trail Blazers, Aldridge was taken to a hospital for shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. He was diagnosed with Wolff-Parksinson-White Syndrome — a heart condition caused by a problem with the electrical system. The diagnosis ended Aldridge’s season and threatened to end his career.

Yet when the 2007-08 NBA season tipped off, there was Aldridge, playing a crucial role for the Blazers’ front court.

Another blow came when Aldridge’s beloved mother was diagnosed with cancer, but neither mother nor son backed down. She beat it, with her son by her side, and has cheered him on ever since.

A close inspection of his arms reveals where Aldridge has drawn his calmness and strength from since those early years in Texas. Tattoos on his right arm say “Keep God First” and “Truly Blessed” while another on his left arm displays “Faith.”

“[Faith] gives you strength, a calmness, a belief, and takes away worry,” Aldridge said. “If you believe in God, you shouldn’t worry. I know I’m one of His children and that He will stand by me.”

The Spurs and Nuggets will again do battle in Game 5, set to tip at 9:30 p.m. ET Tuesday in Denver.

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