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Cavs broadcaster talks LeBron, Ilgauskas’ move to Miami

Nov 25, 2011, 10:16 AM EDT

Cleveland Cavaliers' Zydrunas Ilgauskas rests his head on the shoulder of LeBron James in Cleveland Getty Images

Joe Tait was the Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster for four decades, starting with when the NBA first dropped an expansion team in Cleveland to try and slow the growth of the ABA.

Tait has a new book out about his recollections as a broadcaster, and of course there’s plenty of talk about LeBron James, something highlighted in a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via I am a GM).

But what jumped out at me is the story of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a part of Cleveland and loved the city but moved on last year, only to be disappointed.

“He went to Miami to try and get a championship ring before he retired,” said Joe. “He wasn’t even in uniform for some of those games in The Finals. He wanted to be a contributor, playing 15, 20 minutes a game and helping a team win a title. He loved, absolutely loved Cleveland. But when LeBron left, he knew they couldn’t win here — and the team wanted to rebuild and get younger. So he went to Miami. I’m telling you, the culture shock was hard on him.”

Joe said one of Ilgauskas’ friends visited the veteran center and his wife in Miami.

“I was told they were never happy, and the longer they were there, it got progressively worse,” he said. “Mrs. Z is from Cleveland. That was a zoo down there. I feel bad for him, because I’m sure it’s not anything close to what he expected.”

If you want LeBron James dirt, this is not the place. Tait liked him and was friends with Gloria (LeBron’s mom). He sees James as a product of his environment as much as anything — from the time he entered high school he could do no wrong, then he played in Cleveland where there was unconditional love and support from the fans while he was there. Owner Dan Gilbert coddled him and let him do what he want. So when James did “The Decision” it was the first time people really turned on him.

Tait’s basic thoughts get summed up this way in the story:

“In Cleveland, if he had a bad game or made a mistake — people would just say that was OK, he’ll play better next time,” said Joe. “He could do no wrong. No wrong at all. Everyone loved LeBron. That’s why he was so surprised by the negative reaction to the ESPN show. . . . He thought everyone would like it because everyone always seemed to like about everything he did.”

When Gilbert wrote an email ripping James and calling him a quitter, Joe said the first thing that crossed his mind was, “Dan, you created the monster, now you have to live with it.”

  1. stoutfiles - Nov 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM

    The Elbow? Cleveland fans were turning on LeBron before The Decision. It was less about him leaving and more about him humiliating the city on national television when he did go.

  2. mjbulls45 - Nov 25, 2011 at 11:42 AM

    “Everyone loved LeBron. That’s why he was so surprised by the negative reaction to the ESPN show. . . . He thought everyone would like it because everyone always seemed to like about everything he did.””

    is this serious?

    does anyone have any common sense in his camp?

    did anyone including himself think it would potentially a bad idea and create a negative backlash to air a 1 hour special on national television dedicated to him leaving a city and franchise that he was the face of?

    and to do it with the grimiest of grimey reporters in Jim Gray of all people,

    he was surprised ? he was surprised the people of Cleveland got angry that he left to the miami heat and did it on national television? what did he expect them to do ? celebrate? throw a party in the streets?

    your talking about a city that the Browns have lost 2 devastating AFC title games in the 80’s and havent had a legit run since,

    a cavs team that never won the ring,

    and the indians that lost in the world series a couple times.

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