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Report: Cavaliers to retire Ilgauskas’ number in March

Oct 21, 2013, 5:05 PM EDT

Image (1) ilgauskas_return-thumb-250x324-8079.jpg for post 1053

Zydrunas Ilgauskas is beloved in Cleveland after spending 13 years with the Cavaliers, being a good player on the court and a rock solid member in the community through some rough years for that franchise (and a few good ones). Look at it this way: When LeBron James bolted for Miami in 2010 Ilgauskas went with him but Big Z was cheered upon his return. There were no hard feelings.

It’s been rumored for more than two years that the Cavaliers were going to retire Ilgauskas’ number, but it looks like they will finally get around to it March 8 when the Cavaliers host the Knicks, reports the Plain Dealer.

Ilgauskas’ story is one of perseverance — the first round pick of the Cavaliers lost his entire rookie season to a foot injury. He played in the full 82 games the next season (1998) but lingering foot issues held him back to 29 games over the next three seasons. He seemed a bust that couldn’t get healthy, but he wouldn’t quit. He kept working out and by 2002 he was again a regular part of the rotation for Cleveland.

By 2003 he was an All-Star (he was again in 2005) and he is still the franchise’s all time leader in rebounds, blocked shots and games played, and he’s second all time in points.

By the way, the Plain Dealer has the answer to your trivia question: There are six other Cavaliers with their numbers already retired.

Ilgauskas will be the seventh Cavalier to have his number retired, and the first since Mark Price’s No. 25 in 1999. Other players so honored include Nate Thurmond (42), Bingo Smith (7), Austin Carr (34), Larry Nance (22) and Brad Daugherty (43).

  1. clevelandschronic2 - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    Good for Z he deserves this. This guy couldve easily given up after all the foot problems but he showed his heart and determination by fighting back. He never gave up on himself or the Cleveland Cavs organization, and the cavs never gave up on him. Good for Z

    • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:04 PM

      Well he did kind of give up on the Cavs when LeBron left. He had an offer to stay – and to stay as long as he wanted – but he wasn’t interested and signed with the Heat. Cavs fans looked at that sympathetically because he was older – had been through a lot – and they wanted him to win something even though that meant winning it with LeBron, who they did not want to win anything. Odd, eh?

      • redbaronx - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:25 PM

        @antistratfordian – Yet more proof of your lack of KNOWLEDGE! You can pull all the stats you want out of your rear, but you don’t actually follow the game. Z didn’t “give up on the Cavs”. Z was going to retire the year before and the only reason he came back was

        A) to have another run with LeBron. and
        B) Z is one of those rare guys that was very loyal to the franchise.

        He really wasn’t able to play much at that point, so instead of you saying “Hey, the guy had a great career and played on a lot of losing Cavs teams, he deserved to go to the Heat for the chance at a ring” you have to cast Z in the light as Z giving up on the Cavs. The crock of negatives on players that comes out of you knows no bounds!

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:41 PM

        He was going to follow LeBron regardless – he and LeBron are very close and he is probably more loyal to his friendship with LeBron than he is to the Cavs organization (I think he proved that)… whether you want to call that “giving up” on the Cavs or something else is just semantics.

        What Z did is probably going to be a microcosm of what LeBron is going to do. Both LeBron and Z were offered contracts to stay in Cleveland – both left for Miami – Z returned to the front office – LeBron is probably going to return too eventually.

      • redbaronx - Oct 22, 2013 at 12:49 AM

        @antistratfordian – Again you prove your lack of intellect!!! I didn’t say Z was “giving up” on the Cavs. YOU DID! And I called you out for the stupidity of your comment.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 22, 2013 at 1:24 AM

        Smh. You may have a problem with comprehension.

      • redbaronx - Oct 22, 2013 at 1:26 AM

        @antistratfordian – You may have a problem PERIOD!

      • antistratfordian - Oct 22, 2013 at 1:29 AM

        Meh. I’m done with you.

      • nflcrimerankingscom - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:29 PM

        Come on, you seem sharp in general. The issue with Lebron wasn’t him leaving, but how he left. Oh, and his quitting in the 2010 playoffs against the Celtics, and the phantom elbow injury.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 6:53 PM

        Oh, and his quitting in the 2010 playoffs against the Celtics, and the phantom elbow injury.

        Cavs fans never had an issue with this. They defended these things. Only after LeBron left and Gilbert issued his regrettable letter did Cavs fans start parroting other LeBron critics about the 2010 playoffs.

        The issue with Lebron wasn’t him leaving, but how he left

        Yeah, that’s a point I was making. LeBron and Z left for the same reasons (“to chase my dream of winning an NBA championship,” as Z put it), but LeBron got the grief and Z got the love. I think, actually, Cavs fans/ownership were deviously showering Z with extra love in an attempt to further irritate LeBron. I don’t really blame them.

      • nflcrimerankingscom - Oct 21, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        They didn’t leave in the same manner.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 8:20 PM

        No kidding.

      • detectivejimmymcnulty - Oct 21, 2013 at 8:50 PM

        It’s funny that by doing The Decision Lebron had nothing but good intentions. The Decision raised around $2 million for the Boys and Girls Club. Now, was it a good idea in hindsight? Hell no.

      • antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:08 PM

        Sure… good intentions, etc. But he still wanted to create an all eyes on him spectacle – the likes which have never been seen! – which is just about his ego. Fans didn’t appreciate that part.

        But everything worked out in the end so maybe it was just the way it was supposed to be.

      • brianjoates - Oct 21, 2013 at 9:38 PM

        Every year espn makes a bigger and bigger spectacle of hs kids announcing which college they will attend, nobody seems to care. Nobody seemed to make a big deal when Kobe announced in a press conference that he was taking his talents to the nba.

        it was espn testing out a possible new platform for big time free agents announcing their new city of residence. Ratings were through the roof, it was great tv for fans, it was just the backlash from those who didn’t get their way that made the headlines.

        If espn televised a signing day this summer for the free agents, fans will tune in once again in record numbers.

    • redbaronx - Oct 22, 2013 at 12:59 AM

      @clevelandschronic2 – I agree with you 1000%. Z battled through a lot of injuries and bad Cavs lineups and he stuck with them for a long time. I always thought he was a class act.

  2. antistratfordian - Oct 21, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Big Z! IImatic. The LeBron to Z pick-and-pop was unstoppable!

  3. ProBasketballPundit - Oct 21, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    When will the Cavs be retiring LeBron’s #23?

    • nflcrimerankingscom - Oct 21, 2013 at 8:17 PM

      Not for a while since he’ll probably end up back there next year…

      • redbaronx - Oct 22, 2013 at 12:57 AM

        @nflcrimerankingscom – I think you’re right. the Cavs will only retire LeBron’s number after his career is over, and there still might be a chance that LeBron goes back to the Cavs. No way they’re going to lift his jersey to the rafters if they have the slightest chance of getting him back in a Cavs uniform before he retires.

  4. kb2408 - Oct 22, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    When a player like this has he jersey retired you know the franchise sucks. Jersey retirements should be reserved for what a player does on the court. If they want to honor him for what he did in the community do it some other way. How about a plaque?

    • redbaronx - Oct 22, 2013 at 1:10 PM

      kb2408 – Even by that measurement Z is certainly a Cleveland HOF player and deserves recognition. Early in his career he was the main gun for some competent Cavs teams and then when they had a bad roster he carried them. With LeBron on board they went to the Finals.

      Outside of Shaq and Tim Duncan (if you want to count him as a center…), there weren’t many centers of Z’s quality in the NBA during his era. He was just fundamentally sound and did everything a center should do really well. Block out, disrupt the other team in the paint, get some boards, put some points up. Plus he was a very good passing center.

      Not everything is in stats.

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