We always thought of him as the gentle giant because at 7-3 he was bigger than just about everyone while also displaying a kindness that can often allude some of the monsters of the NBA’s paint. On Saturday night, the Cavs raised the No. 11 jersey for Zydrunas Illgauskas making him the seventh player in Cleveland history with the distinction.
Ilgauskas joins Austin Carr, Nate Thurmond, Bobby “Bingo” Smith, Larry Nance, Brad Daugherty and Mark Price in having his number raised to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena. Only Price and Daugherty were unable to attend Z’s halftime ceremony, but LeBron James â€” whose presence obviously made headlines this week â€” was able to duck in and duck out of the arena without speaking to reporters during an understated appearance.
Said Z of LeBron’s decision to charter his own jet to make his old friend’s jersey ceremony (by way of the Cleveland Plain Dealer)
“But [James] being here is an added bonus for me because of what we’ve been through together. I consider him a dear friend, and we played so much, achieved so much, failed many times but also were successful a lot of times. For me, it would have been almost a detraction if he wasn’t here. Now that he was able to witness that made it so much more special.”
Nice use of “witness,” Z.
Ilgauskas overcame career-threatening foot injuries to become a two-time NBA All-Star as well as the Cavs’ franchise leader in rebounds, games played and blocks. He’s second on the scoring list, trailing only James.
Said Zee during the ceremony:
“You guys have been the main reason I kept getting back up after all the injuries and kept trying again. I loved coming here to work every day, no matter what our record was, and I miss that feeling of running out of that tunnel on this court every single day of my life.
“I love being part of this community. I love being part of this city. I just hope that you feel the same way about me. Thank you again for this incredible honor, and thank you again for giving me a place I can call proudly ‘home’.”
Great basketball player, but an even better human being.
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