Cavaliers to Commemorate the Big Z

Published on 05-Mar-2014 by Towner Park
Basketball - NBA / NBA Daily Review

Fitting. In more ways than one.

Finally, a welcoming smile can make a short cameo at Cleveland's Quicken Loan Arena.

And naturally, controversy buzzing around LeBron James is making more headlines than the actual event itself.

The Cavaliers organization has had a perpetual headache ever since James decided to "take his talents to South Beach" and join two perennial All-Stars, which now have made three consecutive NBA final appearances.

That would be two more than the Cavs have.

This time, LeBron wants to return to Cleveland -- as a widely publicized spectator -- to witness his former teammate and "dear friend" Žydrunas Ilgauskas. He's better known as 'Big Z' to the Cavalier fanbase, and he's having his No 11 jersey retired on Saturday 8 March.

James hopes his appearance won't dilute the momentous occasion for Ilgauskas, who certainly deserves this type of recognition.

And after being drafted in 1996, the lumbering Lithuanian has been an epitome of the word perseverance. After overcoming a slew of potentially dehabilitating foot injuries, Big Z eventually became the all-time leader in games played for Cleveland. He passed former Cleveland great and general manager, Danny Ferry, to earn the honor.

His twelve years of servitude included two NBA All-Star games and one NBA Finals appearance. For the record, he did play in another NBA finals when he was recruited by James to join his All-Star unit in Miami but failed in 2010 to win the NBA title when Miami was dismantled by the fiesty Mavericks. 

Regardless of his short stint with Miami, Ilgauskas certainly made a name for himself within the Cavalier's organization. Even after he retired to spend more time with his family, Ilgauskas returned to assist Chris Grant, Cleveland's current General Manager, with assessing NBA prospects.

As evidenced by his scoring 10,000+ points for Cleveland, Ilgauskas was a formidable force on the court. Although slow-footed, he had a remarkable mid-range game for a man who stood 7-3. Although soft-spoken, Big Z was by far one of the leaders on the court for the Cavs during his tenure. He even took LeBron under his wing during and after James's rookie campaign.

Hopefully, 8 March will be a night to remember for Ilgauskas and Ilgauskas only.

But then again, 'Kings' tend to overshadow anyone who was once a part of their court.

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