Mon Aug 22 06:45pm EDT
In the summer of 2010, one of the best players on the Cleveland Cavaliers left the team to join the Miami Heat. He did so because he thought playing with superior players would give him a better chance to win a championship. Then, when the two teams were heading in opposite directions in December, he said that he did not feel bad for his former employers and teammates.
That man was long-time Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas(notes), a player still universally beloved in Cleveland. So much, in fact, that they are probably going to retire his jersey. From LithuaniaBasketball.com (via PBT):
Cleveland Cavaliers are planning to honor Zydrunas Ilgauskas by retiring the player's jersey. This came to light on Kyrie Irving's,(notes) Cavs number one pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, trip in China, when the guard admitted that he wanted to choose number 11, but was told that the number was going to be retired.
Ilgauskas will become the seventh Cavalier to be honored by having his jersey hung in the rafters of the Quicken Loans Arena and will join Bingo Smith, Larry Nance, Mark Price, Austin Carr, Nate Thurmond and Brad Daugherty.
Whoops, Kyrie Irving just leaked one of the Cavs' big announcements for their next season. Maybe Dan Gilbert will counter by discounting the price of his Fathead to $19.46, the year Karen Silkwood was born.
Congrats to Big Z, who is one of the best big men in Cavs history. He's also one of the few 7-footers in NBA history to undergo several major foot surgeries and actually become more dependable after the fact. At 7-3, Ilgauskas stands at a height where any foot or back problem becomes a career-long issue. It's a marvel that he was able to become the franchise's career leader in games played.
He also stands for loyalty to a franchise that feels pretty strongly about that quality these days. And while the degree of Ilgauskas's love for Cleveland may be overstated, he's deserving of this honor. Let's just hope that, when it does happen, he's championed for his contributions on the court rather than held up as a symbol of an imagined lost nobility in the sport.