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).