After an early report from the Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced Monday night that they will retire the number 11 jersey of center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who played 12 seasons for the Wine & Gold. He retired after the 2010-2011 season after spending a season with the Miami Heat. In 2012, the seven-foot Lithuanian joined the Cavaliers front office as a special general manager assistant to GM Chris Grant.
Grant had this to say in a statement released via cavs.com: “”Zydrunas represents the very best of how any sports franchise would hope to be represented,” said Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant. “He was a hard working competitor who persevered, was dedicated, inspiring, and was a great teammate. As good as he was on the court, he was just as good off the court and in our community. Everyone that knows Z also knows that he is a kind-hearted, fun-loving and honorable person. He has been a colleague, mentor and friend to many people in the Cavaliers family and we are extremely happy and grateful that he was, is,and always will be a Cleveland Cavalier. His jersey hanging in The Q will be a permanent reflection of all that he has meant to the entire organization and Cleveland.”
Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert had this to say about Ilgasukas, via cavs.com: “”Zydrunas Ilgauskas is not only one of the best basketball players to ever wear a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform, he is also one of the finest human beings that has ever been associated with the franchise. ‘Z’s numbers and productivity are clear evidence of his basketball success. What is more impressive about this gentle giant is the authentic concern and interest he displayed for not only his teammates, but for everybody who worked at the Cavaliers and for the loyal fans who supported him throughout and after his playing days. Z carried himself in a manner that positively impacted the fans and community that serves as the gold standard for all professional athletes. I am proud that the big fellah’s jersey is being retired and will hang forever in the rafters of The Q”.
The 20th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft overcame foot injuries that almost NBA career to have a productive career. For his career, Ilgauskas averaged 13.0 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game and was a two-time NBA All-Star. He retired as the all time franchise leader in games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), total rebounds (5,904) and blocks (1,269). He also is the second leading scorer in franchise history with 10,616 points.
Ilgauskas’s jersey will be retired at the March 8th game against the New York Knicks. Tickets for the game will go on sale on December 7th at 10 am. He will join Mark Price, Bingo Smith, Larry Nance, Austin Carr, Brad Daugherty and Nate Thurmond as Cavaliers who have their jerseys hung in the rafters.
The 38 year old had this to say about his jersey retirement, also via cavs.com: “I am happy and humbled by this great honor. Cleveland and the Cavaliers have been such a huge part of my life and it will be a very special and proud day for me and my family,” said Ilgauskas. “I want to thank the Cavaliers and fans alike because I have been very fortunate to play here, work here and call Cleveland home.”