Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)
Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)
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If you ask the casual basketball fan, there are only a select few that are considered the best Cleveland Cavaliers of all time. Austin Carr, Brad Daugherty, Craig Ehlo, Mark Price and maybe even LeBron James may make that list, but when it comes to the most beloved Cavalier of all time, there is only one 7’3” Lithuanian that reigns supreme.
The Cleveland fan favorite, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, will be honored during halftime of tonight's Cavs game versus the New York Knicks by having his #11 jersey retired. Many Cavaliers have earned this honor in the past and rightfully so, but for the gentle giant that made himself apart of Cleveland, there is no other player more deserving than Big Z.
During his 16-seasons in the NBA, the Lithuanian averaged 13.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG and 1.6 Blocks Per Game. When looking at those numbers, you may think that Ilgauskas hasn't done enough statistically to earn the honor of getting his jersey retired, but when you were a fan favorite for as long as Big Z was, it has to do with much more than stats.
All Cavaliers fans alike loved Ilgauakas because he was the everyman's basketball player. Off of the court, Big Z kept to himself, but on the court, he let his play speak for itself, and fans respected that. Ilgauskas struggled with injury early in his NBA career, but he was never one to let his frustration show or bother him. Even with the injuries, the Cleveland staple still holds franchise records for most games played in during a career and also for the most blocks in a career. Ilgauskas was able to battle through countless setbacks and was the poster child for a "never quit" attitude and if you ask me, that's what made him and Cleveland such a perfect fit.
Cleveland is a hardworking city that comes from a blue-collared background and Big Z fit that mold. Ilgauskas went out every night, did his job and hardly ever complained about injuries, playing time or contract negotiations. This "blue-collared" Lithuanian gave the Cleveland community somebody to rally around and not only did they respect him for it, but they supported him each and every step of the way as well.
On behalf of 'Our Sports Report', we would like to congratulate Zydrunas Ilgauskas on earning this incredible honor from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Stars come and go and they even get replaced, but as for the city of Cleveland, there is only one Big Z and he will never be replaced.