Since the of summer of 2010, something explosive has been missing in Quicken Loans Arena where the Cleveland Cavaliers play and it is not what or who most people think. It is the electrifying chant of “Zzzz” that used to fill the arena every time Zydrunas Ilgauskas made a big play.
Ilgauskas played for the Cavaliers for 12 years and quickly became a fan favorite. The Cavs selected the seven-foot-three center from Lithuania with the 20th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft.
In his first ever game at just 21 years of age, Ilgauskas scored 16 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Cavaliers. This performance quickly raised the young center’s popularity among Cleveland sport fans.
On Saturday, March 8, when the Cavs play the New York Knicks, Ilgauskas’ jersey will be on display in Quicken Loans Arena once again. Cleveland will honor Ilgauskas by raising his number 11 jersey to the rafters.
Ilgauskas will become the seventh Cavalier to have his jersey retired. He will join Bobby Smith (1970-1979), Austin Carr (1971-1980), Nate Thurmond (1975-1977), Brad Daugherty (1986-1994), Mark Price (1986-1995), and Larry Nance (1988-1994).
Ilgauskas spent all but one of his 13 years in the NBA wearing a Cavs uniform. He played his final year in the league with friend LeBron James in Miami for the Heat. In 2012, former Cavs general manager Chris Grant brought Ilgauskas back to Cleveland as a scouting assistant.
Even when Ilgauskas left for Miami he maintained his beloved status among Cleveland fans. When he returned to Cleveland for the first time in an opposing uniform in 2010, the crowd still chanted “Zzzz.” Fans were not upset with Ilgauskas because of his relatively quiet exit from Cleveland. He also left on a good note by writing an Ad in the Cleveland Plain Dealer thanking the city and stating that Cleveland will always be his home.
Ilgauskas is not only just a fan favorite; he holds a lot of team records. He is the all-time leader in games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), blocks (1,269), and total rebounds (5,904). Ilgauskas also ranks second in points scored with 10,616 total points as a Cavalier.
The Cleveland big man was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 1998. In 2003 and 2005, he represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game.
The ceremony is coming at a great time for the organization. It will give Cleveland fans something to cheer about and distract them from their teams downfall and probable failure to maintain their preseason goal of making the playoffs.
It will also give Cavs fans an opportunity to show LeBron James, who will be in attendance, that all is forgiven and what can happen for him if he decides to come back to the city that once idolized him.
Saturday night will be a great night in Cleveland, where fans will finally have something exiting to celebrate with their basketball team.