Tomorrow evening, a new banner will be added to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena. Of course, this isn’t the championship banner that every Cleveland Cavaliers fan has been dreaming will one day be raised, but rather, is an opportunity to celebrate one of the greats in Cleveland basketball history.
On Saturday evening Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his No. 11 jersey honored by the team he played with for 13 years. Although he was never the transcendent player that a team can build around, the numbers and longevity speak for themselves. Ilgauskas ended his career as the longest serving Cavalier, the franchise leader in games played, and the leader in blocks as well. Not too shabby for the 20th overall selection in the 1996 NBA Draft. Early in his career, it would have been impossible to predict that he would’ve had this type of sustained success…or any success for that matter, as he was plagued by a series of lower body injuries.
He may have never been a star, but he was a consistently positive feature for a sports town that has had few to celebrate in recent years. Fans and former teammates will assuredly make tomorrow a meaningful evening, as Quicken Loans will be sold out after the Cavaliers have sold only 82.7 percent of their tickets to this point in the season. A sellout at this point in what might be a lost season is an incredible moment for the franchise, and it’s a great way to celebrate the man who we came to know as Big-Z.
But perhaps this night means more to the Cleveland Cavaliers and their fans than simply an evening to celebrate Ilgauskas. Reports have surfaced that LeBron James is planning on being in attendance to honor his former teammate. The two became close during their days in Cleveland, and LeBron played a role in recruiting Ilgauskas to join him in Miami as well.
His attendance and close relationship with Ilgauskas remains significant, and this hasn’t been lost on Miami. Rumors are swirling that Miami is unhappy about LeBron’s attendance in Cleveland and the opportunity it might give Zydrunas (now the Assistant GM of the Cavaliers) to interact with James…and perhaps even tamper a little.
Whether Miami’s concerns are legitimate, or completely off base, tomorrow should be a memorable night in Cleveland sports. And if Ilgauskas can play a (legal?) role in bringing LeBron back to Cleveland, fans can continue to celebrate his effects on the franchise for years to come.