Zydrunas Ilgauskas Retires: 11 Best Moments of His Cleveland Cavaliers Career
Since announcing his retirement, many games come to mind in his long and productive career. In honor of No. 11, I've attempted to compile a list of the 11 best moments of Z's time with the Cavaliers, having 12 seasons of games to choose from.
Z had an impressive start to his career in a loss to the Houston Rockets back in October of 1997.
Starting at center right from the beginning, Z played 35 minutes en route to a 16 point, 16 rebound, two block performance.
Also worth noting, in the game, eight of his 16 rebounds were on the offensive end, a stat that he excelled in almost as good as anyone over the last decade in the NBA.
Career High in Points vs. Pacers
Z had many stat-stuffer nights in his time in Cleveland, but a few games stand out in particular.
In this particular game against Indiana Z went off for not only 35 points, but 18 rebounds as well in what is arguably the greatest statistical performance of his career.
2005 All Star Game
Z was an All Star twice in his career, the first time in 2003 and the second in 2005.
In the '03 classic he didn't see a lot of playing time, only registering four minutes and one shot attempt.
In '05 however, Z had a game to remember.
In just 17 minutes, Ilgauskas finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in helping lead the East to a 125-115 win over the West.
Z was never one to want the spotlight on him, but for his performance that night, he most certainly deserved it.
Career High Rebounds vs. Suns
In a game against the Phoenix Suns in 2002 Ilgauskas had a career night on the glass.
Grabbing six offensive and 16 defensive rebounds en route to a 22 board performance, Z set what would be his highest total in his 13-year career.
Z Lights It Up from Deep
Z was always an outstanding jump shooting big man, but it wasn't until the end of his career where he really added a three point shot to his repertoire.
One game that always stood out to me was a contest in 2009 against the Sacramento Kings. Z connected from deep not once, not twice, but three times to finish with 25 points in a Cavaliers win over a scrappy Kings team.
Despite the number of three-pointers hit in an everyday NBA game, there's just something special about seeing one from a 7'3'' individual.
All-Time Leader in Rebounds
December 9th, 2008 represented another milestone night for Big Z.
In a win over the Toronto Raptors that saw the Cavaliers improve to 18-3, Ilgauskas became the franchise leader for career rebounds.
For the game Z finished with 13 boards, moving him past Brad Daugherty with 5,227 for his career.
Z later told reporters: "It's been a long road, I cherish it. When I'm done playing it'll be one of the top moments I remember."
I guess that means it qualifies as one now.
2007 NBA Finals Game 3
The 2007 NBA Finals weren't exactly ideal for Cleveland, but they did see some great performances from certain players.
In Game 3 in Cleveland, Z had his best game of the series, registering 12 points and 18 rebounds.
Overall the series wasn't a pretty one, but Z's stat line that night sure was.
February 18th, 2010.
This became the first day in nearly 13 years that Zydrunas Ilgauskas was no longer a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers organization.
In a three team trade that was highlighted by Antawn Jamison coming to Cleveland, Z was dealt to the Wizards in a deal that was made to free up cap space for Washington and hopefully bring the Cavs the final piece they needed for a championship.
I can't imagine the thought process Danny Ferry was going through at the time. Trade a franchise staple, someone you personally played with for the Cavs, just to try to win a few more games?
It had to have been a tough call, and one that ultimately worked out because of what happened next.
Return to the Cavaliers
After Z was traded to Washington, it was obvious he wasn't happy being used as a trade chip after spending so much time in Cleveland.
Instead of signing with any team immediately, Z decided to wait the mandated 30 days to return to his old team in an incredible act of loyalty.
In honor of his return, Cleveland had a notable Z-influenced introduction and received a well deserved reception from the fans.
Fred McLeod says it best around the 3:05 mark.
All-Time Leader in Games Played
On December 2nd, 2009 Z passed Danny Ferry as the franchise leader for most games played in the teams 40-year history.
It was a special night all around as Z actually led the team in scoring with 14 points in an all-around great game for Cleveland, as they beat the Phoenix Suns 107-90 at Quicken Loans Arena.
Z told reporters after the game about the ovation he received: “That was one of the coolest things I have experienced in my life and also the closest I have come to tears on the basketball floor.”
A Career Full of Memories
For memorable moment No. 11, I wanted to end with something special to recap everything Ilgauskas has meant to the Cavaliers organization and the city of Cleveland in general.
When I discovered this video, I knew it was the right way to finish. Enjoy.