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Zydrunas Ilgauskas Retires: 11 Best Moments of His Cleveland Cavaliers Career

Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterOctober 5, 2011

Zydrunas Ilgauskas Retires: 11 Best Moments of His Cleveland Cavaliers Career

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    Zydrunas Ilgauskas will go down in history as one of the greatest Cavaliers of all-time. 

    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.

First Game

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    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

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    Z had many stat-stuffer nights in his time in Cleveland, but a few games stand out in particular.

    Twice in his career, Z put up a high of 35 points, once in 2003 against the Magic and another time in 2004 against the Pacers.

    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

The Trade

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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