Zydrunas Ilgauskas Thanks Fans in Sunday Morning Ad

Over the course of the LeBron James era, Zydrunas Ilgauskas was likely the fan base’s most beloved Cavalier.  His perseverance through chronic and career-threatening foot problems to become an all-star caliber center made him a fan favorite in this town.  It also helped that he had spent his entire career here and grew up in front of us at Gund Arena shortly after his arrival from Lithuania.  He always seemed to understand his place in the community and was happy to come of age in Cleveland.  Brian Windhorst extolled his off-the-court gestures and reputation as his inbox was flooded with notes of appreciation when Z was dealt at the deadline this past February.  His class and awareness of his standing in the community were on display again today.  Big Z took out an ad in this morning’s Sunday Plain Dealer and expressed his appreciation for Cleveland and Cavaliers’ fans while also asking for understanding going forward as he plays out his career elsewhere.

Dear Cleveland,

When I came to this country 14 years ago, I was a young man who barely spoke the language and had no idea what to expect of this great country.

As I look back on those early days, I realize how lucky I was to have grown up in a place like Cleveland.  All of you have taught me the importance of family and friends; of pulling together to get things done; of loving your country.

I’ve never felt as proud as when I’ve pulled on the wine and gold and stepped onto the court.

I’ve tried my best to return that support by playing as hard as I could each and every game.

The decision to play for Miami was not an easy one to make for either myself or my family.

But as I enter the last few years of my career, I felt I owed it to myself and my family to chase my dream of winning an NBA championship.

I hope you understand.

I also hope you realize that Cleveland will always be home to me.

With love and appreciation,

Zydrunas “Z” Ilgauskas

Some have been angered by Z for picking Miami as the destination to “take his talents.” Rick wrote an exceptional piece last month on Z and loyalty that is worth revisiting.  His decision to join the Heat presents an obvious conflict for sports fans in Northeast Ohio.  I think most of us wish him well and would like to see him succeed.  The desire to see his team fail and fail miserably, however, would seem to outweigh any personal feelings towards Z.  That is an unfortunate conflict but certainly understandable.  The note is a classy gesture and one that will certainly ensure that the bridge between Z and Cleveland fans remains strong as opposed to conflagration set by his Heat teammate this summer.

(Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

  • Kunal

    I’m so conflicted because I love Z as I know everyone else here does too and believe he deserves a championship more than anybody else in the NBA, and I would be very happy for him the day he does reach that goal, I would just HATE HATE HATE to see the Heat win it

  • AcrossTheField

    I wish Z the best individually, however I hope his team is a flaming trainwreck. I also hope that he is greeted with a loud ovation upon his return to the Q.

    Lebron and Wade on the other hand… have at em.

  • EZ

    I don’t choose to think of Z as the most loved figure of the Lebron James era. I choose to think of Lebron James as the most disappointing figure of the Zydrunas Ilgauskas era.

  • if only MIA would trade Z mid-season to the Lakers, or Boston, or Chicago…. and one of these teams take MIA out in the playoffs and goes on to win a ring. If only. (as much I don’t care for those teams either, heh)

    Z deserves a ring. Be he’s the only one on the cHeat that does.

    Maybe when the cHeat come to Cleveland, there will be a moment, during a time-out, where the announcer prompts a “welcome-back” cheer for ol’ Z. He deserves that as well.

  • meant to say “BUT he’s the only…..”

  • wiino

    it’s not the Heat, it’s the humility

  • ron345678

    dgriff13 – i don’t get why would you call the Heat the cHeat? what did they cheat in? am not a fan of that team but i saw no cheating in what they did.

  • AMC

    VERY classy move by Z. I have no-ill will towards him whatsoever, and would welcome him back to Cleveland if he chooses to return as a member of the organization or just a resident. As long as he plays for the Heat though, I’ll be rooting against him.

  • LeBronedict Arnold

    I hate the whole Heat organization following their thievery, but I do think it would be swell for LeBron to get hurt a week before the playoffs and the Heat go on to win a championship for Z without an ounce of contribution from LBJ. That will truly make his first ring with the Heat what it really is – easily sought and not truly earned.

  • I’m with you Bronedict. I would love to see bron go down with a busted ACL in like the third week of the season and have the Heat go on too win it all on the backs of D-Wade and Bosh so that Z can get his ring. Z has been my favorite cavs (except for maybe Brother Red) for a long time. The way I see it, if the Heat do win a championship with a healthy LeBron at least we can say “At least Z got his ring…” It’s like a consolation prize – The heat winning would only suck like 65% instead of the 100% it would suck without Z there.

  • CleFanVA

    Am I the only one who actually feels a little bit of ill will towards Z? I mean, I still love the guy and always will, but his decision to join LeBron in Miami is one stain on an otherwise stellar record. But, it is a stain nonetheless, IMO.

  • S-Dub

    What a class act. Z won’t turn his back on CLE the way LeBron or CC did. CC acts like he never even played here now. I know that I will give Z my own standing ovation, even if no one else will. Yes, he was paid extremely large amounts of money for not much playing time. But, he deserves to have that #11 hanging in our rafters the day after he retires. He was always team first and put his interests second. He will always be loved, by me at least.

    That being said, I hope the Heat fail miserably.

  • saggy

    Z is classy, no doubt.

    But screw him for leaving. He is now the enemy. All of you always talk about playing (and cheering) for the name on the front of the jersey. Well, guess what? Z has “HEAT” on the front of his jersey now, so screw him.

    When he retires I will still love him; but just a little less than I would have if he never played in Miami.

  • mgbode

    we weren’t resigning Z. why would you blame a player and hate him for wanting to continue his career when it was obvious we weren’t resigning him?

    he chose the Heat, which hurts. takes a bit out of it and I don’t want to see #6 jump up into his arms next season, but still a completely different situation.

  • doug1121

    I have no hard feelings toward Z…he’s at the end of his career and wants a ring. Miami gives him that chance…unfortunately I cannot root for the Heat even w/ my respect for Z as a person. That said I hope he gets a standing O during his first time on court at the Q…it’s gonna be an ugly night otherwise, so it’ll be good for Clevelnad to show their love for a player who actually deserves it, and bring hell (within reason) to the player who does not.

  • Ike

    I love Z and have but I never EVER want to see the Heat win a championship.

    As a sidenote, how can you hate Z for going to Miami when the Cavs traded him at the trade deadline? He’s past the point of owing Cleveland anything, the PD page included. But, as usual, Ilgauskas exhibited his class, took the higher road, and did the PD thing.

  • Gren (not Glen)

    Retire Z’s number at the Cavs/Heat game anyone ?

  • Chris

    @#16: Come on, man. Z, the fans, the wizards all knew and all were on board with the trade, buyout, resign deal. They just can’t say it due to NBA rules. Z, I’m sure, has no hard feelings about that. The man made more money off of the deal, helped the team, and got a 30 day mid-season vacation.

    @Z: Cleveland loves you, and you’ll always be welcome back. We understand why you left and thank you for doing it with class and treating the fans with dignity and respect. I hope that LeBron, Wade, and Bosh all get hurt and you single handedly pull the team through the playoffs and to a championship.

  • Chris

    @#17 god I hope so

  • mgbode

    i feel you don’t retire a players number until he retires.

    Z deserves a full day of ceremonies and everything that goes around the number retirement which he wouldn’t have while playing. doing a number retirement this year would be more a slap at #6 then an accolade to Z. Z deserves better.

  • Shasta

    If only LeQuit had the class leaving the way Z did he would not be sooooooooooo hated. We will miss Big Z, wishing him and his family health. Just cant wish him that ring, Not in Cheat land…..with that, Bye Big Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

  • Nate Keys

    Watch, LeBron will probably come off the bench the same time Z does so the Cavs fans will have to choose between booing LeBron or cheering Z. LeBron did something similar for Andy Verejao in the 2008 season. Andy heldout into November, and in his first game back, LeBron came off the bench to cancel out the boos with cheers.

    Seems like a slimy thing he would do.

  • Mark

    #11 should definitely get retired at that game. Get Z some recognition, from some real fans, in front of Lebron’s face, and in front of a national audience. Maybe some people will remember what sports should be.

    And I have no idea how anyone in Cleveland could be upset at Z for leaving. I feel like he’s a part of my family. Cleveland should/has nothing but love for that man. Him leaving is for a ring, but don’t forget it was the best thing for the team, too.

    Don’t worry, I hate Lebron with a passion. But players and people like Z are more important than Lebron will ever be.

  • Ike


    I don’t care if they all knew what the deal was, the Cavs still traded Z when they knew there was a chance he might not come back. And then you throw in the bonehead move Mike Brown pulled with Z on the verge of the all-time games played record; the guy has taken all of CLE’S BS in stride and still kept it classy. He doesn’t owe Cleveland ANYTHING.

    At the end of the day, if any Cavs fans holds something against Z for going to Miami, then they should be ashamed. That’s the crux of what I’m trying to say.

  • Ike

    And I’m a diehard Cleveland sports fan and have nothing but 100000% love for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Would your opinion of him really have changed if he hadn’t done the newspaper gesture? I hope not..

  • CleFanVA

    @ 24 – It isn’t about “owing” Cleveland anything. It’s just that he has to know that signing with LeBron in Miami would bother us. He did it anyway, as is his right. But, he has to accept that some Cavs fans might be a little disappointed in him. So, IMO, it is still a spot on his otherwise stainless record. I still love the guy, but this is the one thing that counts against him in my mind.

  • MattyFos

    Yeah we traded Z, Z got worked by Dwight Howard in the ECF the season before. So, we signed Shaq. We had an opportunity to get the stretch four that the team “needed” so we traded Z to get that player. I do appreciate Z, I love his loyalty, even though we over paid for his services. I love how Z wrote a letter to the fans. It’s a classy move Z would make. Because he knows he spent the majority of his career playing for the same fans since his rookie year.
    But, Z is a bum. I know people on here will hate to hear it, but his skills are diminished beyond recognition. The Heat, and the NBA, saw how Z gets worked by Dwight Howard. But, the Heat go and sign Z anyways. It doesn’t make sense.
    I will not root for Z to get a ring. I will actually root against his ring ventures. This season I will be rooting for Kobe to get ring number 6. I’ll be rooting for Boston’s big three to win more more to ride into the sunset. I’ll be rooting for Shaq to get ring number 6, wherever he ends up.
    But Z decided to go play in Miami with #6.

  • architrance

    I gotsta believe the only reason he signed there is to keep the puppets together.

    *Nike runs the world.

  • St. McDuck

    That was classy. Z is all class. I find it really hard to believe that Z and “LeBro” are from the same planet.

  • DP

    I’ll be rooting for Shaq to get ring number 6, wherever he ends up.

    What, are they going to give him TWO rings if he wins one this year?

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