This Saturday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers will retire the number of long time center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a player who overcame some major foot problems to make two all-star teams and was a starter on the only squad in franchise history to make the NBA Finals.
Unfortunately, the hanging of #11 from the rafters in being overshadowed by word that LeBron James is going to show up to honor his long time teammate.
Ilgauskas invited him, as is his prerogative, as a group of select people he wanted to share the evening with.
And it does say a lot about James that he would take time away from the NBA grind to be there for his friend. The Heat does play on Friday night and has Saturday and Sunday off, and really he could benefit from the time off.
Still, no matter what happens Saturday, Cleveland is going to come out a loser.
James has said he will not appear on the court, so the chances of a public booing of him are slim.’
But fans will know he is in the building.
Our city’s network nemesis, ESPN, has already started the discussion talking about whether or not he will be greeted with derision, and if that occurs, to be sure they will break out the jersey burning footage they have close at hand in their archives.
In all seriousness, why shouldn’t he be booed? He not only left the team, near where he grew up, to go play elsewhere, and he put together a network television show to do it.
Why would anyone in Cleveland ever forget that?
It’s kind of weird that anyone would question why that kind of animosity exists here. Of course, there isn’t really anything to compare it to, because it hasn’t happened before.
If James wasn’t booed, the four letter network would probably spin it that the fans are getting their hopes up that James will return to the Cavaliers as a free agent after this season, and color the town as desperate to bow down to “The King”.
And just by showing up, a number of the “he’s coming back” brigade will return to the forefront, proclaiming his presence as an indicator he is thinking about coming back to Cleveland, and those same people will say that since Ilgauskas works in the Cavs’ front office and he and James are friendly, this surely means that he will be back playing at The Q as a member of the home team in 2014-15.
Or it could just mean that the league’s best player wants to honor a man he played with here for a long time. Remember, when the Cavaliers clinched their first spot in the Finals, the man who LBJ immediately sought out and hugged was Ilgauskas.
Regardless, James’ appearance does two things: It rips the scab off the healing that has been done since he departed for Miami, and it gets people to have the crazy hope that he will return to the wine and gold next season.
For what it’s worth, we think he will play for the Cavaliers someday, but probably as a guy in his late 30’s to finish his career.
The worst part of it all is that Ilgauskas’ ceremony is taking the backseat. He deserves an honor (although we question the whole jersey retirement) because he played more games for the Cavs than anyone else.