Cavs Plan To Retire Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ Number Eleven

Kyrie Irving is in Shanghai, China right now as part of Nike’s Festival of Sports along with a collection of Nike endorsed athletes including LeBron James, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, and others.  As part of the tour, Kyrie and company are getting involved with the Chinese fans by running them through some basketball camp style drills, hanging out with them, signing autographs, as well as simply sitting down for question and answer sessions talking all things hoops.  There may be more to this tour technically, but this much I’ve been able to gather.  I did notice some skateboarding clinics too, but I didn’t quite understand that part so I chose not to mention it.  While on the trip overseas, Irving is also scheduled to take in an exhibition game played by his former Duke team in Bejing as well.  So it’s good to see he’s staying busy in positive ways like this for sure while the NBA doors are barred shut.

It’s also good to hear that the Cavaliers may soon be retiring Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ number eleven jersey as well.  Kyrie kinda mentioned that the Cavs might be doing just that in one of those Q and A sessions yesterday discussing the topic of which number he plans to wear whenever the season does eventually start.

When asked about his jersey number, Kyrie Irving said that he initially wanted to wear the number eleven, but that the Cavs have plans to retire the No. 11 jersey worn by Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Kyrie is wearing the No. 15 in his Twitter background picture for the moment, but he told the Chinese audience that he eventually settled on selecting the No. 2 as a result of 11 being unavailable.  

The following is a google translated excerpt of that conversation from

“Kyrie Irving and Tyson Chandler came to Shanghai today, and in dialogue with the Tiger fans, Irving also revealed a message: Cavs team to retire, “Big Z”, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, No. 11 jersey! Irving said that he wanted to wear No. 11 for the Cavaliers, but because the Cavs are to retire Big Z’s No. 11 jersey, he would have to chose a different number.  Irving said he would have then wore the No. 1, the same number he wore at Duke, however Daniel Gibson has been wearing jersey No. 1.  So in the end, he chose the No. 2.”

The fact that Irving seemingly doesn’t care at all that the first two jersey numbers he wanted to wear were unavailable shouldn’t be simply dismissed in this day and age either.  He was the number one pick overall, and if he wanted either 11 or 1 badly enough he could have eventually gotten either one of those numbers.  I like how he just played the whole thing cool though, and said alright then, I’ll wear No. 2.  That’s a good sign of the type of person he is, I think, even if it seems like a trivial thing to some people.

Getting back to the retirement of Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ jersey though, the list of Cavaliers who he’d be joining up in the Quicken Loans rafters for all of eternity includes Bingo Smith, Larry Nance, Mark Price, Austin Carr, Nate Thurmond, and Brad Daugherty.  Joe Tait is also up in the rafters too obviously, and Z would then become then the 7th player and 8th person overall to be honored in this capacity.  And I’ll say this of Big Z: he deserves the honor, he was a good dude, a good player, and it will be cool to see his jersey hanging up there for sure.  He wasn’t as good as Larry Nance, Mark Price, or Brad Daugherty though in my opinion.  I never saw Bingo Smith, Austin Carr, or Nate Thurmond really play during there careers because I’m not old enough, so I can’t really speak to how he compares with those guys, but I guess it doesn’t matter.

Z’s number 11 will be retired shortly, and I also hope that whoever the Cavs draft in the 1st round 20 years from now doesn’t want to wear the No. 2 because Kyrie Irving’s going up next – Prediction!

Photo: Oakland Press

Brendan Bowers

About Brendan Bowers

I am the founding editor of I am also a content strategist and social media manager with Electronic Merchant Systems in Cleveland. My work has been published in SLAM Magazine, KICKS Magazine, The Locker Room Magazine,,, and elsewhere. I've also written a lot of articles that have been published here.