Zydrunas Ilgauskas

by Sam from North Canton

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My hero is Zydrunas Ilgauskas, a current player for the NBA basketball team Cleveland Cavaliers. He has played with the Cavaliers for his entire 11-year career. Ilgauskas or nicknamed by fans, Z, has become one of the city of Cleveland, Ohio’s greatest sports heroes of all time. He has survived numerous foot injuries over his career. In 1999, after another injury, Ilgauskas had a choice, have an experimental surgery on his left foot or retire with around $70 million dollars.

Ilgauskas is a hero because he never gave up after getting his first injury to his right foot in 1996, the year he was drafted. He came back to play in the 1997-1998 season and was considered a top rookie. During the 1998-1999 season, Ilgauskas injured his left foot. He then missed two years sidelined with his injury. In 1999, Ilgauskas decided to have an experimental foot surgery. The procedure happened on January 26, 2000 and fixed his fractured navicular bone in his left foot. During the 2000 season, the Cavaliers were off to a great start winning 15 of the first 23 games of the season but Ilgauskas injured his foot again. The Cavaliers never recovered and finished the year 30-52 without Ilgauskas. He came back to play the next season but was used mostly as a backup so his feet could heal but he could still play. In the 2002-2003 season, Ilgauskas had his best year since his rookie year. He made the All-Star team and averaged 17 points and 7 rebounds. The Cavaliers did not follow Ilgauskas’s success and finished with the third worst record in team history 17-65. The next year, the Cavaliers drafted LeBron James with the first pick in the 2003 draft. After the following season Ilgauskas has stayed relatively healthy execpt for some bumps and bruises. After the 2005-2006 season the Cavaliers have been in the playoffs every year fighting to bring a championship to Cleveland. During the 2009-2010 season Ilgauskas was traded to the Washington Wizards for Antawn Jamison. Ilgauskas then had his contract bought out by the Wizards and became a free agent. He was able to choose between going back to Cleveland after 30 days per league rules or sign with any other team in the league immediately. He chose to come back to Cleveland and the team is currently in the playoffs.

Ilgauskas fits three key points in the definition of a hero. He is a role model for many people for many different reasons, but he influences his two sons who he and his wife Jennifer, who he married in 2004, adopted from his hometown Kaunas, Lithuania. He adopted them so he and his wife could have children who they could help have better lives. He is also hardworking because after every injury, he works hard and eventually returns to the court. The NBA season lasts for 6 months every year and traveling from state to state or sometimes coast to coast can be very tough on a person’s body. Ilgauskas is the team leader in games played as a Cavalier. He is also the leader in rebounds and blocked shots. He is a very dependable player who plays his heart out every night running up and down the court.

Ilgauskas has shown me that no matter how many times you get hurt and have surgery you can come back and be productive. Do not quit and take the easy way out of doing things. Ilgauskas said when he returned to Cleveland after getting traded "If I would've left and the team won a championship without me, I don't think I could've ever forgave myself."

Page created on 5/5/2010 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/5/2010 12:00:00 AM

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