This Saturday the Cleveland Cavaliers will be retiring the number of Zydrunas Ilgauskas. This sparked a debate on the Baskin & Phelps show on 92.3 The Fan Cleveland, what the criteria for retiring a player’s number should be.
Ilgauskas has had a what can be deemed a fairly stellar career in so far as Cavalier stats and history are concerned. He owns a number of team records, he has an Eastern Conference Championship, as well as being a multiple time All-Star.
There are of course two sides to the argument. The first side being that in order to even be considered for number retirement you need to have won at least one championship. Then all the other factors like his numbers, his status as fan favorite, whether he can be considered a future Hall of Famer come into play. The other side of the argument is that a championship certainly goes a long to getting your number retired but it isn’t absolutely neccesary.
In my humble opinion it really depends on wether you have played for a single team in your career or you have played on multiple teams throughout your career.
For example Mark Messier spent twelve seasons in Edmonton, twelve seasons with the Rangers and three seasons in Vancouver. His number was retired by both Edmonton and New York. With Wayne Gretzky at his side he won several Stanley Cups with the Oilers and as such not really a surprise that they retired his number. The Rangers on the other hand retired his number because of the 1994 Championship he won with the Rangers, their first in fifty four years. He wasn’t able to deliver another title. If he doesn’t deliver that title. I doubt the Rangers would have retired number 11.
On the other hand let us look at Barry Sanders. He played his entire ten year career with the Detroit Lions. They made it to the NFC Championship game just once in his ten years. The only time they made they were blown out by the Washington Redskins 55-10. They were generally no better then a wild card team for most of those ten years. He was also arguably the greatest running back to play the game. Yet the Detroit Lions retired his number 20 anyway.
One last note take Lebron James he won nothing in Cleveland and two titles in Miami, despite how great Lebron is because he is part of a ” Big Three”, I don’t see the Miami Heat retiring his number and I would be shocked if Cleveland chose too. The irony in that is astounding.
Should the Cavaliers retire number 11? The argument not to is understandable, but he has only played for one team his entire career and that I think makes all the difference in the world. So I say to all you Cavalier fans who want to bestow this honor on Zydrunas Ilguaskas, congratulations on a job well done.