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LeBron James admitted he failed a special teammate -"I wanted to ultimately win a championship for him. I fell a little short of that"

No matter how many more titles LeBron wins, it wouldn’t change a thing in his friendship with “Big Z.”
LeBron James admitted he failed a special teammate

LeBron James & Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Before LeBron James became the face of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team relied primarily on the versatility of the 7-foot-3 Lithuanian skyscraper Zydrunas Ilgauskas. For six consecutive years, Cleveland fans rooted for Ilgauskas to make the Cavs great again, but the lack of extra firepower made it impossible for “Big Z” to help the team win games. In 2003, James arrived, and the Cavs thought they had finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But for Ilgauskas, he didn’t only find hope. He also found a true friend.

A special friendship

Having grown tired of losing, Ilgauskas said he “saw a ray of sunlight” in James and was convinced that the Cavs could finally accomplish something with the help of a teenage phenom.

"I thought if this kid can really turn into something we can move this needle finally and go forward,” Ilgauskas said of James in 2014 via

While Ilgauskas acknowledged the fact that an “African American kid from inner city Akron and an Eastern European not even from this country” epitomized “all the cultural differences,” he still felt comfortable with James, and he considered the youngster a friend from the get-go. Apparently, LeBron felt the same way too.

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"He meant everything to me,” James said of Ilgauskas. “When you come in as a rookie you try to find a leader, that veteran, that guy who's been around to learn the ropes from. He taught me how to be a professional on and off the floor. That's something you cannot ever take for granted. He was everything to me…From Day One, I knew he was going to be a guy I would always be with.''

The King failed

After four years of spearheading the Cavaliers’ arduous journey back to prominence, Ilgauskas and James’ hard work finally paid off. The kid had grown into a king, leading Cleveland to its first NBA Finals appearance. However, James and the Cavs were obliterated by the way more experienced San Antonio Spurs squad.

In 2010, LeBron and Ilgauskas moved on from Cleveland, joined the Miami Heat, and found themselves making it to the Finals once again, only to suffer another championship loss in the hands of the well-rounded group of the Dallas Mavericks.

Ilgauskas retired after that season, while James went on and won his first NBA title the following year. While he rarely talked about it, LeBron felt bad for failing to give “Big Z” a championship which he also deserved.

"I wanted to try my best to try to help him [Ilgauskas] see more brighter days than what he had seen,'' James confessed. "I wanted to ultimately win a championship for him. I fell a little short of that, but I brought some brighter moments to him.''

Ilgauskas may have never won a championship, but as a true friend, he’s happy with how James’ took off. And no matter how many more titles LeBron wins, it wouldn’t change a thing in his friendship with “Big Z.”

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