LeBron: 'Special' time in Cleveland

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CHICAGO -- LeBron James simply wanted to support his friend, so the Miami Heat star found himself back in his old stomping grounds.

James couldn't pass up the opportunity to show his support for Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He was back in Cleveland as the Cavaliers retired his longtime teammate's No. 11 jersey Saturday.

"It was special, a special time for 'Z,' and I'm happy I was able to be a part of it," the four-time MVP said before Sunday's game against the Bulls in Chicago.

James spent thousands to charter a plane for the ceremony and kept a rather low profile, staying close to the Cavaliers' bench and taking pictures with his phone. It was a surreal sight, given the circumstances surrounding his departure to Miami four years ago -- his decision and owner Dan Gilbert's infuriated letter in response.

James' relationship with the organization has improved in recent years, with former general manager Chris Grant doing all he could to mend it on both sides before getting fired a month ago. And with Ilgauskas being honored, James wanted to be there.

"He was one constant teammate I had over the years, one constant friend that I had as far as this profession," he said. "You can't really get those times back. I felt like for me to be there for eight of his years, being a good friend, there was no way I was going to miss it if I had an opportunity to [attend]."

James was invited to the ceremony by Ilgauskas, with whom he played seven seasons with in Cleveland and one in Miami.

Earlier Saturday, James posted a tribute to Ilgauskas on his Instagram account, writing "words can't express how happy I am" for his former teammate.

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