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Milestone ball no big deal for Ilgauskas

THE case of the missing basketball has taken a heartwarming bounce.

The ball Cleveland Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas used to score his 10,000th point in the National Basketball Association turned up in the hands of a local youngster who left with it after it was thrown into the seats at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, following a March 21 game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Ilgauskas, who hit the 10,000-mark early in the first quarter, was hoping to find the ball and keep it as a memento. There was even an outcry for its return by some local media outlets.

The eight-year-old boy's mother contacted the Cavaliers to say her son had the ball and wanted to return it. But the 2.21-meter Ilgauskas, as gentle a giant as there is in the NBA, told the youngster to keep it as a souvenir.

"I felt bad for him," Ilgauskas said. "He took an uncalled for beating for it in the last couple of days. For me, it was more about the journey and not the ball. I want him to have peace with it. I don't need the ball."

Ilgauskas, who played in his 700th career NBA game on Tuesday against the Detroit Pistons, wasn't sure how the ball wound up in the seats to begin with. But the Lithuanian didn't criticize the youngster for wanting to hang on to it when it fell into his hands.

"I would have taken it home, too. He just walked out. There are 20,000 fans walking out of the building. They don't do a strip search. I hope not."


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