Since the Cleveland Cavaliers were established in 1970, they've made five NBA Finals trips and won one championship. The Cavs have retired seven jersey numbers throughout their time and have had some very exciting teams in the smaller market that Cleveland is.

Cavs history will always be tied to the legacy of LeBron James, but who are some of the other all-time great Cavs players?

As we've done with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and more, we ranked the top 10 greatest Cavs.


10. Anderson Varejão

Anderson Varejão played 13 seasons with the Cavs, appearing in 596 games, mostly between 2004 and 2016. He eventually returned to the Cavs on a 10-day contract in 2021 so that he could retire with the team.

Varejão didn't rack up many accolades; he was a 2010 All-Defensive Second Team selection, but he was a consistent veteran presence for the Cavs year after year.

Unfortunately, Varejão was traded just months before the 2016 playoffs and then waived by the Portland Trail Blazers. Not only did he miss out on becoming an NBA champion as part of the Cavs' iconic 3-1 comeback against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals, but he actually signed with the Warriors before the playoffs.

He became the only player to play for both Finals teams in the same season. The Cavs offered Varejão a championship ring for his contribution to the team earlier in the season, which is standard practice. Varejão declined, as he played for the Cavs' opponent in the Finals.


9. Kevin Love

Kevin Love was the most difficult player on the list to rank. Should he be on it at all? Should he be higher for his role in the Cavs' 2016 title run and their four consecutive Finals appearances?

Love came to Cleveland as one of the best power forwards and rebounders in the entire NBA, following his stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He assumed a smaller role behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, but he was still the clear-cut third option on the team and added some quality production.

Love ended up playing 8.5 seasons with the Cavs and was a two-time All-Star. He averaged just over 16 points in his Cleveland career.

Given the length of his time in Cleveland, Love could easily be higher on this list, depending on how much stock you put into his contribution to the Cavs' title run. It was known as a “Big Three,” but Love's impact wasn't always felt the same way a multiple time All-Star's impact is felt.

The other reason Love lands here is because the prime of his career was in Minnesota. He had two seasons on the Timberwolves averaging over 26 points per game. Love is more of a Timberwolf (Timberwolve?) than a Cavalier in my eyes.


8. Bingo Smith

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Bobby “Bingo” Smith played 10 seasons for the Cavs in the 70s, averaging over 13 points through 720 games. He helped the 1975-76 team to its first playoff berth, divisional championship and playoff series win in franchise history. The Cavs' Eastern Conference Semifinal victory over the Washington Bullets became known in Ohio as the Miracle of Richfield, as the Cavs won three of the seven games on last-second shots.

That team ultimately lost to the Boston Celtics in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, but it was a legendary moment in Cleveland sports history.

Smith never made an All-Star team, but his jersey, No. 7, is retired by the Cavs.


7. Austin Carr

Austin Carr was another key contributor for the Cavs in the 70s, and a member of that same 1976 playoff team with Bingo Smith. Carr averaged just under 12 points per game in that playoff run. He averaged 16.2 points per game in his regular season career in Cleveland.

Carr was an elite college basketball player, and the Cavs drafted him first overall in 1971. He made the All-Rookie First Team and was an All-Star in 1974.

Carr's jersey, No. 34, is retired by the Cavs.


6. Larry Nance Sr.

Larry Nance Sr. arrived in Cleveland via trade in the midst of the 1987-88 season. He proved to a compatible running mate alongside Mark Price and Brad Daugherty. Those Cleveland teams in the late 80s and early 90s had potential and made it to one Eastern Conference Finals. However, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had other plans.

Nance played seven seasons with the Cavs and made two All-Star appearances. He averaged over 16 points and eight rebounds, along with 2.5 blocks, in his Cavs tenure.

Nance was also selected to three All-Defensive teams for his rim protecting efforts. He was a high-flyer and an exciting player to watch. Unfortunately, his career was cut short by knee injuries, and he retired following the 1994 season.

Nance's son, Larry Nance Jr., also played for the Cavs for 3+ seasons and went to the NBA Finals in 2018 with LeBron James. Nance Jr. also participated in the 2018 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, coming in second place. Nance Sr. won the NBA's first dunk contest back in 1984.

His jersey, No. 22, is retired by the Cavs.


5. Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Zydrunas “Big Z” Ilgauskas spent 14 years with the Cavs, the most of any player in the franchise's history. At 7-foot-3, the Lithuanian was aptly nicknamed. Big Z was a two-time All-Star and averaged double digits in scoring in every season he played in Cleveland, and he was a starter for most of his time with the team.

In his rookie year, Ilgauskas played in all 82 regular season games (81 starts) and averaged 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds, earning an All-Rookie First Team selection in 1998.

Ilgauskas once topped the list of most games played with the Cavs, but LeBron James eventually surpassed him, despite spending less time in Cleveland. Ilgauskas missed two full seasons and the majority of two others with injuries.

His jersey, No. 11, is retired by the Cavs. At the time, he was just the third European to have his jersey retired by an NBA team.


4. Brad Daugherty

Brad Daugherty spent his whole NBA career with the Cavs. He technically was on the team for 10 seasons, but was only able to play in eight. He sat out the final two seasons of his career with back injuries that forced him into an early retirement. At the time of his retirement, he was the Cavs' all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

In those eight seasons on the floor, however, Daugherty was a five-time All-Star and averaged 19 points and 9.5 rebounds. He averaged a double-double for the final four seasons of his career.

The Cavs selected Daugherty with the first overall pick in the 1986 draft, and he immediately made an impact. Daugherty made the All-Rookie First Team and was an All-Star by his second year.

He was a model of consistency on the Mark-Price-led Cavs playoffs teams alongside guys like Ron Harper and John “Hot Rod” Williams, who would be honorable mentions on this list.

Daugherty's jersey, No. 43, is retired by the Cavs.


3. Mark Price

Mark Price was the greatest Cavs legend before LeBron James came along. In nine seasons with the Cavs, he was a four-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA selection. He averaged 16.4 points and 7.2 assists in his career in Cleveland. He's also one of just 10 players in the NBA's 50-40-90 club and the second player to ever achieve the feat, after Larry Bird.

At just 5-foot-11 with limited athleticism, Price relied on pure skill and an elite shooting touch to be effective. He shot 40% from three-point territory throughout his entire NBA career.

Price led the Cavs to the playoffs almost every year during his prime, but unfortunately, those teams kept running into Michael Jordan's Bulls.

Price's jersey, No. 25, is retired by the Cavs.


2. Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving's contributions to the Cavs' only championship are more important than anything anyone not named LeBron James has done for the Cavs franchise. Irving was the missing piece that James never had in his first go-around in Cleveland. Though he spent less time in Cleveland than Mark Price, and he may not be remembered as fondly, Irving was the better player and achieved more for the Cavs on the biggest stages than Price ever did.

Irving's ball-handling, scoring and clutch play helped the Cavs reach three NBA Finals and win the iconic 2016 title vs. the Warriors. His game-winning three in the final minute of Game 7 will never be forgotten.

The Cavs drafted Irving first overall in 2011, and he won the Rookie of the Year award. He played six seasons for Cleveland and was a four-time All-Star. He averaged 21.6 points and 5.5 assists in his time with the Cavs.

Kyrie Irving also has the best chance of anyone on the list (besides LeBron) of making it to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.


1. LeBron James

Okay, LeBron James is obviously the best and greatest player in Cavs history. He will always be loved in Cleveland for bringing the city its first championship in 2016.

Over two stints, James played 11 seasons with the Cavs. He won one championship, one NBA Finals MVP, two regular season MVPs, the 2004 Rookie of the Year award, one scoring title, and he earned 10 All-Star selections, 10 All-NBA selections, two All-Defensive selections. He's the franchise leader in points, assists, rebounds, steals, and three-pointers.

Even if James had never returned to Cleveland and brought the city a championship, he would still be No. 1 on this list. The Cavs have never had another MVP and rarely have had perennial All-Stars. James carried the franchise to its first NBA Finals appearance in 2007 with a mediocre roster. Even in his early years with the Cavs, James brought Cleveland more success than the organization ever had before.