Lithuanian NBA star adopts two boys

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 28 2009 05:57 PM | Updated as of Aug 29 2009 01:57 AM

VILNIUS - Lithuanian NBA star Zydrunas Ilgauskas has adopted two orphaned boys in his homeland, the Baltic News Service reported Friday.

BNS said the 34-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers centre and his wife Jennifer had completed adoption procedures and left Lithuania Thursday with the two youngsters.

The boys, aged three and four, had been brought up in an orphanage in Kaunas, Lithuania's second city and Ilgauskas's hometown.

The 2.21-metre (seven-foot three-inch) Ilgauskas, who is nicknamed "Big Z", was the first Lithuanian to play in the NBA finals in 2007.

He joined the Cavaliers as a rookie in 1996, two years after his professional debut for Kaunas's club Atletas.

He enjoys iconic status in Lithuania, a country of 3.3 million where basketball is the top sport -- so much so that it is often nicknamed "the second religion" after Roman Catholicism.

Lithuania are multiple European champions and regular Olympic medalists.