One of the big subjects of talk around the NBA the past decade-plus has been LeBron James. LeBron breakfast, lunch, and afternoon charcuterie board. But it’s 5-foot-9 (on a good day) point guard Isaiah Thomas who’s been inspiring basketball fans with his refreshingly energetic, David-versus-Goliath brand of ball. Most remarkable isn’t his plethora of nifty passes or weaves between 7-foot defenders, but rather his unlikely climb to the top.
A three-time all-conference selection in the Pac-10 for the Washington Huskies (seemingly a short point guard factory, as they also produced sub 5-foot-9 former NBA dunk champion Nate Robinson), Isaiah gave up his senior year to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. There, he was chosen with the last pick in the draft (60th overall) by the Kings. Following three he’s-blossoming seasons in Sacramento during which he finished with 11.5, 13.9, and 20.3 points per game respectively, the young disher was dished to Phoenix.
In his one season with the Suns, Isaiah was defeatingly buried on a point guard heavy team that already featured Goran Tragic and Eric Bledsoe, yet still managed to finish with 15.2 points in 25.7 minutes per game (one measly start). Though we did get one amazingly awkward team photo during his Arizona year. In February of 2015, Thomas was traded to the Boston Celtics for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick (which turned into Skal Labissière, 28th overall).
In Bahston is where the potential of Isaiah Thomas is being fully realized, as 2017 NBA blocks leader Rudy Gobert has found out the hard way.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 4, 2017
Search engines often confuse Isaiah Thomas with Hall of Fame and epically failed Knicks coach-slash-executive Isiah Thomas, which it turns out is no coincidence. Per the Sports Illustrated vault..
In 1988 James Thomas, a Los Angeles native who had moved to Tacoma, Wash., bet a close friend that his beloved Lakers would once again beat the Pistons in the NBA Finals. The stakes? The name of James’s first son. But on Feb. 7, 1989—months before Isiah Thomas, no relation, would lead Detroit to a sweep of L.A. for the title—a boy arrived, and by then James had warmed to the idea of his very own Isiah. The baby’s mother, Tina Baldtrip, agreed to the christening only under one condition: that second, all-important a. “Spelled just like in the Bible,” notes Tina, who separated from James when Isaiah was very young. Of course, when her son went to South Kent (Conn.) School for his senior year to polish his grades and his game, hecklers chanted “We hate your dad!” anyway.
The confusion was forgivable. It turns out that Isaiah, like Isiah, is a hard-driving, high-scoring guard. That Isaiah, like Isiah, is small for his chosen craft. (Isiah stands 6’1″.) And that Isaiah, like Isiah, is something of a hardwood Napoleon: A finalist for both the Wooden Award and the Cousy Award (given to the nation’s top point guard), he may well have the biggest ego-to-height ratio in the country. (The more than 12,000 followers of his Twitter account, Isaiah_Thomas2, seem motivated equally by fandom and schadenfreude.)
Well, done James Thomas.
In March, the two-time NBA All-Star (2016, 2017) hit his 200th three-pointer to become only the third Celtics player ever to reach that mark (with Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce), and shattered Walker’s record of 222 with 245 to finish this year off in record style. He topped that off with his 2,000th point, making him the sixth player in Celtics history to reach that point.
The issue with the Boston Celtics remains their spread-thin nature. Stocked with solid, unselfish, hard-working players is great, but lacking any other scoring punch (other than Isaiah) hurts bad, as seen in their mediocre playoff battle with the Chicago Bulls. With the Bulls up 2-0 in the first-round series, the Celts are in trouble. As great as IT is, the 5-foot-9er can’t carry this team forever. One day 20-year-old Jaylen Brown may be ready to assist, but not yet.
Though with passes like this from their fearless point guard, they don’t need much help. Literally anything would be fine.
Not bringing in a true star to run alongside Thomas (i.e. Paul George) may end up hurting the Celtics more than we think, but while they’re still out their battling we’ll certainly enjoy every second of Isaiah Thomas and his true grit.
Even more impressive than his ability with a basketball is his undeniable fortitude. This was put on full display several days ago following the tragic death of his sister, Chyna Thomas, who was killed in a car accident. Isaiah Thomas, full of tears, went on to play because his team needed him and basketball had to be played. One can only imagine the emotions flying through Isaiah. All we can do is pay our respects and admire a man willing to stand up to adversity in such a manner.
— Valentin Costa (@ValentinCosta10) April 17, 2017
Isaiah Thomas, you are the hero the NBA will forever need.