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Mr. Irrelevant: The Isaiah Thomas Story

isaiah thomas career story

CHAPTER ONE: HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

Isaiah Jamar Thomas was born on February 7, 1989 to James Thomas and Tina Baldtrip. He grew up in Tacoma, Washington, a town of about 200,000 on the Puget Sound, just 32 miles south of Seattle. Despite his father and mother standing at 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-7 respectively, and he himself reaching just 5-foot-9, the story of how he got his name seems like he was destined to play basketball.

Thomas’ father, James Thomas, was a massive fan of the Los Angeles Lakers in the late 80s. When the Lakers faced off against the Detroit Pistons in the 1989 Finals, James made a bet with the friend that the Lakers would emerge victorious, or he would name his son after Pistons’ point guard Isiah Thomas. At the time, Isiah Thomas was one of the NBA’s best point guards as well as one of the most disliked players in the league. As part of the “Bad Boys” Pistons teams of the late 80s and early 90s, he was the sworn nemesis of Lakers fans everywhere.

Unfortunately for James Thomas, the Pistons swept the Lakers in four games to win the 1989 NBA championship. Luckily, James had already grown to like the name. James’ wife, Tina Baldtrip, consented to hold up the bet on the condition that they used the biblical spelling of Isaiah. Hence, Isaiah Thomas was born, with the large shoes of his Hall-of-Fame namesake to fill.

As a kid growing up in Tacoma, his father and mother affectionately referred to him as “Bighead” and “Zeke” (also the nickname of the Pistons’ superstar). He has been short relative to his peers since he was young and even tried to catalyze a growth spurt as a teenager using some non-traditional methods. Baldtrip, Thomas’ mother, was quoted as saying, “In my basement, he had one machine that was supposed to stretch him out and another machine so he could hang upside down,” in a 2017 Sports Illustrated Article.

isaiah thomas career story


Image courtesy of Bethel School District

Many NBA athletes are early athletic bloomers who develop far earlier and faster than their peers. Former NBA player Justin Anderson could dunk a basketball in-game when he was in fifth grade, and LeBron James’ son, Bronny James, had college scholarship offers before he was even a middle schooler. Isaiah Thomas was not among these prodigious athletes. Instead of growing early and having to navigate an early plateau of abilities, Thomas has had to deal with being one of the smallest players on the court since he picked up a basketball, a reality that undoubtedly imbued him with a chip on his shoulder and a drive to outwork those more physically gifted than he. As it is aptly written in his Sports Illustrated profile, “LITTLE MAN, BIG SHOTS”,

“He was not one of those kids who matured young and became dominant in sports, only to stall out and watch other boys catch up and pass him. In the third-grade class picture from Naches Trail Elementary School in Tacoma, Wash., he is smack in the middle of the second row, wearing a billowing, yellow Lakers’ baseball jersey that falls nearly to the floor, flanked by two girls taller than he is.”

As he grew older and more athletic, he began to compete with players much bigger than he was. His father, Keith, used to drive him all around Tacoma during middle school to play pickup basketball games against grown men at the local YMCA or other local community centers. He compensated for his lack of size with a fiery competitive spirit and relentless trash talk, something that most adult men did not appreciate when a 12-year-old was giving them buckets and being cocky while doing it. Thomas even told a story in the same Sports Illustrated piece about how he once had to call his father to pick him up from the YMCA because a group of grown men had waited outside to fight him after a particularly egregious thrashing at his hands.

As a high schooler, he was something of a local legend on the court and even played on a Portland-based AAU team with fellow northwest hooper and future NBA star Kevin Love. Years later when they had both made it to the NBA, this picture resurfaced and made rounds on social media. Hilariously enough, they later became teammates when Thomas was traded to Love’s Cleveland Cavaliers and recreated the picture at a team photoshop. The disparity between their heights is still just as jaw-dropping given they have the same job.

Like any future NBA player, Thomas was a phenom in high school and must-see entertainment for local Tacoma residents. He attended Curtis Senior High School in University Place, Washington where he regularly filled up gyms and dazzled with his performances. Opposing teams would often have to be brought through the back door into the gym because crowds were so large they blocked the main entrance. His 51-point performance in a loss against Franklin High in the state semifinals cemented his place in local basketball lore and even inspired Seattle Times writer Jayson Jenks to create an oral history of the event. As Jenks says in the tagline to the piece, “that game…is still central to his mythology.”

isaiah thomas career story
Image Courtesy of the Seattle Times

Since he was young, his size has given him a reason to feel like he had something to prove every time he stepped on the court. Thomas doesn’t just want to beat you down to a pulp, he wants people to watch him do it and talk smack the whole time. There is an anecdote from the Jenks piece that stands out, told by his former Curtis teammate Zeke Hill:

“Isaiah was a rebel. He’s very, very different. He wanted to stand out. Not that he didn’t stand out already, but he really wanted to stand out. We all got the same shoes, right? We knew if we wore red shoes we would get in trouble. But Isaiah was like, ‘Forget it.’ He wore them anyway. That was his personality.”

That brash and unbridled confidence might have come off as arrogant or even downright repulsive so some, but is necessary for someone who has had to prove themselves at every level of the game, no matter what kind of success they had at the previous level. In a game where height is considered king, doubting the shortest guy on the court comes pretty naturally to most who follow it.

isaiah thomas career story
Image courtesy of Jim Bates/The Seattle Times

He was a force to be reckoned with despite his size, and his domination of local opponents had caught the attention of The University of Washington’s basketball program and head coach Lorenzo Romar. On April 20th, 2006, he called a news briefing to announce his intention to sign with the University of Washington. But his success on the basketball court had facilitated indifference to academics and no deference towards authority.

His poor grades left him ineligible to receive an athletic scholarship from the Huskies, so it was recommended by Romar that Thomas transfer to South Kent High School across the country in Connecticut. At this all-boys private boarding school, students were expected to wear jackets and ties to every class, expectations that were not exactly congruous with Thomas’ personality. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he described the experience as “something I needed, and it was the best decision of my life,…but I hated it every day I was there.” While it might have been a crucible for the rebellious Thomas, it served him well. He averaged 31.2 points per game his senior year and graduated in 2008 with the academic eligibility to receive an NCAA athletic scholarship.

CHAPTER TWO: STEPPING STONES TO GREATNESS

isaiah thomas career story
Image Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

Thomas had been a fairly highly-touted high school prospect, but he was not a consensus blue-chip recruit. Only Rivals listed him as a four-star recruit, and he was 76th in ESPN’s top 100 recruits from his class.  Thomas arrived at a school with a coach who had coached many NBA players as a three-star recruit and something to prove yet again.

isaiah thomas career story
Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

Isaiah Thomas, the 5’9 guard from Tacoma, Washington, did nothing else but step into a starting guard role as a true freshman, and average 15.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game for a Huskies team that went 26-9 and finished 15th in the AP Final Poll. To make it even more impressive, the roster also featured future NBA players Justin Holiday, Quincy Pondexter, Justin Dentmon, and Jon Brockman. He was also named PAC-10 Freshman of the Year.

Although the team did not have the same collective success the next season, going 11-7 in conference play, they still went 26-10 overall and Thomas improved in every statistical category. He finished the year with per-game averages of 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists and was named first-team All-Pac-10.

The 2010-2011 season was Thomas’ time to shine. With the graduation of Quincy Pondexter, he was the undisputed alpha of this team, and Romar gave him full control of the reigns of the offense. He, predictably, had a stellar junior season, averaging 16.8 points, 6.1 assists, and 3.5 rebounds per game with huge improvements in his shooting efficiency across the board. He was one of the ten finalists for the Bob Cousy award, given to the nation’s best collegiate point guard, and was once again named first-team All-Pac-10.

The crowning jewel of his magical junior season, however, came in the Pac-10 championship game. Thomas had already had two stellar games in the first two rounds of the tournament, notching double-doubles with assists in both and tallying a 20-10 game in the first round. To the surprise of none who knew him, he saved his best for last. In the championship games versus Arizona with the country watching, Thomas dropped 28 points and seven assists on 10-16 shooting, including six 3-pointers. Most impressively of all though, he hit an overtime buzzer-beater to win it 77-75. He was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and to the All-Tournament Team.

On the strength of his junior season, he decided to declare for the 2011 NBA Draft. Once again, despite having a stellar college pedigree of consistent statistical output and a proven ability to win big games, his size earned him doubt from NBA scouts. He was taken with the last pick in the draft by the Sacramento Kings, earning him the dubious title of “Mr. Irrelevant,” given to the last pick in the drafts of major American sports leagues. Only one reporter interviewed him after he was picked, leading to the creation of an iconic photo that later went viral.

In a 2011 article for Uproxxthe fanfare around the Mr. Irrelevant title is aptly described:

Mr. Irrelevant is more of a story than a player. He’s a novelty item, a person to be celebrated but ultimately forgotten. It’s an accepted reality of being the last pick, because that’s what history has taught us. In truth, nothing separates these men from the hoards of undrafted prospects that try to scrap and claw their way onto NBA rosters. It’s a battle royale, and being drafted last provides little to no guarantee that you won’t be kicked to the curb…They retire from basketball at a young age, most likely unarmed with the tools to succeed in some other profession.

As the passage explains, most Mr. Irrelevants are nothing more than basketball misfits. Not much separates them from rookie free agents other than that they happened to sign a non-guaranteed contract a little earlier. The last Mr. Irrelevant to even be sem-relevant at the NBA level before Thomas was Don Reid, who played in the NBA for eight years and averaged 5.1 points per game in his best season.

Isaiah Jamar Thomas was no ordinary Mr. Irrelevant, however. Once again, his chips were down and he was being doubted for his height despite doing everything he could to prove himself at the previous level. There was no better candidate to rewrite the history book on the last pick in the draft than Isaiah Thomas.

CHAPTER THREE: PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

isaiah thomas career story
Image courtesy of Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports

Thomas was drafted to a Sacramento Kings franchise that at the time (and arguably still to this day) was inept at best and dysfunctional at worst. They had a strong stretch in the early 2000s where they had multiple 50-win seasons and rostered marquee players like Peja Stojakovic, Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Cutino Mobley. In the 2002 playoffs, they were even able to take the Kobe-Shaq Lakers to seven games in the Western Conference Finals, no small feat against a team many consider to be one of the greatest of all time. Following that stretch, however, was a period that has turned the Kings into a league-wide laughing stock. When Thomas arrived in Sacramento in the 2011 offseason, they had not won more than 38 games since 2007 and had averaged 22 wins over the previous three seasons.

On top of this, Thomas had to contend for playing time with fellow guards Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette. Evans was a former Rookie of the Year, 20 points per game scorer and the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft. Fredette had taken 50 picks before Thomas with the 10th pick in 2011. Needless to say, both were more natural candidates for extended minutes at the position than the 5’9 Thomas.

As the season went on and Fredette struggled, more opportunities began to come Thomas’ way. He ended up averaging 25.5 minutes a game by the end of the season and even started 37 of them. His rookie year averages of 11.2 points, 4.1 assists, and 37.9 percent shooting percentage on 3-pointers were good enough to earn him All-Rookie first-team honors and finish seventh in rookie of the year voting. He even became the first Mr. Irrelevant to ever win the Rookie of the Month award for February, in which he averaged 12.2 points and 4.4 assists. He won it once again in March when he averaged 13.6 points and 4.9 assists.

He also quickly became a fan favorite among the Kings community for his relentless competitive nature and his commitment to the city. Former NBA All-Star and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson invited him to a City Council meeting amidst discussions that the team might relocate to Seattle, and his presence at the meeting endeared him to many fans. It even inspired an article published on former Kings fan blog bleedblackandpurple.com titled “Isaiah Thomas Embodies Spirit of Sacramento.”

He was a bright spot in a bleak situation in Sacramento. They won just 22 games in his rookie year, and 28 games his second year. Despite this, he still managed to steadily improve, increasing his playing time and scoring average in his second year after head coach Keith Smart moved Tyreke Evans into an off-ball role and Fredette fell out of the rotation. As a third-year player, he moved into a starting role and excelled, averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists per game. That season he also made history in recording his first career triple-double in a March 18th overtime win against the Washington Wizards. His 24 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds made him the shortest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. The 2013-2014 season made him one of five players in NBA history under 6’0 tall to average 20 points and 6 assists per game in a season.

Unsurprisingly, the defensively bereft Kings were a poor team once again, winning just 28 games for the second straight season. Despite the poor state of the franchise, those involved in it had no questions about Thomas’ talent. When asked about Thomas in an interview, Kings’ assistant Pete Carril was quoted as saying “So damn fast, such a good shooter, I told him, whatever happens, don’t get tired of making shots.”

As he continued to develop as a player, it quickly became obvious that the Sacramento situation was not tenable for long-term success, given that he had three head coaches in three years. Following the 2013-2014 season, Thomas helped facilitate a sign-and-trade to the Phoenix Suns in which the Kings received the rights to Alex Oriakhi. His arrival in Phoenix symbolized the beginning of head coach Jeff Hornacek referred to as a “three-headed monster” of Thomas and fellow guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe.

isaiah thomas career story
Image courtesy of NBA.com

It was an unconventional experiment that was, as former Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins put it, “a small-ball experiment not even Mike D’Antoni dared to try.” However unorthodox this trio might have been though, it made more intuitive sense than most thought. Dragic and Thomas were both effective floor-spacers with their 3-point shooting, and Bledsoe’s 220-pound frame and twitchy athleticism gave him the defensive prowess to fill in the gaps. They were not overly successful, but still went 29-25 over 54 games to occupy the eighth playoff spot in a competitive Western Conference. Daniel Lubofsky of hoopshabit.com contextualizes the success of the team well when he writes:

“The trio managed 187 minutes of simultaneous playing time across 37 outings. As expected, Phoenix’s offense in those ranges would’ve ranked tops in the NBA with a pace of play that far exceeded the league-leading Golden State Warriors — 106.5 to 99.3. Equally predictable were the woes experienced at the defensive end with a rating worse than all but one other team.”

The union of these three was ultimately short-lived though, with Dragic being dealt to the Miami Heat ahead of the deadline to get a return on his contract before he became a free agent. Thomas, for reasons that are still not apparent, was simultaneously dealt to the Boston Celtics for a meager return of Marcus Thorton and the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 first-round pick.

CHAPTER FOUR: A NEW HOME

 

isaiah thomas career story
Isaiah Thomas at a pre-season press conference on September 28, 2016. Image courtesy Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

Thomas made his debut for the Boston Celtics three days after he was traded against the Los Angeles Lakers. He came off the bench in the 118-111 overtime loss and scored 21 points, and went on to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week in his first week with the team. In his 21-game stint with the Celtics to end the season, he averaged 19 points and 5.4 assists per game. Because he had exclusively come off the bench for his short stint in Boston and started just 1 of 46 games in Phoenix, he was eligible for the Sixth Man of the Year Award, but unfortunately finished with the second most votes behind the perpetual winner of the award Lou Williams.

Going into his second season with the Celtics, the departure of Rajon Rondo left a vacuum that needed to be filled at the point guard position, and Thomas was ready and ready to step into the role. He excelled in his second season with Boston, having his best year in the NBA statistically with averages of 22.2 points and 6.2 assists per game. Most importantly though, he contributed to meaningful basketball as the Celtics won 48 games and snagged the fifth seed in the eastern conference.

As always, Thomas was at his best when the lights were the brightest. When the Celtics went down 2-0 against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, Thomas responded with a career-high 42 point explosion. It was only the ninth 40-point performance in a playoff game in Celtics history. He went on to drop 28 in game four and even the series at 2-2.

Although they went on to lose the series 4-2, Thomas’ affinity for bright lights and big moments was apparent once again and his underdog mentality endeared him to the tough-nosed gritty Boston sports community.

After a strong end to the 2016 season and a small taste of playoff success, Thomas returned the next year ready to fire on all cylinders and take his game to the next level. He scored 20 or more points in each of the first 21 games of the season except one. He started and played in 76 games and averaged 28.9 points, 6.3 assists, and shot 37.9 percent on 8.5 3-point attempts per game. Despite the Celtics being the number one seed in the Eastern Conference at 53-29, Thomas somehow only came in 5th in MVP voting. His chances were greatly hampered by record-breaking seasons from Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

The 2017 postseason was the apex of everything he had accomplished up to this point in his basketball career. After a superb regular season, the whole city of Boston had rallied around Thomas and the young and scrappy Celtics. The blue-collar city always loves an underdog, and it is hard to think of someone better to fill the role. Despite the anticipatory lead-up to the playoffs for Boston, things would not stay sunshine and rainbows for Thomas personally.

A day before Boston’s first-round series against the Chicago Bulls, Thomas learned that his sister, Chyna Thomas, had died in a motorcycle accident outside his native Tacoma, Washington. Despite the visible emotional toll it took on him, he played the whole series nonetheless. In his sister’s eulogy following the conclusion of the series, he said of the experience:

“When I found out the news I wanted to give up and quit, and never in my life have I ever thought about quitting. I realized quitting isn’t an option. That’s the easy way out. I will keep going for my sister as I know she wouldn’t want me to stop. I love you Chyna and I miss you so much. And everything I do for the rest of my life will be for you. I love you, girl.”

Despite falling down 2-0 to start the series against the Chicago Bulls, the Celtics rallied to win four straight games and win the series 4-2. Thomas started the playoffs hot, with two series high 33 point games. He may have shot just 20 percent (9-45) on 3-pointers in the series, but still managed to average 23 points per game on 43 percent shooting from the field. It was clear he could have a monster series if he got his outside shooting on track.

Thomas and the Celtics’ second-round opponent was the Washington Wizards, who had been a perpetual laughingstock for most of their existence save for the early days of the franchise and Michael Jordan’s two measly seasons in the early 2000s. In recent years, however, their fortunes had been changing. They had spent top-three picks on John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Otto Porter in 2010, 2012, and 2013 respectively, and slowly turned the franchise around. They had won at least 41 games in every regular season since 2013-2014 and with a star backcourt duo of Wall and Beal, they were not a team anyone was looking forward to playing. Making the matchup even more interesting was a feud from earlier in the season between Wall and Celtics’ forward Jae Crowder, who had to be separated during an altercation following a January regular-season game. Washington made their thoughts on the C’s clear when they wore all black to a regular-season game against Boston a few weeks later, to symbolize a funeral.

isaiah thomas career story
Image courtesy of USA TODAY Sports

Thomas returned from his sister’s funeral just in time to play in game one of the series. He started it out with a bang, dropping 33 points and 9 assists in the 123-111 win. Early in the first quarter, he had a tooth knocked out of his mouth and sustained damage to his jaw due to an errant elbow to the face by Otto Porter. Thomas nonchalantly found and pocketed the tooth and still managed to stay in the game for two more minutes and hit two 3-pointers before being pulled for medical attention.

He underwent emergency surgery to temporarily repair his mouth, but he predictably insisted on continuing to play. In the second game of the series, Thomas made history by dropping 53 points in a 129-119 overtime win. In typical fashion, he scored 29 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime. It was the second-most points in a playoff game by any Celtic and only the fifth 50-point game in the franchise’s storied history. Only John Havlicek ever had more points in a playoff game in a Celtics’ uniform. It was a truly awe-inspiring performance, especially in the wake of all the adversity he had experienced in the playoffs thus far.

The Wizards ended up bringing the series back and tying it 3-3, with one win being secured by an absurdly clutch game-winning 3-pointer from John Wall. The shot carried a bit of extra bitterness, as the Celtics had tried to get under Washington’s skin ahead of game six by copying their all-black pregame look. The Celtics would get their revenge in game seven though with a 115-105 win to end the Wizards’ season. All in all, Thomas averaged 27.4 points and 7.1 assists per game for the series on nuclear shooting percentages. His virtuoso performance against the rival Wizards had cemented his place in Boston sports lore.

The manic high of playoff success quickly disappeared. Thomas seriously exacerbated a hip injury he had suffered in a March game against the MinnesotaTimberwolves and was shut down for the remainder of the playoffs. Boston was without Thomas after the first two games, and LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers disposed of them in five games. In retrospect, this was the beginning of the end.

CHAPTER FIVE: FALL FROM GRACE

Former Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has taken flack over the years for his somewhat disposable treatment of players. His trading of fan-favorite players like Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Rajon Rondo left many fans with a sour taste in their mouth, as they felt like there was a component of loyalty missing from his handling of their situations. This sentiment was certainly reinforced in the minds of many Celtics fans following his subsequent handling of the Isaiah Thomas situation.

Following the 2017 season, the Boston Celtics traded Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and an unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for Kyrie Irving. At the time, it was a puzzling move for both teams. Irving had hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history just two seasons prior and helped the Cavaliers win the 2016 NBA Finals, and Thomas had just cemented himself as one of the best players in the league the season before. Thomas was still rehabbing the hip injury at the time, and when the Cavaliers performed their post-trade physical examination of Thomas, they became concerned with its severity. A source even told Jason Lloyd of The Athletic that, “he is dealing with more than just a tear. Some of those secondary issues in the hip he has played with for years now, such as a loss of cartilage and some arthritis, are complicating his healing process.” The Celtics were forced to send the Cavaliers an additional 2020 second-round pick for not fully disclosing full details of the injury.

He returned to action on January 2nd with the Cavaliers and scored 17 points in 19 minutes on decent efficiency. As the season continued though, it quickly became evident that Thomas was not the same. The Cavaliers realized it too, as they dealt him to the Los Angeles Lakers a little over a month after his season debut for the team. This was the beginning of the journeyman period that has come to characterize Thomas’ recent NBA career. Since the 2016-2017 season with the Celtics, Thomas has played for the Cavaliers, Lakers, Nuggets, Wizards, and Pelicans. His best stretch during this period came in 2019-2020 when he was able to latch on with the Wizards for 40 games and averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists per game on 41.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers.

isaiah thomas career story
Image courtesy of David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

While the nominal, surface-level statistics painted him as a decent role player, a dive into advanced analytics or even just a simple eye-test from watching a Wizards game made it clear for all to see that he had been sapped of much of the explosiveness that made him the player he once was. He was an absolute sieve on defense, and his -3.9 defensive box plus-minus would have easily been the worst in the league if he had played enough games to qualify for the leaderboard. Additionally, his 40 percent shooting on 2-pointers was evident of a point guard who could no longer consistently beat defenders off the dribble.

Thomas was traded from the Wizards about halfway through the season as a throwaway component of a deal with the Los Angeles Clippers but was waived one day later. He played three games for the New Orleans Pelicans the following season on a 10-day contract but was not resigned and has not played in the NBA since. He has made it clear he wants to return to the NBA and has even expressed that he would play overseas to make it happen. It appears the phone is just not ringing anymore.

When asked about how he felt Boston handled the injury, Thomas was quoted as saying, “The only thing that I think they handled wrong was not explaining to me what the extent of my injury could be if I do play. That was the biggest thing for me that I disliked. ‘Cause nobody gave me no insight, ‘OK, you do play, this can happen.'” in an episode of Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes’ All the Smoke podcast. This information coupled with the worrying post-trade physical examination by the Cavaliers paints a picture in which the Boston Celtics were largely dishonest with everyone they dealt with.

When Anthony Davis was the subject of trade rumors during the 2018-2019 season, his father Anthony Davis Sr. was quoted in an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelbourne saying about the Boston Celtics, “I would never want my son to play for Boston after what they done to Isaiah Thomas, no loyalty. Guy gives his heart and soul and they traded him…I’ve just seen things over the years with Boston, and there’s no loyalty.” The younger Davis ended up signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2019 offseason, and it appears the Celtics organization’s callous disregard for the human component of team sports has sullied their reputation among the league’s stars. Kyrie Irving did not stick around for very long either, he left in free agency in 2019 after two seasons in Boston.

At every level of competition, Isaiah Thomas defied the odds and always gave everything he had. That kind of dedication to greatness can be difficult to be around, but his loyalty to those who gave him opportunities was never in question. Even today Thomas says he holds no grudge towards the Celtics’ organization. He played through tragic personal loss and injuries that would make many players balk and quit, and gave Boston every last bit of what he had in the tank. But when it was time for that commitment to be reciprocated, they cast him off as a commodity. Isaiah Thomas never gave anyone anything but good reasons to believe in him, its a shame Mr. Ainge only saw a pawn on a chessboard.

All statistics courtesy of ESPN and Pro-Basketball-Reference.

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