words // Nick DePaula:
Even after coming out of nowhere as the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft to getting actual rotation minutes on the pro hardwood, Isaiah Thomas still wasn’t satisfied to just be amongst the 400 or so players that make up the Association. He wanted to be among the very best in the league, regardless of what his 5’9″, 185 pound might historically have allowed you to project.
After being traded to the Boston Celtics at the 2015 trade deadline, it didn’t take long for Thomas to make his presence felt, even if he’s undoubtedly the smallest player every single time he takes the court. He scored 20 points off the bench in his first Celtic outing, and by the following season, was carrying the team as the nightly starter.
“Every night that I play, I need to prove that I’m the best player on the court,” he now says all these years later.
That surging start with the Celtics eventually led to the very moment IT flipped the switch in his career, being named to the NBA’s All-Star Game in Toronto. On Draft night in 2011, Thomas was off working out in the gym, too nervous to watch the annual ceremony, as then-Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver announced his name just before the night’s festivities closed.
As the NBA on TNT was set to announce the All-Star Game’s reserves, once again Thomas couldn’t bear to watch. He told his agent to simply give him a call if there was good news.
“It’s like the draft all over,” Thomas said. “You don’t want to watch it.”
Not once, but twice now, Thomas has been selected to the All-Star Game, paving the way for his 4th quarter barrages and profile amongst the league’s best to grow beyond everyone’s expectations. Everyone except Isaiah’s, of course.
After the All-Star nods, he simply sat back — “I asked myself, ‘What can they say now?‘”
As the Celtics look to advance into the 2nd Round of this year’s NBA Playoffs, Thomas is once again helping to lead the charge, through an emotional and tolling month that included the passing of his younger sister Chyna. All playoffs long, Thomas has been wearing the Kobe AD, his 2017 All-Star Game sneakers, with handwritten inscriptions honoring his late sibling.
With even more than just his own aspirations fueling him through this spring’s postseason, once again it’s best not to count out Isaiah Thomas.
You can vote for IT’s Kobe AD in our playoff-themed Flip The Switch Bracket, crowning the Best Nike Basketball Sneaker of the modern era.
Toronto // 2016 NBA All-Star Game
New Orleans // 2017 NBA All-Star Game