Isaiah Thomas Pours Heart out in Player’s Tribune Farewell to Boston

Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

Isaiah Thomas said his farewell to Boston in an emotional way in the Player’s Tribune

If this doesn’t bring a tear to your eye, you’re not human; well, maybe you’re human, but you certainly don’t bleed green (and hey, good for you, that sounds like a serious medical…okay okay, onto the story).

Wednesday, the Player’s Tribune released a heartfelt article penned by Isaiah Thomas. The whole piece is available here.

In it, Thomas told the story of his phone call with Danny Ainge following the trade. He was just returning from a vacation with his wife, celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary, when he returned Ainge’s call.

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"….You know, just that normal sort of talk.And then somewhere in there, it was just like … it was barely anything. This little pause in the conversation. And that’s when he told me.“I just traded you.”Simple as that. No big words, no big speech. Though I guess when it comes to sh*t like that, there’s not much more to say."

From every indication, the trade came as a complete shock. Thomas didn’t seem to know that the trade was in the works, or even that his name was being tossed around in any kind of serious way.

"And that’s when, like — man. You ever been on the phone, and someone says something … and then all of a sudden, all you can think about after is, I don’t want to be on the phone anymore? Not even in a rude way. Just, like, your willpower to have a conversation shuts down. That’s what it was like for me in that moment."

Once Thomas recovered from the initial shock of the deal, he immediately thought of his two young sons. School was close to starting, and it seems as though they were just starting to get comfortable in Boston. They moved twice in under two years as Thomas bounced from the Kings to the Suns to the Celtics. According to him, the reaction of his sons perfectly encapsulated how he felt.

"One, as my oldest said it: “LeBron James!” Or put another way — I get to come over and join the best team in the East, and try to win a championship alongside the best basketball player in the world.And two, as my youngest said it: “Sad.” Or put another way — man, man, am I going to miss this city.Man, am I going to miss being a Celtic."

Thomas wrote that the trade hurt and still hurts, but emphasized that he didn’t feel wronged. Basketball is a business, and Danny Ainge made a business move. In fact, Thomas went so far as to say that the trade was a good lesson for the fans and the media, lamenting the vilification of Kevin Durant and hoping that the world will someday understand the business nature of basketball; “and remember that loyalty — it’s just a word.”

His pain, then, is not a feeling of betrayal as much as it is a pang for the city.

"And so when I say this hurts, man — just know that it isn’t because of anything anyone else did. It’s only because of something I did.I fell in love with Boston."

Thomas reminisced about his arrival in Boston. That team was not expected to make any noise, but wound up sneaking into the playoffs thanks, in part, to his breakout performance. He spoke with pride about defying the number-crunchers and the commentators looking forward to the lottery, and about Boston’s winning culture – which he no doubt lived and breathed.

When his sister Chyna passed away before round 1 of the playoffs, he expected to use basketball the way he always had – as a “shield”. His whole life, he always knew he could go to a basketball court and be okay, no matter what was happening. But it was different that night.

"I can’t even describe it. The applause that I got, I can still hear it. People had these signs they made, and I can still see them: THIS IS FOR CHYNA. WE <3 ISAIAH. That sort of thing. Then they did a moment of silence, the whole arena, in Chyna’s honor. And it was like … man. I just realized, in that moment, that I didn’t need the court to shield me. I didn’t need to block it all out, and pretend I wasn’t grieving. I didn’t have to be alone in this. The whole arena was right there with me. Honestly, it felt like the whole city of Boston was with me…And at that point, you know, I think it just kind of hit me, like — of course I’ve gotta play. First of all, I’m going to do it for Chyna, and for my family. But then I’m also going to do it for my city. ’Cause what they’re showing me right now, is all I needed tonight: to know I’m not alone."

Though he admits he’s still hurting from the trade, Thomas sounds excited to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He predicts (probably correctly) that he’ll have a whole new level of freedom with the defense keyed in on Lebron, and he praises what he calls a “stacked” roster, up and down. Though he recognizes that playing against the Celtics – the team he helped build up to tackle Cleveland – will be an emotional challenge, he understands what comes next. “I didn’t come to Cleveland to lose”.

Thomas had hoped he’d finish his career in Boston, perhaps putting his name in the pantheon of stars revered in the city. But he knows he left his mark, despite his career taking a different path than he anticipated.

"I’ll never be Tom Brady now. And I’ll never be David Ortiz. I’ll never be Bill Russell, or Paul Pierce, or Kevin Garnett, or Larry Bird. But whether I would have without this trade, or I wouldn’t have — I still like to imagine one thing.I like to imagine that sometime not long from now, somewhere in Boston, someone is going to be a parent, talking basketball to their kid. And their kid is going to ask them, point-blank like kids do, you know, “Yo — why you become a Celtics fan?”And that parent, man, they’re going to think back to themselves — really think on it. And then they’re going to smile, and tell the truth.“I saw Isaiah Thomas play.”That would make me very happy. For me, I think, that’d be enough."

There are too many amazing quotes in this piece – some insightful, some utterly heartbreaking – to include them all. Thomas was revered like a hero in his (cough) short time here, and did help build something special. If anything, this article makes abundantly clear that while Boston may be creating a borderline superteam, it is losing a beloved icon who loved the city right back.

And if you can do one thing to repay him, tell your kids 5, 10, 20 years from now about seeing him weave through double teams and finish over giants. Tell them about the bravado and the charisma. Tell them about him playing through unimaginable emotional pain and physical pain to boot. Do your part to ensure the legend of the Little Guy lives on.

Next: What About Al Horford

That is what he earned – and if the love so far is any indication, it’s what he will get.