Sometimes, being the most talented player isn’t what garners love and attention from a fanbase. Team success if far more vital, but sometimes so it the narrative surrounding it. That is what made former Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas’ run that much more special.
Though Kyrie Irving may now be a member of the Brooklyn Nets, he still has the attention of Boston Celtics fans heading into the 2019-20 NBA season. At this year’s media day presser, it came as no surprise that the six-time All-Star was asked about his tenure with New England’s favorite basketball franchise.
In doing so, he gave an in-depth explanation as to why things turned out the way they did during his two-year stint in green and white.
Though he brushed upon many reasons as to why the Boston Celtics never were able to live up to their lofty expectations, perhaps the most notable — and tangible — reason he provided was the death of his grandfather early on in the 2018-19 season.
Now, it is a delicate topic discussing how athletes, or anyone for that matter, responds to the death of a family member. Irving’s state of mind was obviously altered by the loss of someone so close to him and that likely impacted his play and mindset throughout the majority of the season.
In the end, how one copes with such a traumatic event is based on the individual. That’s what makes Isaiah Thomas‘ achievements following the death of his sister so incredible, and why Boston Celtics fans will always fondly remember the diminutive guard standing tall in some of the most thrilling playoff moments since the dawn of the “Big 3” era.
On April 15th, 2017, Thomas was informed that his sister was fatally injured in a car accident back in his home state of Washington. The next day, the Boston Celtics played in game one of their first round matchup against the Chicago Bulls where IT, flush with grief, recorded 33 points, six assists and six boards. Boston went on to win the series in six.
Though his performance against the Bulls was already a magnificent feat of courage, his second round showing against the Washington Wizards was simply one for the ages.
Just days after delivering his sister’s eulogy — and on what would have been her 23rd birthday — Thomas scorched the red-hot Wizards by dropping 53 points (second highest playoff point total in franchise history) in a grueling overtime victory in game two. When asked by David Aldridge as to where this outburst came from, Thomas simply replied: “It’s my sister.”
At the end of the day, Irving did what was best for him, however it’s hard not to look back and think what could have been. Thomas, on the other hand, left no stone unturned and converted his grief to greatness as he put on one of the best playoff performances in Boston Celtics history.
To Kyrie Irving, we sincerely send our condolences.
To Isaiah Thomas, we send our thanks!