Isaiah Thomas has been ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs.
Isaiah’s ascension, from the new guy to THE LITTLE GUY, the 5’9” folk hero that took Boston, and then the entire NBA by storm made for one of the memorable seasons anybody has played in a Celtics uniform. It’s nearly unthinkable that he was acquired for Marcus Thornton and a draft pick. Sorry, Marcus, you’re that guy in the story.
What Thomas did in just over two years feels like what Paul Pierce had done in his first eight. Pierce made his mark as an elite player and reached similar heights even before winning his only championship in 2008, but it never felt like he did it overnight. Pierce had to edge out Antoine Walker as Boston’s true star player, he had to mature as a person and as an athlete, and even as a perennial All-Star, he had to keep fans convinced that he can play at a championship level.
Isaiah Thomas silenced most of his doubters in less than one calendar year.
His presence as a true Celtic rippled through the NBA immediately, as he was ejected in his debut against the Lakers, in Los Angeles. Boston is a brotherhood, as they say, and it’s safe to assume anybody who wants to beat LA so badly that they get thrown out over a travel call will be admitted without question.
Once he was in the door, Isaiah emptied his pockets onto the TD Garden’s parquet. Swagger. Toughness. Finesse. Leadership. Charisma. Even when it seemed like had nothing more to offer, he gave us even more. He gave us hope. Like, totally unjustifiably high levels of hope. But hope nonetheless.
Is Isaiah Thomas a superstar? It’s a question that’s had sports talk show hosts squabbling at each other throughout the season, bringing us to an unofficial census on today’s true superstars - LeBron James, James Harden, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook, in some order. Those guys rest for a game, everybody loses their minds. Other players rest and nobody bats an eye. Allow me to make a counterpoint: Isaiah was in the conversation, wasn’t he?
Regardless, the impact Thomas has made in such a short span of time is immeasurable. He gave the Celtics an identity again - the kings of the fourth quarter. He opened the record books back up, by scoring 20 or more points in 43 consecutive games, by scoring 29 out of his Miami Heat-cooling 52 in the fourth quarter, by making the Celtics the youngest number one seed in NBA history. He put together what many of us will consider the gutsiest playoff performance we’ve ever seen. With a broken heart and a busted face, Thomas helped recover a 2-0 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against Chicago and outdid himself with a 53 point performance in his late sister’s birthday against Washington in round two. He finished his first ever Game 7 with 29 points and a dozen assists while John Wall ran out of steam, claiming a second round victory over Washington.
What do the critics have left to say now?
Isaiah Thomas is too short for the NBA
He’s a 6th man instant offense guy at best
The Celtics are a first round exit even with Horford
You can’t contend with 5’9” guy as your best player
And look how far he’s made it, the Eastern Conference Finals. Sure, it all amounted to the Celtics getting absolutely thrashed by one of the five greatest players to ever pick up a basketball, but they’re in good company. Let’s take a good look at the NBA’s Final Four one last time - the dazzling Golden State Warriors, LeBron’s coasting Cavalier squad, the eternally consistent San Antonio Spurs, and the rebuilding Boston Celtics.
Thank you, Isaiah, for this journey. I don’t look forward to the end, but I’m excited to see where it goes.