Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Isaiah Thomas relieves 53-point performance in 2017 playoffs, his arrival in Boston

Isaiah Thomas was one of the most beloved athletes to ever arrive in Boston during his two and a half years in the city. Reliving his best memories with the Celtics, Thomas joined the View From the Rafters Podcast featuring Marc D'Amico and Sean Grande.

Traded to the Celtics at 2015 NBA trade deadline, Thomas instantly became a fan favorite in Boston which started only two days after his debut on the road against the arch nemesis Los Angeles Lakers -- in a game he was ejected. After a 118-111 loss, Thomas didn't know what to expect from C's fans after getting ejected in his first game with the team. 

Bryan Doo, a former team strength coach, welcomed Thomas in the locker room with a smile on his face after his debut.

"That's the energy and attitude that the city of Boston loves," said Doo. Thomas didn't quite understand what he was referring to as he believed his showing that night ultimately hurt the team's chances of beating the Lakers in his debut.

That quickly changed in his home debut at TD Garden against the New York Knicks, where he was welcomed with open arms from the city.
"That day forward, when I had my first game -- I think a few days after that in the Garden. I understood what he was speaking of," said Thomas thinking back to his conversation in the locker room with Doo in Los Angeles. 
Thomas quickly felt the love from fans as soon as he checked in for the first time off the bench.
"I had a standing ovation where I was subbed into the game and I had never even played a game in Boston," said Thomas.
Doo wasn't the only one who knew how the city would perceive him. Danny Ainge, who pulled off the trade for Thomas with the Phoenix Suns knew the fans would embrace him from the moment he stepped into the building.
"It was day one. I remember flying to Boston, meeting with Danny, taking my physical and things like that. He was just telling me like man, this city is gonna fall in love with you," said Thomas. 
That love would be on full display during one of the toughest moments in his life in 2017, when his sister Chyna tragically passed away the day before the Celtics would host the Chicago Bulls in Game 1 of the East quarterfinals. Still processing the difficult news, Thomas had little time to shift his focus to the two upcoming home games. In a difficult place mentally, Thomas gave credit to those around him for helping him work through the challenges he was facing.
"First two games, physically I was there, mentally I was like back at home. I wasn't there. So I thank my teammates first and foremost for sticking it with me. Being so respectful of everything that was going on," said Thomas.
His teammates weren't the only ones who stuck by him through a mentally draining part of his life. The fans and the city of Boston all joined collectively to give him the support he needed.
"I think that's a big reason why the city also fell in love with me because not only did my team go through this situation with me. The whole city went through this situation with me. I was able to continue to play games and continue to fight through what I was going through but I was going through it with a whole entire state -- a whole entire region," said Thomas. "A whole entire fanbase that loves Celtics basketball. So I think that's a big reason why the city loves me as well because we went through something that was so tragic and made something out of it for those two months."
That kind of support from both his teammates and the city of Boston helped Thomas fight through the rest of the series, and into the next series against the Washington Wizards -- which would help cement his legacy in Boston.

After putting up 33 points in a 123-111 victory in Game 1 of the East semifinals, Thomas followed it up with what would be arguably the best game of his career in front of the fans that lifted him up in his darkest days. On his sister's birthday, there was plenty of emotion for him on a day he would honor her. In a game that Thomas remembers vividly, Thomas was so locked in he didn’t realize what was going on around him.
"Every shot, every time I touched the ball it didn't matter who was on me, who was guarding me -- they were guarding me with two or three guys at moments of the game. I wasn't even seeing anything. When I look back at it, every moment it felt like I got bigger and bigger. Every possession. And when I was doing it, it was like I was there by myself. I didn't see the fans going crazy. I didn't see my teammates going crazy on the bench," said Thomas looking back at his special night.
In scoring a career-high 53 points, Thomas felt unstoppable -- which he later explained felt like he was in the gym by himself, just working on his moves. It also reminded him of some other great memories he had with his sister -- just the two of them playing basketball together.

The Celtics would go on to win the game thanks to his 29 points alone in the fourth quarter and overtime, but the biggest victory for Thomas was thinking about how proud his sister would be if she was there. 
"It was obviously the best moment of my career because I could picture my sister smiling."
 Although Boston would ultimately move on from Thomas that offseason -- after a magical deep playoff run -- the city still holds a big place in his heart for what they went through together during his tenure with the Celtics.
"I'm appreciative of the opportunity he Celtics gave me," said Thomas. "I'm appreciative of the love, the Celtics nation, the city of Boston gives me to this day. It's genuine, it's hard to describe."
While Thomas wasn't in Boston for long, he created plenty of great moments along the way. None may be greater than his 53-point performance, as his commitment to fighting through the most difficult time in his life for the team will never be forgotten. As a true professional, a great leader, and someone who gave it his all every night, the whole city is appreciative of what he brought to the team, and will continue to honor him.

Ian Carrano

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

No comments:

Post a Comment