We already know Boston Celtics star Isaiah Thomas is probably the most mentally tough athlete in the NBA. The day after his sister died in a tragic car accident, he fought back tears, took the court and eventually helped lead his Celtics squad back from a 2-0 deficit to Chicago in the playoffs first round.
Thomas further cemented his growing legend with 33 points and nine assists in a 123-111 win over the Washington Wizards in Sunday night’s Eastern Conference Game 1 semifinal game, played just a day after he attended the funeral for his sister.
He didn’t even get back to Boston from the funeral in Seattle until 4:00 AM. It has taken superhuman composure, toughness and mental fortitude for Thomas to be able to perform at such a high level under the circumstances.
The diminutive 5-foot-8 lethal weapon with the heart of a giant also showed his physical toughness as he was briefly sidelined after getting one of his two front teeth knocked out.
He sat on the bench looking like a young Leon Spinks on the cover of Sports Illustrated, flashing smiles.
And then proceeded to help the Celtics overcome a slow start and move one step closer to meeting Cleveland in the Finals. We are witnessing one of the true acts of bravery and selflessness in NBA history.
“Basketball when I'm on the court...it just keeps me going,” Thomas told NBA reporter Doris Burke after the game. “I do everything for my sister now and that's all I can do.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens has continually said that Thomas’ workload will depend on his mental state. Thomas has continued to attack the rim and his life like it’s business as usual. Few believed that this Celtics season, in which they wrestled the No. 1 seed from Cleveland, could get any more special.
It just did on Sunday night, thanks to Thomas.
“I’ve been in continual amazement the last couple weeks with his ability to function on the basketball court and excel on the basketball court, “ said Celtics coach Brad Stevens, “and today is just another chapter of that”
The book of Isaiah is shaping up to be must-read material in these NBA Playoffs.