I should hate Isaiah Thomas.
Not the dangerous, real-life, alt-right kind of hate. But rather the harmless, immature, petty kind of hate that sports fans have for athletes whose most egregious crime is being great at what they do.
I should hate Isaiah Thomas because the 28-year-old NBA All-Star point guard once had a bad habit of torturing teams I rooted for on the amateur level.
Eleven years ago, when Thomas was a junior at Curtis High School in Tacoma, Washington, he dropped 51 points in a state tournament game against my alma mater, Franklin H.S. in Seattle.
Standing 5-foot-8 at the most, Thomas lit my Quakers up despite being shadowed by two or more defenders pretty much from the time he tied his shoes in the Tacoma Dome locker room. He shook opponents like Barry Sanders on the hardwood. He hit NBA-range threes. He even dunked.
Throwing you back to Isaiah in College at UW jumping over teammate Matthew Bryan for the Dunk Contest winning jam. Would you want to see Isaiah in the Dunk Contest?
Keep in mind, this was a Franklin team that featured two guards Peyton Siva and Venoy Overton that went on to become NCAA D-1 stars renowned for their defense. Heck, Franklin as a program is renowned for our defense. So just picture a baby-faced kid built like Muggsy Bogues dropping half a hundred on the 1990s Arkansas 40 Minutes of Hell Razorbacks; thats what it was like for Thomas to go in on my school like he did.
To this day, that game is talked about locally in mythic tones.
COOOOOLD BLOODED PAC 10 Tournament championship game Isaiah Thomas hits the game winning buzzer beater in overtime Gus Johnson loses his mind GO DAWGS RTR PID UW 77, UA 75 Isaiah Thomas – 28 points, 5 rebounds 7 assists Derrick Williams – 24 points, 11 rebounds property of CBS
From there, Thomas went to the University of Washington and still no taller than 5-foot-9 proceeded to help the Huskies smack around my college alma mater, Seattle University. Two times. He had five steals in one game, 20 points in another. Both blowout losses for my Redhawks.
But how can anybody root against Isaiah Thomas?
For every aspiring athlete who wasnt big or tall enough, for everybody who was ever picked last on the playground, for anyone who has dreamed an impossible dream, Thomas is a hero.
And that was before this past NBA postseason, when Isaiah captured the nations attention by leading the Boston Celtics on an emotional and inspiring run to the Eastern Conference Finals following the death of his younger sister, Chyna, who was killed in a car accident the day before the playoffs began.
Literally shedding tears on the court and during post-game interviews, Isaiah played through his grief and had six games in which he scored 25-plus points, highlighted by a 53-point effort against the Washington Wizards in the conference semifinals.
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas scores 29 points in the 4th quarter and overtime alone to propel the Boston Celtics to a 2-0 series lead over the Washington Wizards.
This past season was the one in which Thomas became a certified superstar. He finished third in the NBA in scoring, second in fourth-quarter scoring, and fifth in league MVP voting. He led the Celtics to the best regular-season record in the East and he made the All-NBA Second Team.
For the short little kid from the relatively obscure and overshadowed city of Tacoma, who wasnt a five-star recruit in high school and was then taken with the last pick of the NBA Draft, 2017 has been a year of unthinkable tragedy but also incredible triumph.
On Tuesday, Thomas was again all over the sports headlines, as he was traded by the Celtics to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of a blockbuster deal involving ex-Cavs star Kyrie Irving. Cleveland received Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and a first-round pick in the 2018 draft.
Boston received Irving, who spent the last three seasons playing Kid Flash to LeBron James Barry Allen and earned an NBA championship along the way.
For Thomas, the move to Cleveland adds another can-you-believe-it chapter to a story that was already unbelievable.
After spending the first three and a half seasons of his pro career with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns, Thomas star turn happened in Boston. He made that oh-so-financially-important leap from a great basketball player to a famous basketball player.
In Boston, he went from athlete to celebrity.
Isaiah Thomas has stepped up his game to an incredible level this season! Check out the top 10 plays from IT, the KING OF THE FOURTH!
Part of that deal is rubbing shoulders with giants in his and other industries.
Thomas friendship with boxing champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., which began before Thomas was in the NBA, came to light in the public eye as Mayweather began popping up at Celtics games more often. Tom Brady is on Isaiahs contact list; the New England Patriots quarterback texted Isaiah after winning Super Bowl 51 in February, telling Isaiah that it was his turn to win a championship.
And now Thomas is going to be teammates with LeBron. Not just any teammate, either: Thomas will be expected to fill the shoes once worn by Irving and by Dwyane Wade, that invaluable scoring guard who can break down defenses and deliver clutch shots while LeBron does, well, that and everything else on the floor.
Mayweather, Brady and LeBron. In a relatively short period of time in the spotlight, Isaiah Thomas has been afforded the opportunity to build lasting bonds with three of the greatest and most accomplished athletes of all-time, perhaps the greatest of their era in their respective sports.
If you buy into that old adage that its not what you know, but who you know, then who has it better than Thomas? At this point, I wouldnt be surprised to find out that Isaiah swims laps on the weekends with Michael Phelps after going on his morning jog with Usain Bolt, then has a little motivational chat with Barack Obama on the drive home.
After the Cavaliers closed out the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas shared an emotional embrace on the court. Now the two stars will suit up as teammates thanks to a blockbuster trade involving Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving.
Realistically, Thomas may not wear a Cavaliers uniform for long. He will be a free agent in 2018, as will LeBron. They could take one good shot at winning a championship together and then go their separate ways.
Or they could build a new dynasty in the Midwest.
Either way, Thomas wins. Whether its with the Cavs or another team, barring a disaster, he will sign a contract next year that will (should) make him financially set for the rest of his life.
Thats when the kid who had so many reasons to give up on his dream or at least settle for less will become a man who has officially, undeniably, made it to the top.
As much as I didnt like what I was seeing back when he was busy making my favorite teams look foolish, I always saw big things ahead for Isaiah Thomas.
But who could have predicted this?