Shattering glass ceilings has become Isaiah Thomas’ M.O., so anything he does at this point should come as no surprise. And yet, the pint-sized dynamo continues to stretch our wildest imaginations, scaling the loftiest bars and defying the most unconventional of conventional wisdom.
It’s truly difficult to come up with new words to describe what Thomas is doing right now, because it feels like we’ve used up most of the English language to capture his previous feats.
His performance in the Boston Celtics’ Game 2 victory over the Washington Wizards was the stuff of legend, not just in the context of the sport’s greatest franchise, but in the context of NBA history.
Thomas didn’t just score 53 points, he scored 53 points with the Celtics needing every bit of it to outlast Washington and, most remarkable of all, did it on what would have been his late sister Chyna’s 23rd birthday.
What Thomas must be going through on a personal level is unfathomable, and yet somehow, someway, he’s managed to play what is essentially just a game with the focus and desire of someone treating it as his only priority.
It’s impossible to use other examples to compare Thomas’ situation to, but his 53 points on their own say plenty.
Only eight other men have ever scored that many in a playoff game. Those names? Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Charles Barkley, Rick Barry and John Havlicek. That’s not just good company, that’s superstar, Hall of Fame company.
Superstardom is the level Thomas has been kept out of, like a bouncer standing behind a velvet rope giving you the feeling that you’re not good enough to get in. He’s exceeded expectations enough to be universally considered a star, but even during his breakout campaign this season, the murmurs were there. Could Thomas do it in the playoffs? Do the Celtics still need a true go-to scorer and first option? How much of a liability will his size, and in turn his defence, really be when it matters most?
Those questions remain mostly unsolved. One game – and make no mistake, what Thomas did in Game 2 broke new ground for him – cannot and does not change everything. If it wasn’t already the case though, it’s certainly now time to stop thinking of what he can’t do.
His ascension will inevitably hit a peak. Maybe it already has. But after everything Thomas has accomplished and the way he’s done it, are you willing to bet against him? Didn’t think so.
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