Comeback Trail

Isaiah Thomas sobbing after dropping 81 in a pro-am league game is painful and inspiring all at once

August 11, 2021

Isaiah Thomas’ basketball career has been a rollercoaster. The diminutive 5’ 9” point guard was selected by the Sacramento Kings in 2011 with the final pick in the NBA Draft. He toiled in obscurity on lousy Kings and Suns teams for the first four years of his career, before being dealt to the Celtics in 2015. There he exploded, being named to back-to-back NBA All-Star teams in 2016 and 2017, finishing 5th in MVP voting, and memorably playing through the heartbreaking death of his sister during the Celtics’ playoff run.

As a thank you for that sacrifice, the Celtics shipped Thomas to Cleveland in exchange for a disgruntled Kyrie Irving that offseason. That move proved to be a disaster for both sides, but especially for Thomas, who quickly became something of an NBA pariah. He lasted just half a season in Cleveland before being dealt to the Lakers. After one season in L.A., he joined the Nuggets. The following summer he signed with the Wizards and was traded to L.A. midseason once again, this time to the Clippers, who waived him almost immediately. Despite signing a 10-day contract with New Orleans last season, that was effectively the end of Thomas’ once electric NBA career.

Earlier this week, however, Thomas made headlines when he dropped 81 points in Crawsover Pro-Am game, looking like his old Eastern Conference-terrorizing self again.

As incredible as those highlights were, however, it was Thomas’ emotional reaction following the game that landed hardest with basketball fans. Sobbing with a towel over his head, Thomas can be heard saying “they gave up on me” in what has to be one of the week’s hardest videos to watch.

It’s an incredibly raw display of emotion, especially from a former NBA star, but Thomas did go to great lengths to clarify exactly what was going through his head at that moment.

To hear Thomas tell it, it’s not about pity and it's not about a grudge. It’s about a comeback. Now that’s a story we can get behind.