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Isiah Thomas: The Little Guy With The Big Heart

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What you know about heart? What are your biggest fears?

Ask Isiah Thomas that and he might laugh in your face.

At 6-1″, 180 lbs in his playing days for the Detroit Pistons there was no one that ever questioned his toughness or desire to win. Throughout my time watching the NBA there has only been one other person that small that made me look at them and see a new age Thomas and that was Allen Iverson.

When the Pistons selected him with the 2nd pick in the 1981 Draft they knew they were getting a true PG but I don’t think they knew at what magnitude. From the beginning it was clear he was here to dominate and that he did. His first season he established himself as one of the premiere PGs in the league with averages of 17 points, 8 assist and 2 steals and an All Star selection, all as a rookie. During his 13-year career he was voted an All Star 12 times with his last season in 1993 as the only year he didn’t make it. Yes he was that good.

But what made him so great, wasn’t exactly what he did on the court but how he did it that turned heads. In the 80’s it was a big mans game, Patrick Ewing, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, hell you can even throw his rival and friend Magic Johnson into the mix. But as the big man era began to fade the league and fans began to focus on the high risers, and the highlights makers. Enter the TV dominance of Michael Jordan, Julius Erving and Dominique Wilkins with their above-the-rim antics and larger than life personalities but lurking in the cut was the general, Thomas just waiting for his moment.

When you think of Jordan you automatically think of 6 NBA Championships, mega-shoe deal and the G.O.A.T but ask Jordan what drove him to those titles?

Ever heard of the Bad Boys?

Not Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, or the theme to the popular TV show but the team that repped THE D!!! The team who grabbed the NBA by its neck (literally) and demolished all challengers for two straight seasons and didn’t give a hell what you, the Commissioner, or players thought.

Yes those Bad Boys, the ESPN 30 for 30 Bad Boys, the 2x NBA Champion Bad Boys and the ones that told Jordan and the Chicago Bulls they had to wait their turn until Thomas and his crew were done running s*** in the NBA.

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Nothing was easy for Thomas as he had to lead a team of players no one wanted. Be honest, how many of you saw a 6’3″ Joe Dumars teaming up with Thomas for one of the smallest backcourts in the NBA along with a slow white guy in Bill Laimbeer and an overly weird forward that seem to drop out of the sky in Dennis Rodman (yes that Rodman) and did what they were able to do? No one knew or saw this coming but Thomas put them on his back and carved out a place in history, not only for himself or his teammates but the city of Detroit and the NBA.

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Throughout his career Thomas played with various injuries but none more than that severely sprained ankle in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. When most of today’s players would’ve called it a day Thomas remained on the floor and scored 25 points in the 3rd quarter.

The game has changed from when he played and there are not many players left that could do what he did on a consistent basis. For his height you would think he would’ve been a threat from beyond the arc but Thomas loved to take his defender off the dribble and get to the rim to either finish or draw a foul.

What I remember most about Thomas was his killer instinct. It was so fierce that, for all the praise Jordan has received over his career I believe that he wanted Isiah’s respect the most but never got it which in turn was the main reason Jordan blackballed him out of the original Dream Team. They can say that it was due to the cockiness he carried, rough style of play or that John Stockton was better but in all honesty it was because he wasn’t afraid to take it to Mike or kiss his a** like so many others.

If you’re looking for a PG to build your team around many leave him off their list because he is not a great shooter like Stephen Curry, doesn’t have the size of Johnson but if you are looking for a warrior to go 48 minutes that will not take a second off during a game, that will hit a lay-up on one end then knock his opponent to the floor on the other than he is your guy.

They don’t make players like him anymore.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com