"You talk about abject poverty, human failing, suffering-they had all that in Isiah's neighborhood. You'd go in there and here was this young guy who's got this big smile. He was unbelievably optimistic for someone who had gone through all the misfortune that has occurred in his family. He was very focused."
- Rick Majerus
Isiah Lord Thomas III was born on April 30, 1961 in Chicago, IL. The youngest of nine children, he grew up in a run down neighborhood, where violence, crime and drugs were commonplace. His father left the house at while young Isiah was only 3, and he sometimes had to go without food or heat. His mother was focused on bringing him up right, and did her best to keep the young Isiah focused on the future and out of trouble. Reportedly, when a small group of thugs once showed up looking for Isiah, his mother grabbed a shotgun and warned "There's only one gang here, and I lead it. Get off my porch or I'll blow you off it!"
Isiah, like many kids who live in the city, was in to basketball at a young age. He attended St. Joseph's high in Westchester, leading the team to the state-title game as a junior in 1978. In his senior year, he won a Gold Medal with the US team in the 1979 Pan-Am games. Isiah would go and play college ball for Bobby Knight and Indiana. In his freshman year, Isiah was elected to the US Olympic team, but never played as the United States boycotted the Olympic games held in Moscow that year. While he most likely would have won a gold medal there, his team won the NCAA tournament in his final year as a collegiate player. As a promise to his mother, Isiah would finish college 6 years later. He received his diploma on Mother's Day.
Isiah was the first of the Bad Boys to join the Pistons. He was drafted second in the 1981 draft behind Mark Aguirre, who was chosen by the Dallas Mavericks and would be Isiah's teammate later. Bill Laimbeer and Kelly Tripucka would join the team in the following year, giving the Pistons a tough game in by the board. In his second year, Thomas was already named as the Pistons' captain. Things would continue to look bright for the Pistons when they named Chuck Daly as their coach in 1983. He would help drive the team into the playoffs once again. While this playoff berth, and the following two, would not lead the Pistons to anything but a first round defeat, morale was still high.
Things would change in th 86-87 season. Isiah Thomas would be joined in the backcourt by shooting guard Joe Dumars. Dumars provided another outlet for Detroit's assault, and a proficient scorer to receive Isiah's passes. The 1988-1989 season would be the payoff season for all of Detroit's hard effort. With a well-stocked team, 7 people would average over 13.5 ppg this season. Detroit stormed through the season, winning 63 out of 82 games. They swept the Celtics in the opening round and the Bucks in the following round. In the conference finals, the Pistons faced off against the Michael Jordan led Bulls, who would take the Pistons to 6 games. With Magic Johnson and Byron Scott having nagging leg injuries, the Pistons swept the NBA Finals over the Los Angeles Lakers in 1989. The team worked like a well-oiled machine, with Thomas moving the ball fluidly around the court.
In the next season, the Pistons would finish second in the standings behind the Chicago Bulls, who would also stop their playoff run that year. Isiah would rack up a list of small injuries throughout his following years in the NBA. In the 1993-94 season Thomas hyper-extended a knee, broke a rib, strained an arch, strained a calf and cut his left hand open. On April 19, 1994 he tore his Achilles' tendon, ending his playing career.
At the time of his retirement, Thomas held 4 records for the Pistons: points, assists, steals and games. He had been elected to the All-Star game for every season except his final one, a total of 12 games. He was voted All-Star MVP twice, first in 1984 and again in 1986. Thomas was also the President of the NBA Players Association in the late 80's and early 90's. He is one of the 4 players to have over 9,000 assists, along with Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson and all-time assist leader John Stockton.
After retirement, Isiah took over as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the expansion Toronto Raptors. Also owning part of the team, the first big move Isiah made in this position was the drafting of point guard Damon Staudamire. In 2000, two big things happened for Isiah. First, he was elected into the Hall of Fame, along with Bob McAdoo. He also succeeded Larry Bird as the coach of the Indiana Pacers, a position he held for three seasons before being fired. He also coached the New York Knicks for two disastrous seasons, during the second of which he was found guilty of sexually harassing a former team executive, which contributed to his being dismissed from his coaching duties after the 2007-08 season.
"As a person and as a human being, if the only thing I'm remembered for is playing a stupid game of basketball, then I haven't done a very good job in my life. Basketball isn't everything to me."
- Isiah Thomas
Position: Point guard
Weight: 182 lbs.
Regular Post season
Year Team W L PCT W L PCT
00-01 Indiana 41 41 .500 1 3 .250
01-02 Indiana 42 40 .512 2 3 .400
02-03 Indiana 48 34 .585 2 4 .333
06-07 NewYork 33 49 .402 - - .---
07-08 NewYork 23 59 .280 - - .---
Totals 187 223 .456 5 10 .333
Career Playing Totals:
G FG% FT% Rebs RPG Asts APG Stls Blks Pts PPG
979 .452 .759 3478 3.6 9061 9.3 1861 249 18822 19.2