How Can You Simply Not Root For Lil Isaiah?

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This isn’t about him. This is about his late sister. The little guy is playing with a heavy heart after his sister, Chyna J. Thomas, 22, died in a car accident early in the first round of the NBA playoffs. He’s a little man with a big heart, playing through pain, mourning the loss of a loved one, enduring adversity and, somehow, amazingly, surviving the difficult circumstances.

It takes every ounce of strength to play a game after the loss of a sibling, or anyone for that matter. Having to overcome the grief of losing someone, Celtics star Isaiah Thomas says basketball is keeping him sane. Being there for his teammates, given what he’s going through off the court, the game is helping him cope with the untimely death of his younger sister. There’s no doubt in our minds that he’s still in a good deal of pain, but a game he truly glorifies has soothed his soul and lifted his spirit.

It doesn’t matter what color your team’s jersey is. It certainly doesn’t matter what basketball squad you cheer for, but when you take the jersey off your back and realize that it’s the humane thing to do to root for someone who has been nothing short of amazing and inspirational, you have to pull for the Celtics and Lil Isaiah.

He’s been the talk of the playoffs, ever since experiencing a great tragedy which words cannot describe. He’s playing for his sister. In that he showed great character. For Thomas, as his physical abilities ascend, his transcendent talent and leadership have manifested in his brilliant performances of late. He’s always looking to grow, as a person and as a player, and because he’s going through the hardest time of his life, he’s been performing at an extremely high level, elevating his game, bringing his team back, taking control of the series and carrying the Celtics to memorable playoff victories to beat the Chicago Bulls in the first round.

Night after night, game after game, the Celtics are counting on Thomas to perform at his best. Night after night, game after game, it’s been unfathomable the way he’s boggled our minds in these playoffs. Not surprisingly, in a city that appreciates him, with fans who adore him and extend their heartfelt condolences to a little guy, basketball is a large part of what is holding him together. It should be beyond sensational for Celtics fans, who’ve embraced him tenderly for his ability to persevere even as he deals with his personal life outside of basketball.

He has been on fire and scored a game-high 33 points, knocking down five three pointers to propel Boston to a 123-111 victory over Washington in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, just hours after a cross-country flight from Boston to his native Tacoma, Wash., where he attended his sister’s funeral Saturday. This very same game, Thomas, who led an offensive onslaught, got his front tooth knocked out. Only after having gone toothless did he leave the game for a few minutes in the first quarter to have the tooth that he picked up off the court put back in his mouth by the team’s medical staff.

Then, in Game 2, as tough as he is, given his small size and what has transpired in recent weeks, he dropped 53 points, scoring nine in overtime to help the Celtics beat the Wizards, 129-119, on Tuesday night to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Thomas, standing at 5-foot-9, is the shortest player in the NBA, but he’s the most unstoppable talent in basketball, a true franchise player, torching the big guys by finishing at the rim, spotting up and letting it fly for three and finding daylight in traffic as he attacks inside the paint.

This is an encouraging sign for the Celtics, for sure. Fans will always remember Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a signature performance from a man who has been nothing short of impressive considering he’s been more efficient and focused, particularly in the fourth quarter of games, coming through in the clutch and proving he’s capable of being a closer for a young and rising Boston team.

The Celtics now belong to Lil Isaiah, and there’s not much of a debate. This is now his team. It’s official, it’s unquestionable, and he’s quickly getting his team going in this series by leveling up his swag. This series against the Wizards will be interesting but long, a seven game series, as both of these teams are good at protecting home court, and more importantly, are so evenly matched.

Amazed by it all, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sympathized with the sentiments of his star player, following the horrific events that have not affected his performance and, if anything, he’s played better than before, resembling his idol Kobe Bryant and having found inspiration in the Lakers legend. Everyone knows Thomas can score, dish passes to his teammates, and show up at TD Garden hours before the games and go through the usual routine warmups.

He can ball. He can play. And he can certainly give LeBron James and Cleveland hell if the Celtics are to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

It’s what he does. And, of course, it’s easy to root for Lil Isaiah.

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