Through his time as a coach, executive, analyst, and entrepreneur, Isiah Thomas shows that a Hall of Famer’s second act can be as prolific as his first.
For Isiah Thomas, basketball has always been everything. As a child on the west side of Chicago, it was always his way out. And he capitalized on the opportunity.
“We from the west side, we don’t have nothing, we ain’t got nothing, so we gon’ take what you got,” Isiah told Boardroom’s “The ETCs” podcast about the way his upbringing in the city propelled him.
And take, he did.
Isiah has done it all in the world of basketball: As an NCAA and NBA champion on the floor, a commentator, an executive and head coach multiple times, and even a league owner when he purchased the now-defunct CBA in 1999.
Isiah’s contributions to the game have left their mark on the next generation of superstars as well.
“Seeing you at the Raptors as the executive, as the coach with the Knicks, that’s inspiring the players right now,” Kevin Durant said on the podcast. “Like, seeing that that can be the next career step for us. ‘Cause a lot of guys wanna get back into the game and don’t really know how, don’t have the network to do so.”
That energy is reciprocated by Isiah himself, who remains one of the more positive and endearing voices amongst former players in basketball media, where he currently serves as an analyst with NBA TV. Always complimentary, Isiah’s commentary on the current iteration of the game stands out in a world of constant and consistent criticism.
“I love what this generation is doing,” Isiah said. “Our generation can pat ourselves on the back as much as we want. But at the end of the day, what we’re watching and what some of these guys are doing, not all of them, but what a few of ’em are doing, you know is historical.”
For Isiah, many wonder how he’d fare in today’s era of basketball, but KD and “Zeke” remained steadfast that he’d dominate just as he did in the 80s and 90s. For Isiah, who foresaw the so-called “phasing out” of the traditional power forward position in modern basketball in building his Toronto and Indiana with longer, rangier forwards who could shoot from the perimeter, he’s confident that this era would suit his own game well.
“If I could win in that era, I could win in this one,” he said.
While Isiah’s playing career is over, his life in basketball continues as a pound-for-pound great and a legend within the hoops community. But for Isiah, it’s even simpler than that.
“I got food in the refrigerator. I can pay the rent. I got a car that I can drive. And really, growing up, that’s all I ever dreamed of. So everything else is icing on the cake. So I’m good.”