While sitting in one of my classes yesterday, a girl had begun talking about a character in a book she enjoyed so much that when that character died, she actually started to cry. Not just a few tears running down her face, or even her eyes watering, but as she called it, “uncontrolled sobbing”.
For a brief moment I thought it was the strangest thing that somebody could be so emotionally invested into a fictional book that it became capable of causing their hearts real pain. But then I realized this is really no different from TV shows, or movies.
I still remember how sad I got during the final scene of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air when Will is standing in the empty Bel-Air mansion letting memories bounce around his brain. Or when Michael and Jim are incapable of saying goodbye to each other on The Office.
Yesterday, I was reminded that the same amount, if not more, emotion goes into sports. The feeling I had towards that girl is likely the same feeling her and many others who don’t watch sports have towards us.
Each professional sports team is a TV series, and each roster has a list of characters that you become attached to, for better or worse. Every person has their favorite team–show and player(s)–character(s). The players you hate, you can’t wait for their time to be over. And for the players you love, you hope they never leave and only achieve greatness.
As an audience, we become attached to books, shows, movies, and well, sports because of characters, conflict, and storylines.
For the Boston Celtics, the strongest connection to the fan base in years is no longer a member. Thank you, Isaiah Thomas.
After arriving in Boston three years ago from Phoenix, Isaiah quickly took the Celtics — that drafted in the six spot the season before — to the playoffs under his wing. But not before dropping 21-points in Los Angeles and being ejected from his FIRST GAME as a member of the Celtics. It was instant love for Thomas from the Boston fans, and myself.
And after hearing the news yesterday that he was traded to Cleveland, it was truly heartbreaking.
Thomas had become our guy, our underdog. And us Celtics’ fans had become his audience. We defended Thomas each time his name was dragged through mud, or someone said he wasn’t capable of something. Watching Thomas grow from a spark-plug sixth man, to a mediocre playoff team’s leading scorer, to a true MVP candidate on 53-win, number-one-seeded team was one of the most rewarding viewing experiences I’ve had as a Boston sports fan.
He’s too short, he was the last pick in the draft, you can’t win with him — you’ve heard the stories and have read the headlines. But what never changed was the heart and determination of Isaiah Thomas. He worked his ass off, and through everything — a torn labrum since the middle of March, a pair of busted teeth, and of course, the death of his sister lingering throughout the NBA playoffs — Isaiah put his team and his city on his back with no excuses. He dragged the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals, while having one of the greatest seasons in the history of the Boston Celtics.
The enormous scoring totals and fourth quarter heroics not only landed Isaiah his title as the King of the Fourth, but enhanced his legend into a Boston folktale. He legitimately had one of the greatest offensive seasons, and clutch-performing seasons the league has ever seen. He blossomed and overachieved in Boston into something that we never thought was possible.
He turned doubters into believers, a 60th pick into an All-Star, and the Celtics into contenders. He was one of the key factors in collecting Al Horford and Gordon Hayward from free agency. And captivated Celtics fans with his offensive talent in a way that hasn’t been done in Boston since the great Larry Bird.
Isaiah was more than the MVP this season for the Celtics. He was the heartbeat of the team, the straw, the engine, whatever term you want to use, Isaiah was all of it. Isaiah is the NBA version of Rudy, if Rudy had become one of the best players in the NCAA. He’s a storyline that every undersized point guard in the world has bought into.
At the end of the day, the NBA is a business, and Celtics’ General Manager, Danny Ainge, saw Kyrie Irving as an upgrade to the proposed package that included Isaiah Thomas. But what made Isaiah special was that he showed us it’s so much more.
This 5’9″ — on a good day — S.O.B. proved to be more important towards the rebuild in Boston than any other player, or pick, or collection of assets could ever be. He brought the community and fans together, and restored hope. He rescued Celtic Pride as he rekindled the flame that was only lit five short years since the 80’s.
It is painful to watch your team’s captain leave so unexpectedly, especially when you have to watch him alongside your largest rival opening night next season. But what Thomas did is sort of unexplainable to those who didn’t tune in on a night-to-night basis, but I know I speak for all Celtics fans when I say I’m going to miss THE LITTLLLLLEEEE GUYYYYYY!!!!
Isaiah resurrected Boston from the grave they were in upon his arrival, while bucking his limitations every step of the way. Isaiah epitomized what it meant to wear the Celtic green, and for that, he’ll forever be an all-time favorite of mine.
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