If you’re anyone at all, you never want to see those two words next to each other. No matter the context. April is supposed to be the advent of numerous celebrations, ushering Boston on to the world stage as an international collection of gifted runners complete the marathon. And the team sports preparing for what will hopefully be deep runs in the playoffs.
In the NBA, the rigors and challenges of the postseason are many. Certainly, much controversy surrounds the issue of teams sitting key players in the eighty-two games which precede it, but that’s a column for a different day.
The unspeakable sorrow that point-guard Isaiah Thomas is coping with goes far beyond what any basketball-related attrition could do to his body. Following the sudden death of his younger sister Chyna Thomas, 22, it’s a wonder how he can see past the blur of tears in his eyes, much less guide his team against a talented team like the Chicago Bulls. But sometimes, when all else seems to be slipping through your fingers like a handful of rainbow sprinkles, the escape of work aids in navigating through the mourning process.
In times of serious loss, you just want to feel like you can take back control, putting the earth back on its axis. Not long after moving out to live on my own for the first time, I encountered a similar hardship, and came through the other side of it a changed person.
Not everyone can seem to grasp how Thomas is able to carry on and remain a primary catalyst for Brad Stevens’ young, powerhouse team from the Eastern Conference. Through criticism from some analysts, Thomas memorialized his sister with a tribute scribed on the side of his shoes to serve as reminder of the indelible mark left behind by his sibling.
Part of the reason this is pertinent though, isn’t because IT turned in a Game 1 comparable to what Brett Favre did on Monday Night Football after his mother passed away. After logging in 33 points and 6 assists, Thomas had to make travel arrangements to join his family for Chyna Thomas’ funeral services in Tacoma, Washington, where her life was abruptly cut short by a tragic car accident. In moments when one’s own mortality comes into question, especially in front of an audience, it makes the rest of us rearrange our priorities, and not just slightly.
The entire sports world has taken note of the Celtics meteoric rise to stand with the elite teams of the National Basketball Association. One thing that most assuredly gets overlooked in the box score is the brotherhood and profound union on this squad. The Celtics are new Old Money. They’ve won more championships than any other team, so suffice it to say some supremely talented rosters getting fitted for rings.
This current team’s legacy is still being penned as we speak, no matter what happens, however, this Shakespearean tragedy will be a moment scholars will point to as the moment it all came together, to rally and make sense of basketball’s role in life.
Olympic gold medal winner Jimmy Butler and the relentless Bulls await what will be an adrenaline-fueled Celtics team taking the floor of TD Garden. To arrive at Chicago O’Hare Airport up 2-0, it will take nothing less than another inspired performance.
In the fog of tragedy can come heightened clarity. Why we do what we do is explicitly determined by the people we love and care the most about. At this time of year, with a fierce battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy underway, Isaiah Thomas and his courage show the true mettle of an individual, and his desire, as well as that of his teammates, to deliver something Chyna Thomas would be more than proud of.