Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(NEW YORK) — NBA star Isaiah Thomas opened up about how he was able to overcome a recent family tragedy through basketball, saying in an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America that despite having second thoughts about continuing with his season, he wasn’t one to take “the easy way out.”
Thomas’ sister, Chyna Thomas, was killed in a car crash last month at the age of 22, just one day before his team, the Boston Celtics, was supposed to play against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA playoffs.
“When it happened, I considered just going home and just calling it a season,” Thomas told GMA. “But then I thought about that … that’s the easy way out.”
“And I’ve never been the guy to take the easy way out,” he said.
In the wake of the sudden tragedy, Thomas said he spoke to his family and close friends and ultimately decided to finish out the season, taking to the court the day following his sister’s death.
“I know them other guys in that locker room is depending on me,” Thomas said. “And that’s what helped me get through at that time.”
“Basketball is what keeps me sane,” he added. “I couldn’t let that go.”
Thomas said he and his family are “taking it day by day.”
“Some days are worse than others, but I mean, that’s just reality,” he said. “That’s just what it’s going to be.”
“Those first two games against the Bulls … that was probably the toughest games of my life,” Thomas admitted. “And then after that, I started being able to control where my mind’s going while in on the court.”
“When I get on the court … I’m not thinking about anything that’s going on, really, in my life. It’s just when that game is over, then reality hits,” Thomas said.
The point guard said that he owes it to the support of his family, friends, teammates and the NBA that he is able to continue playing.
“The only thing I can do is be around my family, my close friends, and even being around this team and this organization has helped me so much,” Thomas said. “Without those guys, like, there wouldn’t be me playing in no playoffs, through the stuff that I’ve been through this past month.”
Thomas said that in spite of the tragedy, this season has been “my best year since I’ve been in the league.”
“It’s turned … people’s opinions about me,” the 5’9″ point guard added. “Cause there’s people still doubting out there, that I’m too small, I can’t lead a team to the finals or a championship.”
“It’s been like that my whole life” Thomas said. “But at the end of the day, just, it motivates me and keeps me going.”
Thomas said he’s learned how to “become more of a leader” during this season, and part of that means learning how “to share my success with my teammates.”
“Cause without them, I wouldn’t do the things that I do on the court. They allow me to be who I am. They allow me to go out there and score,” he added. “And I can’t thank them enough.”
Thomas also touched on his relationship with retired Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who has been one of his counselors in both life and basketball.
“It doesn’t seem real,” Thomas said of the NBA legend. “I talk to him almost every day since the playoff started. He’s been a big helping hand.”
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