It was just a summer league pro-am. The defense, at times, was less than ambitious. And the opposing team was not stocked with NBA players.
But 81 points is 81 points.
In the history of the NBA, where games are 48 minutes long, only one player has ever scored more points than Isaiah Thomas scored in less than 40 minutes in Seattle on Sunday.
The former University of Washington star and Tacoma native scored 81 points at the Crawsover pro-am at Seattle Pacific University on Sunday, connecting on a dazzling array of pull-up threes, midrange fallaways and floating layups that had the packed crowd pulsing.
Thomas had 20 after the first quarter. He had 40 at halftime. When he hit 75, with about four minutes left in the game, Jamal Crawford, the 20-year NBA veteran and Rainier Beach alum who organizes the pro-am every year, stopped the game. The players on the court looked around, hands on hips. Crawford grabbed the mic from the courtside announcer.
“Isaiah Thomas said he was going to score 70 points,” said Crawford, who had been teasing Thomas’ appearance all week on social media. “He just scored 75.” Crawford urged the crowd to its feet. They eagerly obliged.
The game, eventually, resumed. Two more threes brought Thomas’ total to 81, matching Kobe Bryant’s record for the second-most ever scored in an NBA game. Thomas, who was wearing a pair of Bryant’s signature shoes, subbed out for the first time, with three minutes to play and his team up by 50 or so.
No one has scored more in the quarter-century history of Seattle’s summer pro-am league.
Thomas has crisscrossed the nation this summer, showcasing his skills in pro-ams and tournaments as he seeks an NBA team, following two seasons marred by injury. He scored 37 two weeks ago at the Drew League in Los Angeles. A week later, he had 65 in a summer-league game in Atlanta.
When the game ended Sunday, in Seattle, he had 52 more points than anyone else, on either team.
Thomas may have been the only NBA player on the floor, but he wasn’t playing against nobodies. The opposition was mostly current and former Division I college players — former UW men’s basketball standout Noah Dickerson, WSU’s returning point guard Noah Williams, the University of San Francisco’s Khalil Shabazz and Western Oregon’s Jaylyn Richardson.
Thomas played with former local high school standout Marjon Beauchamp (now playing at Yakima Valley College), the University of Evansville’s Sam Cunliffe and the UW’s Terrell Brown Jr.
But it was Thomas’ afternoon.
There was palpable disappointment in the crowd whenever someone else shot. When Thomas pulled up, there was a hush and then an explosion when, more often than not, he connected.
The Crawsover typically draws NBA talent. Earlier this year, a duel between Rainier Beach alums Dejounte Murray (now of the San Antonio Spurs) and Kevin Porter Jr. (now on the Houston Rockets) had the gym buzzing. But Thomas, for the first time this year, forced organizers to pull out auxiliary bleachers at Royal Brougham Pavilion to handle the crowd.
At one point Thomas, with a particularly vicious crossover that left his defender sliding away on his rear, pulled up for yet another three. With the ball still arcing toward the hoop, not yet even at its apex, he turned his back and started walking back to play defense. There was no doubt.