The Huskies retired Thomas' No. 2 jersey at halftime of Saturday's game against Colorado. Watch the full ceremony and his news conference here.
Isaiah Thomas climbed out of a white Bentley parked in a lot at the University of Washington and strolled into Alaska Airlines Arena with that familiar limp and that unmistakable megawatt smile plastered on his face.
Since leaving the Huskies in 2011, he waited anxiously for the day when he’d return to Montlake and watch his No. 2 jersey unveiled in the rafters at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to be standing in front of you guys today,” Thomas, a Tacoma native, said during the halftime ceremony. “Getting my jersey retired is more than what I dreamed of as a kid. Knowing my name will last her forever really means the world to me.”
Thomas joined former basketball greats Bob Houbregs (25) and Brandon Roy (3) and volleyball stars Courtney Thompson (3) and Krista Vansant (16) as the only UW players with jerseys hanging in the Alaska Airlines Arena rafters.
“He relates to every kid in the United States of America,” coach Mike Hopkins said of Thomas, a 5-9 point guard and two-time NBA all-star. “He was a guy that people questioned when he went pro. He was the last pick. You look back at his career, he struggled and he became an all-star. He became one of the leading scorers in the NBA. In the NBA! I don’t think there’s a greater role model or inspiration than Isaiah Thomas.”
Thomas said UW assistant coach Will Conroy played a major role in getting his jersey retired.
During the past year, Thomas went from a starring role in Boston where he led the Celtics to No. 1 in the Eastern Conference to being traded before the 2017-18 season to Cleveland. And he was dealt last week to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thomas missed the first half of the season while recovering from a hip injury and last year his sister Chyna died in a car accident.
“It’s been a last year for me and a last several months for me being injured,” Thomas said. “The last month, the last couple of weeks – it’s been a lot of haymakers as they say in boxing. But no matter what the circumstance is, I’m going to take those haymakers to the chin and keep pushing through.”
Thomas played three years at Washington and led the Huskies to three consecutive conference championships, three NCAA tournaments and finished his three-year career with 1,721 points (which is now eighth on UW’s career scoring list) while averaging 16.4 per game.
“I’m overjoyed,” he said. “I don’t have the words. I’m home once again.’