Isaiah Thomas at 27 years old was a borderline basketball miracle. There had been hoopers that stood 5 feet 9 or smaller that were productive, but none could find the bucket with the same ease as IT. 

In the 2016-17 season he tallied 28.9 points per game for the first-place Boston Celtics and had the NBA’s highest fourth-quarter scoring average of the past 20 years. He was a Hall of Famer in the making … until suddenly he wasn’t. 

On Friday, the 32-year-old Thomas signed a 10-day contract with the depleted Los Angeles Lakers. The league’s hardship exemption allowed him to join the team, which is without several players due to injury and COVID-19 protocols.

Whether he can turn this stint into something more is unknown. But this may be the former Husky’s last shot at NBA glory. 

It’s hard to put a label on Thomas’ pro hoops legacy. Depending on one’s perspective, it can be inspiring or depressing.

This is a guy who was selected last in the 2011 draft by the Sacramento Kings but ended up averaging 20.3 points for Sacramento in his third year in the league. This is a guy who signed a midlevel contract with the Phoenix Suns, then ended up fifth in the NBA’s MVP voting a year after being traded to the Celtics. 


Yes, his defense was always a little suspect. There were few players who couldn’t shoot over him at will. But Thomas’ offense was so dynamic that a max contract — or at least something close to that — seemed inevitable. Then he hurt his hip in the 2017 Eastern Conference finals and has never been the same. 

Can you feel bad for an athlete who’s racked up more than $33 million in his career? Assuming he hasn’t blown his money, Thomas should be in the top one percent in the country financially. But had that injury come a year later — his Suns-turned-Celtics contract expired in 2018 — he might have been making $33 million per year. After being traded to Cleveland, he played just 32 games in the ’17-18 season — 15 with the Cavaliers and 17 with the Lakers — and though he averaged 20.3 points, he shot a ghastly 37.3 percent from the field. 

The mobility just wasn’t the same. The explosiveness was muted. Thomas once quipped that the Celtics were going to have to “bring the Brinks truck” to re-sign him. But he ended up inking a one-year deal with the Nuggets for just over $2 million. 

There was no resurgence from the Tacoma native. 

He averaged 8.1 points on 34.3 percent shooting in his lone season in Denver. He played 40 games with the Wizards the next season but was waived one day after being traded to the Clippers. Last season he played three games for the Pelicans, and now … well, here we are. 

Thomas will always be beloved in the Pacific Northwest. He starred at Curtis High School in University Place and led the Huskies to the NCAA tournament in three seasons. His “coldblooded” buzzer beater vs. Arizona in the 2011 Pac-12 tournament is one of the most iconic shots in men’s college hoops history. But you have to think he wants more. 

Thomas reminded folks that he’s built a little differently when he dropped 81 points in the Crawsover Pro-Am game in Seattle last summer. Sure, that league features All-Star Game-type defense, but it was still a feat. And on Wednesday he put up 42 points on 16 of 30 shooting in his G League debut, which very may well have piqued the Lakers’ interest. 


Perhaps this 10-day contract will be it for Thomas. Maybe he’ll vanish back into obscurity once the Lakers get healthy. But once a star, always a threat, right? The man is only 32. You never know for sure.

On Thursday, Thomas tweeted “give all the glory to God.” He knows this opportunity was far from inevitable. Lose just a half step in the NBA, and you may never get another shot. But here he is.

Isaiah has always played the role of the underdog. It’s a role he has thrived in. Over the next week and a half, we’ll see if he can resurrect his star power. His basketball future depends on it.