Boston Celtics Star Tragically Loses Sister on Eve Of Playoffs – How I Understand His Pain
I'm a huge basketball fan. In fact, I had the opportunity to sit courtside for a pre-season Boston Celtics game at Mohegan Sun back in the fall. I had the opportunity to see star player, Isaiah Thomas work his magic against the Charlotte Hornets. It was such a cool experience.
The opportunity professional athletes have, to play a sport for a career is so cool to me, though many have said the same about what I do. The difficulty, though that we each face in any business that puts cameras in front of our faces is when life happens. You're always expected to have that "game face" on, whether a true game face, or that happy, always the life of the party face. But, as I've experienced over the past 13 years in this business, it can be a very difficult task when tragedy strikes.
On the eve of the Celtics first playoff game again the Chicago Bulls, Thomas was given the horrible news that his younger sister, Chyna had been killed in a single car accident back home in Seattle. Heart breaking, tragic, life changing news as one can only assume his head was spinning in what to do. Your family needs you, your team needs you; if any other time within the season it would be an easy choice, but you've just helped your team clinch the number one spot in the Eastern Conference leading into what could be a big, championship season.
He played game one. His pain was obvious. Charles Barkley, former NBA all-star and now sports analyst said it made him "uncomfortable." Not everything in life is comfortable. Losing a family member is never comfortable.
Many players throughout the league shared their support to Thomas via social media. Lebron James, who I typically despise called Thomas' 33-point performance in game 1 loss against the Bulls "unbelievable."
I watch these games and I don't know these guys, but in this moment I feel like I know Thomas. When I was fresh from New York and living in Omaha, my Aunt was tragically killed, along with her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident in Glenville. I couldn't afford to come home after just emptying my bank account in the move, I couldn't be with my family to mourn the loss and I still, somehow had a radio show to do. I had to smile through the tears and make those listening's day a little brighter while I, myself was searching for the light.
The coach of the Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens said to Chris Mannix of The Vertical, "Whatever he needs to do, he needs to do and we'll help in any way. If he needs to and wants to stay here, then we'll be here surrounding him. And if he wants to go to Seattle, then he should go to Seattle. It's his call and it should be. I told him I'm not going to ask him or make him make those decisions. Those have got to come on his own time and then we'll adjust accordingly."
I absolutely love that his Coach and Team are 100% behind him and understand, regardless of the playoff games at stake, family first. That's how my radio family was in Omaha, that's how everyone should be to each other in the face of tragedy. I'll never not be thankful for how those embraced me in my time of grief, I'm sure Isaiah is feeling the same right now.
He has made the decision to play in game 2 against the Chicago Bulls and then fly to Seattle for his sisters services. Friday, for game 3 he will rejoin his team in Chicago.