Remarkable things happened with three athletes connected to our sports marketplace that merit some conversation. One was appealing, one was appalling, one was applause-worthy. Or not, depending on one’s perspective.
From T-Town to Beantown, Thomas becomes a superhero
In a place pickled with sports lore, Isaiah Thomas has ascended to the realm of Russell, Havlicek and Bird.
The stumpy kid from Tacoma’s Curtis High and three seasons at the University of Washington scored 53 points in the Boston Celtics’ 129-119 overtime triumph in the second game Tuesday of a playoff series with the Washington Wizards. That was one point shy of John Havlicek’s club playoff record. Alone, the feat would have been plenty. In context . . . astonishing.
He did it after six hours of oral surgery Monday to replace a front tooth knocked out in Game 1, and Game 2 was on the 23rd birthday of his late sister, Chyna, who died in a one-car accident in Federal Way April 15.
“I always dream of moments like this,” Thomas told reporters after the game. “Those are where legends are born. One day I want to be one of those guys.”
Commence the chisel work on the granite plaque. The sellout TD Garden crowd was agape when it wasn’t roaring as Thomas scored 29 points in the fourth quarter and OT. Wrote Brady O’Conner of the Ringer: “This is what Beatlemania must have been like.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens was happily among the disbelieving observers at one of the great individual games in NBA history, considering circumstances.
“I thought he was really gonna have to gut this out,” he said. “He not only guts it out, he ends up with 50. Pretty impressive.”
Pretty impressive? That’s like saying the Statue of Liberty is tall.
Thomas has been in emotional turmoil since his sister’s death, yet managed to fly to her funeral in Tacoma to speak, then returned to Boston without missing a game.
After the funeral and before the series’ first game, Stevens said he was on the phone with Thomas.
“My discussion with him wasn’t about basketball, obviously,” he said. “It was just about how hard it is to speak at a funeral. He’s been through a lot. And he just continues to amaze us all when he steps on that court with his resolve and his ability to just kind of be, as he’s called it, his sanctuary.
“He’ll continue to have really tough days; I don’t think that’s going to stop.”
Thomas, 28, was All-Pac-10 material in his 2010-11 season at Washington, especially after scoring 28 points, including the winning buzzer-beater in OT, to crush Arizona for the conference tournament title. But at 5-foot-9 and the 60th and final pick of the 2011 draft by Sacramento, his NBA future seemed limited.
Now speculation is he might be line for a five-year contract worth $179 million. Why not? He already owns, for awhile, the basketball world.
70 years after Jackie Robinson, Adam Jones gets this crap
Boston also gets credit for the sports-fan downer of the calendar year after Red Sox fans yelled racist slurs, including the N-word, at Orioles CF Adam Jones Monday night. One cave man threw a bag of peanuts at Jones on the field.
Jones, a first-round draft choice and Mariners prospect in 2006-07 who was the key player in one of the worst trades in club history, did not accept the indignity in his post-game remarks, calling his tormenters cowards.
“I thought we moved past that a long time ago,” Jones said, “but obviously what’s going on in the real world, things like this, people are outraged and speaking up at an alarming rate.
“It’s unfortunate I had to be involved in it.”
Condemnation was swift throughout baseball, which has only 62 African-American players, as well as in Boston, which has a grim history of racism, some of which has been directed at athletes for generations.
A bit of a make-up call happened Tuesday at Fenway, when his first at-bat grew into a standing ovation from many fans. Red Sox players, including starting pitcher Chris Sale, who stepped off the mound, joined in.
“I’ve never on the road gotten any ovations or anything like that, so it kind of caught me off guard a little bit,” Jones said after the game. “It was much appreciated. Sale, who works extremely fast, took his time and let it relish a little bit, so I appreciate the sentiments.”
The gesture was good, but doesn’t erase the initial episode, nor the dread that has come to inhabit public spaces in America, generated by bigots emboldened by political change to emerge from the shadows.
There were fans in the Fenway stands who saw and heard what happened Monday night, and did nothing. That too, is unacceptable. It’s not enough to give a golf clap to faraway politicians who stand for civil rights and decency when there’s an ass two seats away at the park who deserves a withering castigation.
Adam Jones, and everyone else working off of more than a brain stem, will thank you.
Beast bids (most of) Seattle adieu
Always about statements and rarely about interviews, Marshawn Lynch bade farewell to Seattle by taking out a full-page ad in the Sunday Seattle Times to say g’bye. The page had two photos, one of Lynch and Paul Allen chatting socially, another of Lynch aboard the hood of one of the vehicles in the 2014 Super Bowl parade downtown, throwing Skittles to fans.
The only words: “Thank you Paul Allen” and “Thank you Seattle.” Oh, yes, and the Beast Mode name and logo. Lynch hits hard while marketing too.
Three days earlier was the first media access to GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll since the Lynch trade to Oakland converted his retirement into merely a vacation.
When they were asked for thoughts about the departure of one of the few characters in Seattle sports history of whom it can be said was larger than life, there was a pause of several seconds.
Carroll, who typically abhors a verbal vacuum, finally said, softly and flatly, “We wish him well.”
That was it. No flowery eloquence about Lynch’s contributions, no sentiment about what he meant to the franchise.
Lynch was a great teammate and good to fans, especially kids. But Schneider and Carroll were the authority figures who had to manage a guy who often managed them.
Allen signed the paychecks. Fans buy the gear. But the bosses sometimes had to tell him what to do. As Carroll put it once, “Marshawn doesn’t like to be told what to do.”
When Lynch tweeted out the image of his cleats over a wire, symbolizing retirement, the applause from every defensive coach in the NFL was supplemented by two guys in Seattle. They didn’t rate a mention in the ad.
Should there be a Seahawks-Raiders Super Bowl next season, it will be a splendid time for the parties to get together and say the things left unsaid during the hasty departure.