Why Isaiah Thomas Is an All-Star

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NBA All-Star voting can feel like a sport of its own. The Players’ Tribune asked a handful of current NBA players to go to the mat for a fellow player who’s never made an All-Star team.

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If it was a players’ vote, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. Isaiah Thomas would be an All-Star. But I’ll get to that, because it’s not a players’ vote. It’s a fan vote.

So let’s talk production. The stuff you can’t dispute. Straight numbers.

Numbers like 21.6 points per, which is tops among point guards in the East. Numbers like 6.7 assists per, which is third.

You know who else in the NBA is averaging 21-plus points and 6-plus assists per game this year? It’s a short list:

Steph Curry
LeBron James
James Harden
Damian Lillard
Russell Westbrook

Names you know.

The only difference is, those guys are reigning All-Stars. Isaiah is vying for his first bid.

And he’s got my vote.

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The numbers speak for themselves. So let’s talk about the other things that make Isaiah an All-Star selection waiting to happen. Let’s talk about consistency.

A lot of guys in this league can show out a couple of times every few games. But Isaiah? He’s doing it just about every night. Whether he’s playing against the defending world champion Warriors (18 and 10 in an OT loss) or one of his old teams in the Kings (21 and 9 in a win), he’s always stepping up and putting up big numbers. He’s gone for 23 and 8 against the Spurs, 35 and 8 against the Grizzlies, 23 and 10 against the Hawks and 25 and 7 against the Raptors — all playoff teams from last season. He’s always rising to the challenge. In an improved Eastern Conference, he has the Celtics right there in the playoff hunt.

But let’s move even further past the numbers. Let’s talk about the intangibles. ‘Cause let’s face it: The fan vote is subjective. Fans like guys they can get behind. Guys with some fire.

Isaiah is like a little Mighty Mouse. He’s feisty. His energy is infectious. He’s always the smallest guy on the court, and he plays every night like he’s trying to prove something — like he’s trying to make you see him for his game, not his size.

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He’s been like that since I met him back when he was in 6th grade. He played with my brother on my father’s AAU team. He used to come shoot baskets in my backyard, and I remember he always had a great work ethic. He always had something to prove.

I remember one night when I came home late after playing ball — it was like 9 p.m., so it was dark out — and I walked into the house and heard something banging against the side of the house outside. I was thinking, Is someone trying to break in?

It was little Isaiah. He was shooting around by himself in the dark, throwing passes to himself off the side of the house.

I used to be that guy in the neighborhood, out late, playing until the street lights came on. But he took it to another level, and that will always stick with me. That’s the work ethic he’s always had, and still has today. That’s why he’s been able to do what he’s done.

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To be honest, I never doubted his skills or his work ethic. It was his size that had me doubting if he would ever become a superstar. But he defied all odds and continued to work extremely hard, and that’s why he is where he is today.

That’s why I say if this was a players’ vote, Isaiah Thomas would be an All-Star. He’s well respected by his peers because we all appreciate the guys who work hard day in and day out and we understand how tough it is to carry a team consistently, night after night. And he’s not just doing it by scoring. He’s doing it with assists — by facilitating — and with his contagious energy.

That’s what makes a leader.

That’s what makes an All-Star.

That’s why he’s got my vote.

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