Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas was practicing hard on Saturday with his team as they prepared for Sunday’s playoff game against the Chicago Bulls. His mind was on the playoffs, until he was informed of devastating news after practice.
His 22-year-old sister, Chyna Thomas, had died suddenly and tragically. She was in a one-car crash in Washington state.
Her car slowly drifted onto the left shoulder of Interstate 5. The car hit a Jersey barrier after veering 50 feet off the road.
She then crashed into a metal pole and was sadly not wearing a seat belt. As he dealt with the shock and grief of his sister’s death, he was faced with a decision.
Thomas had to decide if he would go home to be with family immediately or stay to play in Sunday’s game. Coach Brad Stevens did not try to sway Thomas one way or the other.
Stevens, according to NBA, said, “One of the things I’ve learned, having been through situations in the past, is that there’s really no right or wrong answer. It’s whatever is right for him. He’s really hurting.”
Despite his grief, Thomas decided to play in the game that would happen just a day after he learned of his sister’s death. He was clearly hurting as he sat on the sidelines in tears before the game.
He could be seen crying while wearing shoes that showed his intention to dedicate this game to Chyna. He wrote messages on his shoes such as, “I love you,” “RIP Lil Sis,” and “Chyna.”
The death of a loved one is difficult to process, especially moments before a publicized event on which an entire team is counting on your performance. Thomas could not hide his grief.
In a heartwarming gesture, his teammate, Avery Bradley, quietly put his arm around Thomas to comfort him. Bradley must have known that there were no words that could adequately console his teammate in the moment, so he offered his presence.
His public grief before the game may have suggested that he was not in the emotional state to play. Yet, he scored 33 points in a span of 38 minutes!
The scoreboard screens before the game read: “In memory of Chyna Thomas.” Thomas certainly played his heart out in memory of his sister.
Though the Celtics lost to the Bulls, his teammates were impressed and thankful for Thomas’ performance. As Thomas has to make the transition from being focused on the game to further processing the loss of his sister, we pray that his family, teammates, and friends continue to show him support and comfort.