When Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas takes a long, hard look at today’s landscape across the NBA, he sees that not much has changed since his playing days.
In 13 seasons in the NBA, Thomas won two championships – back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990 – but had to battle those old rivals, Magic Johnson’s Los Angeles Lakers, Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
Thomas believes that his era set the stage for the league as currently constructed in many ways: The idea of a “Big Three,” stars teaming up with one another. Super teams have always run rampant and controlled the NBA – now with the likes of the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and homegrown Oklahoma City Thunder – and part of Thomas still has to burn with pride for finding avenues past two of the best teams in league history.
“I don’t think the eras are any different,” Thomas told RealGM on Saturday afternoon during the “Peace Basketball Tournament” at St. Sabina church gym in Chicago. “There were super teams back then – the Celtics had seven Hall of Fame players on their team, the Lakers had five, six Hall of Famers on their team. So, it’s really no different now.”
Back in Chicago and embroiled in his hometown’s roots, Thomas shared a warm embrace with Derrick Rose when Rose made a surprise entrance into the building. As they hugged and spoke into each other’s ears near midcourt, the moment captured two of Chicago’s all-time best.
Both Chicago natives have stayed in touch since Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the Chicago Bulls’ first-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, and Thomas has sensed in their conversations that Rose badly wants to come back and return to his pre-injury stature.
“Derrick’s very focused, very determined [to return],” Thomas said. “His teammates love him; his city loves him. Everybody’s rooting and hoping that he returns healthy and he continues on his path.”