The opening round of the NBA playoffs got started on Saturday, but sadly the weekend’s action on the court took a backseat to the news of the tragic death of Isaiah Thomas’ younger sister, Chyna, in a car accident in Washington state. Thomas took the court with the Celtics on Sunday, receiving a tremendous amount of love and support from the Boston crowd, and put on a fantastic performance with 33 points in the Game 1 loss to the Bulls.
The news of Thomas’ sister’s death sent shock waves around the NBA as players from around the league offered their sympathies, prayers, and best wishes to Thomas and his family as they go through this difficult time. On Monday, LeBron James joined the list of those to offer his condolences to Thomas as he spoke about the tragedy at shootaround prior to Game 2 between the Cavs and the Pacers.
“Because I’m not on social media right now, I didn’t get the opportunity to actually send my condolences out to him and his family, but my deepest sympathy and prayers goes up to him and his mother and father,” James said. “It had to be a tough situation for him going out and playing a game, and obviously who cares about the game. That’s so silly to even think about basketball when something like that tragic happens. He’s obviously a strong-willed guy. I’ve gotten to know him over the last couple years, and it’s unfortunate that something like that happened at a time like this. Our world is kind of revolved around basketball, but who cares about basketball when something like that happens. It’s just a sick feeling. I don’t have any siblings, but I have some very, very close people in my life and I can only imagine how that would take your heart away, especially at a time like this. And he was unbelievable in the game, too, by the way.”
It’s clear that the tragedy has caused many players to take a step back, recognizing that there are things more important than playoff basketball, as James noted. Thomas chose to play in Game 1, and plans on doing so for Games 2 and 3 as well, while flying out to Tacoma, Washington for the funeral in between. The Celtics have offered to support him in whatever he chooses to do, play or return home, and they are hopeful to join him for the funeral to provide more support.
There is no right or wrong way to grieve the loss of someone close to you. No one could criticize Thomas for sitting if he wanted to, but it appears that he feels the best thing for him is to go on and use basketball as something of an escape. What Thomas did in Game 1 was nothing short of incredible, and whatever he does the rest of this series and the rest of the playoffs will be impressive as well. Hopefully, the game he loves and being with his team offers some sort of solace in such a terrible time.