Sometimes, it only takes a split second for a revolution to start.
The Boston Celtics were less than a minute away from being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the 2015 playoffs when LeBron James became upset at an obvious, uncalled foul against then-Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas. A quick cut to Thomas’ mischievous grin upon getting away with the contact began making the rounds on basketball Twitter, where memes can become legends in an instant.
The image, known colloquially as “The Isaiah Pic,” became ubiquitous in certain corners of Twitter for the rest of the playoffs and beyond. This was thanks in large part to the Twitter user @HebertofRiffs, a diehard Celtics fan whose many aliases include The Riffs Man and The Cool Guitar Man.
Hebert’s own Twitter following hovers around 2,500 people, but his influence is far-reaching. His idiosyncratic tweeting style, which consists largely of calling players “Insanely Erotic” and writing their first and last names together with no spaces to make it harder for them to name-search, has become the standard language of Celtics Twitter, the goofiest and most entertaining NBA Twitter subculture. His takeover started with the Isaiah Pic.
“It’s the end of a wholly irrelevant four-game series against the Cavaliers, who have roughly 8 All-Stars,” Hebert writes via email. “Like, the game and series are a wrap and they honestly should have just simmed the series in 2K, but the play still managed to evoke complete outrage from LeBron. At this point the camera is drawn to Isaiahthomas, who is sporting a Supernaturalshiteatinggrin, and everyone on Celtics Twitter loses their minds over it.”
As Thomas subsequently blossomed into an All-Star, fringe MVP candidate and legitimate Boston folk hero, the legacy of the Isaiah Pic grew. The 2015 Celtics were a rebuilding group that didn’t go into the season expecting to compete for a playoff spot. When a team overachieves unexpectedly like that, especially in a massive media market like Boston, it creates a special connection with the fanbase.