Today is Day 22 of the Omer. Hesed sheb’netzach. Love that emerges from endurance
Allegations have been thrown my way that I’m a Celtics homer, but in the words of Tommy Heinsohn, “Are you kidding me??! This is ridiculous!”
Strong consideration today was given to all-time greats, Elgin Baylor, Clyde Drexler, and Sheryl Swoopes. But while they all possess admirable traits, they don’t quite capture the essence of Day 22, hesed sheb’netzach, quite like The Little Guy, Isaiah Thomas.
Day 22 begins the week of netzach, which means victory or endurance, and there are few players in the NBA who’ve endured and persevered like Isaiah Thomas over his career. As the last pick in the 2011 Draft, the 5’9” Thomas was a longshot to make the NBA. Yet each year, Thomas got better, raising his scoring average with the Sacramento Kings from 11.5 to 13.9 to 20.3 points a game. That earned him a modest 4 year, $27 million contract with the Phoenix Suns, which he would quickly outperform once he was traded to the Boston Celtics mid-season.
In Boston, Thomas would become a 2x All-Star and All-NBA player. His ability to endure physical contact, fearless drives to the hoop, incredible scoring outbursts, and clutch shooting made him a fan favorite. The Little Guy became the King of the Fourth leading the Celtics back to the playoffs for the first time since the days of Garnett and Pierce, and igniting hopes for a new championship contender.
In Boston, a city that roots for the hard-working underdog, Thomas was beloved. He led the Celtics to the 2017 playoffs, after averaging 28.9 points/game and finishing in the top 5 for the league’s MVP award. And then, a day before the playoffs began, tragedy struck: Thomas’s sister, Chyna, was killed in a car accident. Everybody would have understood if he’d sat out the game or the whole series, but Thomas played one day later, fighting through pre-game tears to score 33 points against the Chicago Bulls.
After leading the Celtics to a first round victory against the Bulls, Thomas did something even more incredible. On what would have been his sister’s 23rd birthday, he scored 53 points, in a double OT victory against the Washington Wizards.
Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, where he re-aggravated a hip injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers and had to sit out the remainder of the playoffs. Thomas never fully recovered. Traded to Cleveland that summer, his dreams of a max contract in 2018 never materialized. Instead of earning over $100 million, he’s bounced around to the Lakers, Nuggets, and Wizards on minimum contracts, grinding, trying to work his way back onto the court and into a significant role for an NBA team. Sadly, his days of stardom seem to have passed, but Isaiah Thomas endures with a smile, spirit, and love for the game that is admirable and contagious. His trials could have made him angry, bitter, or resentful, but Thomas continues spreading love and positivity, fully embodying today’s combination of sefirot, hesed sheb’netzach.
Featured photo credit: Michael Tipton