Isaiah Thomas has put the Boston Celtics on his tiny shoulders, helping guide the team to six straight playoff wins.
Thomas’ run this postseason is nothing short of incredible, with the 27-year-old also coping with the loss of his younger sister, Chyna, who was killed in a car accident one day before the playoffs began. He’s received support from NBA stars past and present, including Kevin Garnett and his boyhood idol Allen Iverson.
In addition to support in that tough time, Thomas has also received an assist from across enemy lines.
Thomas has been getting some pointers from former foe Kobe Bryant, who for 20 seasons dominated the court in the NBA as a Los Angeles Laker. The Celtics-Lakers rivalry, though fairly tame at the moment, remains one of the best in sports. But right now, it’d be hard to find a Boston fan upset that IT is chatting with such a big part of Los Angeles’ recent string of success.
Bryant reached out to Thomas shortly after his sister’s tragedy, and the two began to talk about his play. Thomas emailed Bryant clips of his game after Boston had fallen into a 2-0 series hole against the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the NBA Playoffs, and the two chatted on FaceTime while watching the film while Thomas was home in Tacoma, Washington.
Bryant gave Thomas some pointers on how to elevate his game, and it’s safe to say that whatever Bryant had to say was pretty good advice. Thomas is averaging 28.5 points while shooting 46 percent over Boston’s six-game winning streak, including an incredible 53-point performance in Boston’s Game 2 win on Tuesday night, giving Boston a 2-0 series lead over the Wizards.
Thomas discussed his chats with Bryant after the team arrived in Washington D.C. on Wednesday ahead of Thursday night’s Game 3.
“It’s the craziest thing that’s happened to me. I remember when I was at home in Washington and I was on the phone and my mom kept saying, ‘Who are you talking to?’” recalled Thomas. “I’m like, I had to put it on mute and I told her, ‘It’s Kobe!’ She started tripping a little bit. That was fun.
“Mentally, he’s just on a different level than anybody I’ve ever met,” Thomas said of Bryant, a five-time NBA Champ and two-time Finals MVP. “He watched every second, telling me what times to go to look at and certain plays and things I didn’t look at when I watched film. Mentally, you can tell he’s one of the greatest ever.”
The two have continued the conversation via text message throughout the playoffs, but Thomas isn’t ready to share Kobe’s advice.
“I’m not going to tell you his secrets. He wouldn’t want me to do that,” joked Thomas, adding that Bryant didn’t seem to mind helping someone who is currently playing for his old rival.
“I don’t even think he thinks of things like that, ” said Thomas. “He is just trying to help out and that’s part of it.”
Thomas has earned a few nicknames throughout the season, most commonly referred to as “The Little Guy” by Celtics broadcaster Tommy Heinsohn while also being tabbed “The King In The Fourth” for his tendency to take over late in games.
Former NBA player Matt Bonner asked Bryant on Twitter if we should now refer to Thomas as “Mini Mamba,” a play on Bryant’s “Black Mamba” nickname. While Bryant agrees that Thomas has that “Mamba Mentality,” he suggests everyone goes with “Mighty IT.”
For once, Celtics fans may actually agree with a Laker.