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Isiah Thomas

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Title: Isiah Thomas  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Detroit Pistons, 1988 NBA Finals, 1990 NBA Finals, 1989 NBA Finals, Magic Johnson
Collection: 1961 Births, African-American Basketball Coaches, African-American Basketball Players, African-American Sports Executives and Administrators, American Expatriate Basketball People in Canada, Basketball Players at the 1979 Pan American Games, Basketball Players at the 1981 Ncaa Men's Division I Final Four, Basketball Players from Illinois, Detroit Pistons Draft Picks, Detroit Pistons Players, Fiu Panthers Men's Basketball Coaches, Indiana Hoosiers Men's Basketball Players, Indiana Pacers Head Coaches, Living People, McDonald's High School All-Americans, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Inductees, National Basketball Association All-Stars, National Basketball Association Broadcasters, National Basketball Association Players with Retired Numbers, New York Knicks Head Coaches, Parade High School All-Americans (Boys' Basketball), Point Guards, Sportspeople from Chicago, Illinois, Toronto Raptors Executives
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas
Isiah Thomas coaching the Knicks
Personal information
Born (1961-04-30) April 30, 1961
Chicago, Illinois
Nationality American
Listed height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Listed weight 180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school St. Joseph (Westchester, Illinois)
College Indiana (1979–1981)
NBA draft 1981 / Round: 1 / Pick: 2nd overall
Selected by the Detroit Pistons
Pro career 1981–1994
Position Point guard
Number 11
Coaching career 2000–2012
Career history
As player:
19811994 Detroit Pistons
As coach:
20002003 Indiana Pacers
20062008 New York Knicks
2009–2012 FIU
Career highlights and awards

As player:

As coach:

Career NBA statistics
Points 18,822 (19.2 ppg)
Assists 9,061 (9.3 apg)
Steals 1,861 (1.9 spg)
Stats at
Basketball Hall of Fame as player
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Isiah Lord Thomas III (; born April 30, 1961) is a retired American basketball player who played professionally for the Detroit Pistons in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The 12-time NBA All-Star was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Thomas has also been a professional and collegiate head coach, a basketball executive, and a broadcaster.

Thomas played collegiately for the Indiana Hoosiers. He went on to play professionally as point guard for the Pistons from 1981 until 1994 and led the "Bad Boys" to NBA championships in the 1988–89 and 1989–90 seasons. After his playing career, he was an executive with the Toronto Raptors, a television commentator, an executive with the Continental Basketball Association, head coach of the Indiana Pacers, and an executive and head coach for the New York Knicks. He was later the men's basketball coach for the Florida International University (FIU) Golden Panthers for three seasons from 2009 to 2012. In early May of 2015, amidst controversy, Isiah was named president and part owner of the Knicks' WNBA sister team, the New York Liberty, subsequent to the re-hiring of Thomas's former Pistons teammate, Bill Laimbeer, as the team's coach.[1][2][3]


  • Early life 1
  • College career 2
  • NBA playing career 3
  • International career 4
  • Post-playing career 5
    • Businessman 5.1
    • Toronto Raptors 5.2
    • Broadcasting 5.3
    • CBA Innovator 5.4
    • Indiana Pacers 5.5
    • Hall of Fame 5.6
    • New York Knicks 5.7
    • FIU 5.8
    • Back to broadcasting 5.9
    • New York Liberty 5.10
  • Education 6
  • Philanthropic work 7
  • Controversies 8
    • Rivalries 8.1
    • Lawsuit 8.2
    • Drug overdose 8.3
  • NBA career statistics 9
    • Regular season 9.1
    • Playoffs 9.2
  • Coaching record 10
    • NBA 10.1
    • College 10.2
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Early life

Thomas was born on April 30, 1961, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. Thomas commuted from Chicago's West Side North Lawndale neighborhood to play high school basketball at St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois for Gene Pingatore.[4] He would wake up at 5:00 am and commute 90 minutes to attend the private school.[4] During his junior year, he led St. Joseph to the State Finals and was considered one of the top college prospects in the country.[5]

College career

Thomas was recruited to play college basketball for Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. Although he received mail saying Knight tied up his players and beat them, he did not believe the rumors.[5] When Knight visited the Thomas home, one of Isiah's brothers, who wanted him to attend DePaul, embarrassed him by insulting the Indiana coach and engaging him in a shouting match. Nevertheless, Thomas chose Knight and Indiana because he felt that getting away to Bloomington would be good for him, as would be Knight's discipline.[5]

Thomas quickly had to adjust to Knight's disciplinarian style. At the 1979 Pan American Games in Puerto Rico Knight got so mad at Thomas he threatened to put him on a plane home. Knight recalled yelling at the freshman-to-be, "You ought to go to DePaul, Isiah, because you sure as hell aren't going to be an Indiana player playing like that."[5] Prior to the start of his freshman year, the 1979-80 season, Knight became so upset with Thomas that he kicked him out of a practice. According to Thomas, Knight was making a point that no player, no "matter how talented, is bigger than Knight's philosophy."[5]

However, Thomas quickly proved his skills as a player and became a favorite with both Knight and Indiana fans. His superior abilities eventually would cause Knight to adjust his coaching style.[5] Fans would display bed sheets with quotations from the Book of Isaiah ("And a little child shall lead them") and nicknamed him "Mr. Wonderful."[5] Because of Thomas' relatively short stature at 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), Coach Knight would call Thomas "Pee Wee".[5] Thomas and Mike Woodson led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten championship and advanced to the 1980 Sweet Sixteen.

The following year, the 1980-81 season, Knight made Thomas the captain and told him to run the show on the floor.[5] Thomas responded so positively that, as the season unfolded, Knight and Thomas grew as friends. When a Purdue player took a cheap shot at Isiah in a game at Bloomington, Knight called a press conference to defend his star. And 19 days later, when Thomas hit an Iowa player and was ejected from a game, Knight refused to criticize Thomas.[5]

That year Thomas and the Hoosiers once again won a conference title and won the 1981 NCAA tournament, the school's fourth national title. He earned the tournament's Most Outstanding Player award. Following his sophomore season and the Hoosiers' national championship, Thomas made himself eligible for the NBA draft.

NBA playing career

In the 1981 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons chose Thomas with the No. 2 pick and signed him to a four-year $1.6 million contract. Thomas made the All-Rookie team and started for the Eastern Conference in the 1982 All-Star Game.

In the opening round of the 1984 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and the Pistons faced off against Bernard King and the New York Knicks. In the pivotal fifth game, Thomas was having a subpar performance, while Bernard King was having an excellent game. However, Thomas scored 16 points in the last 94 seconds to force the game into overtime. The Knicks, however, held on to win in overtime.

In the 1985 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and his team went to the conference semi-finals against the 15-time NBA champion Boston Celtics led by Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, and Dennis Johnson. Detroit couldn't shake the Celtics in their six-game series, eventually losing.

In the 1987 NBA Playoffs, Thomas and the Pistons went to the Eastern Conference Finals and faced the Boston Celtics. It was the furthest the team had advanced since moving from Fort Wayne when they were the Zollner-Pistons. The Pistons were able to tie the Celtics at two games apiece. Detroit's hope of winning Game 5 was dashed at the Boston Garden with seconds remaining in a play by Larry Bird: Thomas attempted to quickly inbound the ball, Bird stole the inbound pass and passed it to Dennis Johnson for the game-winning layup.

In 1988, the Pistons' first trip to the Finals saw them face the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Before the series, Thomas and Johnson would exchange a courtside kiss on the cheek prior to tip-off as a sign of their deep friendship.[6][7] After taking a 3–2 series lead back to Los Angeles, Detroit appeared poised to win their first NBA title in Game 6.

One of Thomas' most inspiring and self-defining moments came in Game 6. Although he had severely sprained his ankle late in the game, Thomas continued to play. While hobbling and in obvious pain, Thomas scored 25 points in a single quarter of the game, an NBA Finals record. However, the Lakers won the game 103–102 on a pair of last-minute free throws by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar following a controversial foul called on Bill Laimbeer. With Thomas unable to compete at full strength the Lakers were able to take advantage and clinched their second consecutive title in Game 7, 108–105.

In the 1988–89 season, Thomas, along with teammates Joe Dumars, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson, Dennis Rodman, James Edwards, John Salley, Bill Laimbeer, and Mark Aguirre, guided his team to a 63–19 win–loss record. Detroit played a brash and dominating brand of basketball through the playoffs that led to their nickname "Bad Boys". First they defeated Boston who had been suffering persistent injuries. The Pistons then defeated Michael Jordan and the up-and-coming Chicago Bulls in the Conference Finals to set up an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers. Thomas and the Pistons then won their first of back-to-back championships when they defeated the Lakers in a 4-game sweep. The following year, Thomas was voted NBA Finals Most Valuable Player of the 1990 NBA Finals after averaging 27.6 points per game, 7.0 assists per game, and 5.2 rebounds per game in the series with Clyde Drexler's Portland Trail Blazers. The Pistons continued to play well between 1991 and 1993 but were not able to return to the NBA Finals as they were eclipsed by the growing Chicago Bulls dynasty. An aging and ailing Thomas decided to end his career at the end of the 1994 season, but he tore his Achilles' tendon in April 1994, forcing him to end his career as a player a month earlier than planned.

Thomas was named to the All-NBA First team three times and is the Pistons' all-time leader in points, steals, games played and assists. He ranks fifth in NBA history in assists (9,061, 9.3 apg) and ranks ninth in NBA history in steals (1,861). Thomas was known for his dribbling ability as well as his ability to drive to the basket and score. His No. 11 was retired by the Detroit Pistons.

International career

Thomas was selected to the 1980 Olympic team, but like all American athletes he was not able to play in Moscow due to the Olympics boycott. The boycotting countries instead participated in the gold medal series, a series of games against NBA teams, a French team and the 1976 Olympic gold medal team in various U.S. cities, recording a 5–1 record (losing to the Seattle SuperSonics). Thomas shot 22–55 from the field and 14–17 from the line. He led the U.S. in assists with 37 (the next highest total on the team was 17) and averaged 9.7 points per game.[8]

Despite his talent, Thomas was left off the original Olympic Dream Team, possibly as a result of an alleged feud with Michael Jordan.[9] In the book When the Game Was Ours, Magic Johnson relates that he, Jordan and other players conspired to keep Thomas off the Dream Team.[6][10]

After Tim Hardaway left the team due to injury, Thomas was named to Dream Team II for the 1994 World Championship of Basketball, but did not play due to his Achilles tendon injury that caused his retirement.[9] He was replaced by Kevin Johnson.

Post-playing career


Isiah Thomas is the founding Chairman and CEO of Isiah International LLC, a holding company with a diverse portfolio of business ventures and investments. Gre3n Waste Removal, Re3 Recycling, and Eleven Capital Group are three of the primary businesses in the Isiah International family of companies. The mission of Isiah International is to become a business incubator for the minority community.[11]

In addition to these business ventures, Thomas is involved in real estate projects in Chicago and the surrounding region as the owner of Isiah Real Estate.[12] Thomas said he is putting money in distressed areas and reinvesting, “I’m hoping I can be a catalyst for change in those areas, to get the population back into those communities and be a catalyst to make a difference.”[13] Thomas is also involved in a $300 million development deal for a mixed-use complex at the Illinois Medical District Commission. Isiah Real Estate partnered with Higgins Development Partners, Thomas Samuels Enterprises, and East Lake Management & Development to develop a 9.5 acres of land that would include retail space, a hotel, apartments and parking areas.[12]

Thomas’ business career began during his career with the Pistons. Planning for life after the NBA, Thomas invested in a host of ventures through his private investment company out of Michigan, Isiah Investments, LLC. His primary investment was a large chain of printing franchises, American Speedy Printing Centers Inc. Thomas took a very hands-on approach at American Speedy. He helped lead the company out of bankruptcy to become profitable and one of the largest printing franchises in the world.[14]

He was also one of the founding members of the advisory board for Marquis Jet Partners and a partner of Dale and Thomas Popcorn.[15]

Isiah Thomas was elected to be the first African American[16] to sit on the Board of Governors of the Chicago Stock Exchange in April 1999 and served until 2002.[17]

Thomas often speaks to students and professionals around the country about his business experiences.[18] [19]

Toronto Raptors

After retiring, Thomas became part owner and Executive Vice President for the expansion

External links

  1. ^ Broussard, Chris (5 May 2015). "Isiah Thomas returns to N.Y. basketball as Liberty president, part owner". ESPN. Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  2. ^ Berkman, Seth (8 May 2015). "Seattle Storm Express Concern After Liberty’s Hiring of Isiah Thomas". (The New York Times). Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Mandell, Nina (6 May 2015). "'"Isiah Thomas' message to concerned Liberty fans: 'Come out and enjoy the game. (USA Today). Retrieved 8 May 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Metcalf, Stephen (2006-06-29). "The Devil Wears Nikes; Liking Isiah Thomas against my better judgment". Retrieved 2008-11-02. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reed, William F. (6 April 1981). "There's No Doubting Thomas".  
  6. ^ a b Thomsen, Ian (2009-10-22). "Isiah blasts Magic Johnson over criticisms in forthcoming book". (Time Inc.). Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2011-05-26. 
  7. ^  
  8. ^ "Games of the XXIInd Olympiad – 1980". Retrieved 2008-09-27. 
  9. ^ a b "Sports People: Basketball; Thomas Is Named To Dream Team II". New York Times. 1994-01-11. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  10. ^ "Book: Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan kept Isiah Thomas off Olympic team". The Detroit News. October 22, 2009. (subscription required)
  11. ^ "About Isiah International, LLC". Isiah International. Retrieved 14 March 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Marotti, Ally (4 March 2015). "Medical District Development clears key hurdle". Crain's Chicago Business. Retrieved 8 March 2015. 
  13. ^ Decker, Danny (18 November 2013). "Isiah Thomas' latest playbook: Reversing Chicago's housing blight". Crain's Chicago Business. 
  14. ^ Vlasic, Bill (6 June 1993). "Basketball Star Takes Shot at Printing Business". Detroit News. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  15. ^ "Executive Profile of Isiah Thomas". Bloomberg. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Fine, Mike (29 November 2007). "Pro Basketball: Master of Disaster". The Patriot Ledger. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "CHX Announces Board of Governors' Election Results". Chicago Stock Exchange (PR Newswire). 9 April 1999. Retrieved 1 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "UIC Urban Forum Speakers". Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  19. ^ Indivizible (27 March 2014). "Isiah Thomas To Sacramento: Education is The Driving Force Behind Your Success!". Indivizible Blog. Retrieved 11 April 2015. 
  20. ^ "ESPN Classic - Isiah defied the odds". 1961-04-30. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  21. ^ "Indiana Pacers Playoffs 2003 Media Guide" (PDF). NBA. 
  22. ^ "Enlighten Sports Launches New University of Colorado Buffaloes And Continental Basketball Association Web Sites". Enlighten Sports Inc (PR Newswire). PR Newswire. 19 February 2000. Retrieved 14 April 2015. 
  23. ^ " and the Continental Basketball Association Bring Online Video Highlights to Fans". Business Wire. 20 March 2000. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "Isiah Thomas' i-gift Taps Somerset Collection to Preview New Online Gift Certificate". PRNewswire. 1 December 1998. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  25. ^ "All in Favor of Onling Gift Certificate, Say Isiah". Detroit Free Press. 1 December 1998. Retrieved 13 April 2015. 
  26. ^ CBA Museum, Isiah Thomas Years
  27. ^ "Thomas overwhelmed when 'Hall' calls him". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Associated Press. 2000-05-25. Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  28. ^ Pincus, David (2012-08-09). "12/22/2003 - Knicks hire Isiah Thomas". Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  29. ^ ""Melo apologizes; Isiah reportedly under investigation,, 2006-12-20. Accessed 2007-10-03. "Though Thomas acknowledged telling Anthony not to go into the paint, he said Monday he meant it not as a threat but as a lecture on sportsmanship."
  30. ^ "Suspensions total 47 games from Knicks-Nuggets fight",, 2006-12-20. Accessed 2007-10-03
  31. ^ "Thomas shows 'evident progress'; earns new deal",, 2007-03-07. Accessed 2007-10-03.
  32. ^ "Isiah Thomas predicts a title". Daily News (New York). 2008-01-03. 
  33. ^ Isiah Thomas fired as coach of New York. He was fired on April 18, 2008 Knicks, Associated Press, April 18, 2008.
  34. ^ ESPN – Report: Ex-Knicks coach Thomas banned from contacting players – NBA
  35. ^ a b c "FIU Hires Isiah to be Head Coach". CBS. 2009-04-14. Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  36. ^ "Isiah Thomas Officially Returns to New York Knicks Two Years After Scandal-Marred Exit From Garden". New York Daily News. 2010-08-06. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  37. ^ a b "Isiah Thomas Renegs on Consultant Job with Knicks". New York Daily News. 2010-08-11. Retrieved 2011-02-03. 
  38. ^ "FIU fires Isiah Thomas after 3 seasons". 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  39. ^ "Isiah Thomas to join NBA TV as studio analyst - ESPN". 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  40. ^ [2]
  41. ^ "Liberty introduce Team President Isiah Thomas". New York Liberty. 
  42. ^ "WNBA, Liberty suspend consideration of Isiah Thomas' partial-team ownership application". USA TODAY Sports. 
  43. ^ Berman, Marc. "Isiah Thomas - yes, that Isiah Thomas - is Liberty's Mr. Fix-t". New York Post. 
  44. ^ Bacharach, Erik. "Becky Hammon inducted into Liberty's Ring of Honor". Newsday. 
  45. ^ "Local sports digest: Ex-NBA star Isiah Thomas enrolled at Cal as a graduate student". 
  46. ^ "Isiah Thomas earns master's degree from Cal-Berkeley". 
  47. ^ "Black males, athletes and academic achievement". Huffington Post. May 7, 2013. 
  48. ^ "Isiah Thomas Bio". Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  49. ^ Nack, William (January 19, 1987). "I Have Got To Do It Right". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  50. ^ Zimmerman, Stephanie (November 25, 2011). "Volunteers give thanks to veterans". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved November 27, 2011. 
  51. ^ "Isiah Thomas’ Mary’s Court Foundation donates to FIU First Generation Scholarship Fund". 
  52. ^ Press, Associated (August 5, 2012). "Isiah Thomas dedicates Chicago road to his mother". The Southern Illinoisan. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 
  53. ^ Hooks, Theresa Fambro (March 15, 2012). "Annual MLK Legacy Gala Honors 3, Supports E.G.P. Boys & Girls Club". Chicago Defender Online. Retrieved April 2, 2012. 
  54. ^ Bright, Marcus (June 20, 2012). "Black Men’s Roundtable Seeks to Address a Crisis". The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 20, 2012. 
  55. ^ Robinson, Aaron (21 October 2014). "Isiah Thomas The Peace League Tournament". Consciousness Magazine. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  56. ^ "Isiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Others Against Chicago’s Gang Violence". 
  57. ^ Powers, Scott (September 22, 2012). "Isiah Thomas turns to hoops for peace with Chicago gangs". ESPN. Retrieved October 3, 2012. 
  58. ^ Bellware, Kim (22 September 2014). "Pastor Gets Rival Gang Members To Put Down Guns And Pick Up Basketballs, And The NBA Notices". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  59. ^ "New York City Peace Game During NBA All-Star Weekend". PR Web. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  60. ^ "Celebrity Philanthropy: Isiah Thomas, Mary's Court Foundation". Black Gives Back. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  61. ^ "Hollywood Stars Celebrate Awards Night at the 14th Annual Children Uniting Nations Awards Viewing Dinner and After Party Held at Historic Movie Mogul Mansion". PR Web. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  62. ^ "Annual Holiday Gift Drive". Mary's Court Foundation. Retrieved 23 November 2014. 
  63. ^ Robinson, Aaron (22 December 2014). "Mary’s Court Third Annual Holiday Toy Giveaway". Consciousness Magazine. Retrieved 15 April 2015. 
  64. ^ Wolff, Alexander."Look of a Winner", Sports Illustrated, accessed October 3, 2007."There was the famous freeze-out at the '85 All-Star Game, at which Isiah Thomas led a movement of several veterans to keep the ball out of the hands of their uppity rookie teammate."
  65. ^ Albom, Mitch. "Why is Isiah leaving Detroit – Part 2", Detroit Free Press, accessed 2008-04-30."I don't know how something like that gets started...what you're telling me is that I came in the locker room that had Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Michael Ray Richardson and whoever else was on that team, and I said, 'Hey, Bird, hey, Doc' – and I'm a young guy myself – 'hey, let's not give Jordan the ball.' Do you know how stupid that sounds? Do you know how ludicrous that sounds?"
  67. ^ Stone, Mike; Regner, Art (2008). The Great Book of Detroit Sports Lists. Running Press. p. 103.  
  68. ^ Banks, Lacy J. (March 12, 2011). "Amid Bulls celebration, Scottie Pippen has no regrets". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. 
  69. ^ "Isiah Thomas gets shredded in new Dream Team documentary | ProBasketballTalk". 2012-06-13. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  70. ^ "MSG, Thomas settle lawsuit with compensatory damages looming". 
  71. ^ Sherman, Alex (28 October 2014). "If Dolan Sells the Knicks, Give JAT Capital Some Credit". Bloomberg. Retrieved 16 April 2015. 
  72. ^ Lelinwalla, Mark; Schapiro, Rich (2008-10-24). "Police respond to report of drug overdose at Isiah Thomas' home".  
  73. ^ Beck, Howard; Schmidt, Michael (2008-10-25). "Overdose of Pills Puts Isiah Thomas in Hospital".  
  74. ^ ESPN Sportscenter interview, April 15, 2009


See also

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
FIU Golden Panthers / Panthers (Sun Belt) (2009–2012)
2009–10 FIU 7–25 4–14 6th (East)
2010–11 FIU 11–19 5–11 6th (East)
2011–12 FIU 8–21 5–11 T5th (East)
FIU: 26–65 14–36
Total: 26–65


Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Indiana 2000–01 82 41 41 .500 4th in Central 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First round
Indiana 2001–02 82 42 40 .512 4th in Central 5 2 3 .400 Lost in First round
Indiana 2002–03 82 48 34 .585 2nd in Central 6 2 4 .333 Lost in First round
New York 2006–07 82 33 49 .402 4th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
New York 2007–08 82 23 59 .280 5th in Atlantic Missed Playoffs
Career 410 187 223 .456 15 5 10 .333


Coaching record

1984 Detroit 5 5 39.6 .470 .333 .771 3.8 11.0 2.6 1.2 21.4
1985 Detroit 9 9 39.4 .500 .400 .758 5.2 11.2 2.1 .4 24.3
1986 Detroit 4 4 40.8 .451 .000 .667 5.5 12.0 2.3 .8 26.5
1987 Detroit 15 15 37.5 .451 .303 .755 4.5 8.7 2.6 .3 24.1
1988 Detroit 23 23 39.6 .437 .295 .828 4.7 8.7 2.9 .3 21.9
1989 Detroit 17 17 37.2 .412 .267 .740 4.3 8.3 1.6 .2 18.2
1990 Detroit 20 20 37.9 .463 .471 .794 5.5 8.2 2.2 .4 20.5
1991 Detroit 13 11 33.5 .403 .273 .725 4.2 8.5 1.0 .2 13.5
1992 Detroit 5 5 40.0 .338 .364 .786 5.2 7.4 1.0 .0 14.0
Career 111 109 38.0 .441 .346 .769 4.7 8.9 2.1 .3 20.4


1981–82 Detroit 72 72 33.8 .424 .288 .704 2.9 7.8 2.1 .2 17.0
1982–83 Detroit 81 81 38.2 .472 .288 .710 4.0 7.8 2.5 .4 22.9
1983–84 Detroit 82 82 36.7 .462 .338 .733 4.0 11.1 2.5 .4 21.3
1984–85 Detroit 81 81 38.1 .458 .257 .809 4.5 13.9 2.3 .3 21.2
1985–86 Detroit 77 77 36.2 .488 .310 .790 3.6 10.8 2.2 .3 20.9
1986–87 Detroit 81 81 37.2 .463 .194 .768 3.9 10.0 1.9 .2 20.6
1987–88 Detroit 81 81 36.1 .463 .309 .774 3.4 8.4 1.7 .2 19.5
1988–89 Detroit 80 76 36.6 .464 .273 .818 3.4 8.3 1.7 .3 18.2
1989–90 Detroit 81 81 37.0 .438 .309 .775 3.8 9.4 1.7 .2 18.4
1990–91 Detroit 48 46 34.5 .435 .292 .782 3.3 9.3 1.6 .2 16.2
1991–92 Detroit 78 78 37.4 .446 .291 .772 3.2 7.2 1.5 .2 18.5
1992–93 Detroit 79 79 37.0 .418 .308 .737 2.9 8.5 1.6 .2 17.6
1993–94 Detroit 58 56 30.2 .417 .310 .702 2.7 6.9 1.2 .1 14.8
Career 979 971 36.3 .452 .290 .759 3.6 9.3 1.9 .3 19.2
All-Star 12 10 28.9 .571 .400 .771 2.5 8.8 2.8 .0 16.8

Regular season

Denotes seasons in which Thomas won an NBA championship

NBA career statistics

According to Thomas in an interview with ESPN, he explained that he was so quiet about his hospitalization because he was focused on his family at the time.[74]

On October 24, 2008, Thomas was taken to White Plains Hospital Center near his New York City area home after accidentally taking an overdose of Lunesta, a form of sleep medication.[72] He was released from the hospital later that day.[73]

Drug overdose

In January 2006, a former female executive filed a employment and harassment lawsuit against The Madison Square Garden Company. The case was then settled for $11.5 million.[70][71]


In September 2009, during Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Jordan thanked Thomas and others for giving him the motivation he needed to compete in the NBA.

In the Eastern Conference Finals of the 1991 NBA Playoffs, the two-time defending champion Detroit Pistons faced the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. The Pistons had defeated the Bulls in each of the first three meetings, but this time they suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of the Bulls (who would win the first of three consecutive, and six overall, NBA championships between 1991 and 1998). The series was marked by a number of verbal, physical, and match-up problems. With 7.9 seconds remaining in the fourth game, Thomas and all of his teammates—except Joe Dumars and John Salley—walked off the court, refusing to shake hands with the members of the Bulls.[67][68] In 1992, Thomas was passed over for the Dream Team apparently because of his strained relationship with Jordan.[69]

In 1987, Thomas was asked if he agreed with Dennis Rodman's comments on Larry Bird, and reinforced that if Bird were black he "would be just another good guy" instead of being portrayed as the league's best player. Thomas later said he was joking and just supporting his teammate.[66]

In the 1985 NBA All-Star Game, Thomas was joined on the Eastern Conference squad by star rookie Michael Jordan. Jordan wound up attempting nine shots, relatively few for a starting player. Afterward, Thomas and his fellow veteran East players were accused of having planned to "freeze out" Jordan from their offense by not passing him the ball, supposedly out of spite over the attention Jordan was receiving. No player involved has ever confirmed that the freeze-out occurred, but the story has long been reported and has never been refuted by Jordan.[64] Thomas has ridiculed the idea of his being the mastermind behind a supposed freeze-out as "ludicrous", pointing out that he was a relatively young player on a team that included Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Moses Malone.[65] During Michael Jordan's Hall of Fame induction, in which Thomas introduced John Stockton, who was also being inducted, Jordan dismissed the claims about a freeze-out having taken place, saying "I was just happy to be there, being the young guy surrounded by all these greats, I just wanted to prove myself and I hope that I did prove myself to you guys."



In partnership with the Marillac Social Center, Thomas and Mary’s Court hosted its Third Annual Holiday Toy Giveaway. [62] Each year Mary’s Court provides gifts, clothing and educational items to hundreds of children in Chicago at this signature event. [63]

In March 2013, Children Uniting Nations, an organization that focuses on advocacy/awareness and provides academic and community-based programs for at-risk and foster youth, presented Thomas and Mary’s Court with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his passion and commitment to improving the lives of children.[61]

Most recently, the Peace League Tournament was expanded to Cure Violence, and Connor Sports. [59] [60]

The Peace League initiative has expanded into a program which now offers GED classes, employment training, and internship opportunities. The surrounding Auburn-Gresham neighborhood has seen a drastic drop in violence since the league began. [58]

The Peace League is an annual community basketball league that brings together young men and women from surrounding communities within the Chicago area and provides a safe haven growth and development; it was established by Thomas and Father Pfleger in 2011. [55] In September 2012, Thomas co-hosted the Ballin’ for Peace Tournament at St. Sabina Church in Chicago, IL. He joined with Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Quentin Richardson, Zach Randolph, the Chicago BearsJ'Marcus Webb, pastor Father Michael Pfleger, and others to produce this event, in order to reduce gang violence through communication and basketball. Thomas also stressed the value of education for those in poverty.[56][57]

In July 2012, Thomas joined The Black Men's Roundtable in Florida along with other national and local black leaders to discuss issues that directly affect black males.[54]

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boys & Girls Club of Chicago recognized Thomas’s philanthropic work in March 2012 and honored him with the organization’s King Legacy Award at their 24th Annual King Legacy Awards Gala. The award is given annually to individuals who have fostered the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through their community contributions.[53]

While at FIU, Thomas and Mary’s Court donated $50,000 to FIU’s First Generation Scholarship and organized a sell-out charity game during the NBA lockout featuring NBA stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, with proceeds benefiting Mary’s Court.[51] A street on Chicago’s West Side was named in honor of his mother.[52]

Thomas founded Mary’s Court, a foundation that supports economically disadvantaged parents and children in the communities of Garfield Park and Lawndale on the West Side of Chicago. The charity is named for Thomas’s mother, who he credits with instilling in him the importance of hard work and giving back to the community. Mary’s Court has teamed up with another Chicago-based charity, Kids off the Block, to serve meals to Chicago children and families during Thanksgiving.[50]

During his playing career, Thomas paid college tuition for more than 75 youngsters.[48] When he was a Piston, in 1987 Thomas organized the “No Crime Day” in Detroit. He even had the help of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young to call for a moratorium on crime in the summer of 1986.[49]

Philanthropic work

Thomas finished his college degree at Indiana University during the Pistons’ off seasons and received his Master’s in Education from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013.[45][46] At UC Berkeley, Thomas studied the connection between education and sports, specifically how American society makes education accessible (or inaccessible) to black male college athletes.[47]


On August 2, 2015, during halftime at the game against the Seattle Storm, the New York Liberty inducted WNBA legend Becky Hammon into the Liberty's Ring of Honor. Thomas presented Hammon with her ring during the induction ceremony at Madison Square Garden. Hammon, a former New York Liberty point guard is currently a NBA assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.[44]

Under Thomas' leadership as team president and the skilled coaching staff led by Bill Laimbeer as head coach, the Liberty finished first in the Eastern Conference during the 2015 season.[43]

On June 22, 2015, the Liberty and the WNBA agreed to suspend consideration of Isiah Thomas' ownership application; however, Isiah will remain President of the team overseeing all basketball and business operations of the franchise.[42]

On May 5, 2015, the WNBA New York Liberty hired Thomas as Team President overseeing all business and basketball operations of the franchise.[41]

New York Liberty

On December 19, 2012, NBA TV announced that Thomas would begin work on December 21, 2012 as a member of the studio analyst panel.[39] It was also announced that Thomas would become a regular contributor for[40]

Back to broadcasting

Thomas finished his second season at FIU with an 11–19 record (5–11 in conference games). On April 6, 2012, Thomas was fired at FIU, after he went 26–65 in three seasons. Under Thomas, FIU never won more than 11 games in a season.[38]

After posting a 7–25 record in his first season at FIU, on August 6, 2010, Thomas announced that he was taking a job as consultant to the New York Knicks, while keeping his position as head coach at FIU.[36] According to the New York Daily News, "nearly every major media outlet panned the announcement of Thomas' hire," and it led to a "public outcry" among fans.[37] In a reversal on August 11, Thomas announced that he would not be working with the Knicks because holding both jobs violated NBA by-laws.[37]

On April 14, 2009, Thomas accepted an offer to become the head basketball coach of FIU, replacing Sergio Rouco after five losing seasons.[35] Thomas announced that he would donate his first year's salary back to the school.[35] Thomas was quoted as saying, "I did not come here for the money."[35]


One night after the Knicks tied a franchise record of 59 losses and ended their season, news broke that in talks with Walsh the week before, Thomas had been told he would not return as Knicks head coach the following season. He was officially "reassigned" on April 18 "after a season of listless and dreadful basketball, a tawdry lawsuit and unending chants from fans demanding his dismissal."[33] Thomas posted an overall winning percentage of .341 as head coach of the Knicks, fifth lowest in team history. As part of the reassignment agreement, Thomas was to serve as a consultant to the team, reporting directly to Walsh. However, he was banned from having contact with any Knicks' players under the rationale that he could willingly or unwillingly undermine the new head coach.[34]

On April 2, 2008, Donnie Walsh was introduced to replace Thomas as President of Basketball Operations for the Knicks. Walsh would not comment definitively on whether or not Thomas would be retained in any capacity at the time of his hiring.

Despite the constant criticism that he received from Knicks fans, Thomas maintained that he had no intention of leaving until he turned the team around and he predicted that he would lead the Knicks to a championship, stating that his goal was to leave behind a "championship legacy" with the Knicks, just as he had done for the Detroit Pistons. This prediction was met with widespread skepticism.[32]

Thomas also compounded the Knicks' salary cap problems by signing fringe players such as Jerome James and Jared Jeffries to full mid-level exception contracts. Neither player saw any significant playing time and both were often injured and highly ineffective when able to play.

During the 2007 Draft, Thomas made another trade by acquiring Zach Randolph, Fred Jones, and Dan Dickau from the Portland Trail Blazers for Steve Francis and Channing Frye.

During the following season the Knicks became embroiled in a brawl with the Denver Nuggets, which Thomas allegedly instigated by ordering his players to commit a hard foul in the paint.[29] However, he was not fined or suspended. NBA Commissioner David Stern said that he only relied on "definitive information" when handing out punishments.[30] Later in the season, nine months after James Dolan demanded "evident progress", the Knicks re-signed Thomas to an undisclosed "multi-year" contract.[31] After Thomas was granted the extension, the Knicks abruptly fell from playoff contention with a dismal finish to the season.

On June 22, 2006, the Knicks fired coach Larry Brown, and owner James Dolan replaced him with Thomas under the condition that he show "evident progress" or be fired.

A press conference for Isiah Thomas at the U.S. Century Bank Arena at Florida International University in Miami.

On December 22, 2003, the New York Knicks hired Thomas as President of Basketball Operations.[28] Thomas was ultimately unsuccessful with the Knicks roster and fanbase. At the end of the 2005–06 season, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the league and the second-worst record. He traded away several future draft picks to Chicago in a deal for Eddy Curry including what turned out to be two lottery picks in talent-rich drafts.

New York Knicks

In 2000, Thomas was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.[27]

Hall of Fame

In his last year with the Pacers, Thomas guided the Pacers to a 48–34 record in the regular season and coached the Eastern Conference team at the 2003 NBA All-Star Game. As the third seed, the Pacers were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the sixth-seeded Boston Celtics. With blossoming talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley, along with the veteran leadership of Reggie Miller, the perception existed that the Pacers' unfulfilled potential stemmed from Thomas' inexperience as a coach. In the offseason, Larry Bird returned to the Pacers as President of Basketball Operations, and his first act was to replace Thomas with Rick Carlisle.

From 2000 to 2003, Thomas coached the Indiana Pacers, succeeding Larry Bird, who previously coached the Pacers to the Eastern Conference title. Thomas attempted to bring up young talents such as Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley, Al Harrington, and Jeff Foster. However, under Thomas the Pacers were not able to stay at the elite level as they went through the transition from a veteran-dominated, playoff-experienced team to a younger, less experienced team. In Thomas's first two seasons with the Pacers, the team was eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers and the New Jersey Nets, both of whom eventually made the NBA Finals.

Indiana Pacers

Thomas purchased the CBA for $10 million, and in 2001 the league was forced into bankruptcy and folded, shortly after NBA Commissioner David Stern decided to create his own development league, the NBDL, to replace the CBA.[26]

In 1998, Thomas founded, a company serving consumers, retailers, and corporations with online gift certificates and other i-commerce products.’s first venture was i-gift, a one-stop, online shopping service center for gift certificates. i-gift was praised for being unique because it could drive e-commerce while supporting and expanding brick-and-mortar merchants. He brought the next generation of gift certificates to The Somerset Collection in Michigan, which houses exclusive department stores and retailers.’s mission was to “harness internet technologies and leverage business transformation processes to create new business ventures that both produce profits and benefit under-served sectors of the community.”[24] also had a partnership with the NBA store.[25]

When at the Continental Basketball Association, Thomas launched partnerships with Enlighten Sports and the University of Colorado and the CBA. The new websites allowed fans to watch live game webcasts, use live shot charts, chat with players and more. Thomas said the internet was “and integral part of [the CBA’s] strategy to provide engaging and entertaining content for fans.” [22] Also, while Thomas was with the Continental Basketball Association he launched a partnership with to bring personalized video highlights and scores to fans across the country as well as be a portal for All-Star League voting. With Thomas’ foresight, he realized that streaming video would be the future of news and entertainment.[23]

Thomas became the owner of the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) from 1998 to 2000. An innovator and entrepreneur, Thomas founded Enlighten Sports Inc, a full-service web development group specializing in sports marketing in 1999.[21]

CBA Innovator

After leaving the Raptors, Thomas became a television commentator (first as the lead game analyst with play-by-play man Bob Costas and then as part of the studio team) for the NBA on NBC. Thomas also worked a three-man booth with Costas and Doug Collins.


. Tracy McGrady, and high schooler Marcus Camby, Damon Stoudamire During his four-year tenure with the team, the Raptors drafted [20]

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