You know, it's weird. I didn't hear this soundbite about it being his late sister's 23rd birthday until after I watched him absolutely toy with the Wizards in overtime, and when I did my instantaneous reaction was "figures". Sure, some of that has to do with the fact that these symbolic moments that transcend sports are happening with more and more regularity, but it has a hell a lot more to do with Isaiah Thomas' ability to channel tragedy into triumph. He's definitely not the first professional athlete to play with a heavy heart, but he just might be the first professional athlete to do so every other night at such a high level. 53 points? 29 coming after the start of the quarter that might as well be named after him? The result being a come-from-behind playoff overtime victory? My jaw should have hit the floor when I found out that legendary performance required him to channel the pain caused by the now annual reminder that his sister was taken from him far too prematurely, but I can't even say that I was surprised. You begin to ask yourself "what are the odds that would come to fruition on that day of all days?", and then you realize the player in question has been defying odds his entire career.
Hell, I don't think there's anything Isaiah Thomas could do that would shock me anymore, and that's a credit to what he's already overcome throughout the last few weeks. A 5'8 guard dominating his competition in a league full of giants during the most physically taxing point of the NBA season, and managing to do so while flying back and forth across the country for family engagements and funeral proceedings? Mix in a dozen or so hours of dental surgery and it's basically a miracle that the guy hasn't needed a month long sabbatical. Each and every time Isaiah Thomas gets asked about his sister I start to feel secondhand emotional exhaustion on his behalf, and meanwhile he's just trudging along, casually overshadowing 40 point/13 assist efforts from John Wall, and willing his team through the postseason. Some of the shots he hit last night looked like they required divine intervention, but even Jesus himself would have needed a nap by now if the person carrying Isaiah Thomas through this difficult time left a set of footprints instead of a set of 'Nike' tread marks.