Never Mind Charles Barkley, Shouldn't We All Have Felt At Least A Little Uncomfortable Watching Isaiah Thomas Cry Courtside?
Charles Barkley's reaction....
I'm just going to come out and say it. If you weren't made uncomfortable by watching Isaiah Thomas shed the rawest of emotions then it's you that has issues, not Charles Barkley. I don't mean that in the sense that there's no crying in basketball and that genuine tears should be treated the same way as a Magic Johnson nosebleed. I mean that witnessing a professional basketball player that you don't know outside of the realm of sports (i.e. entertainment) at his most vulnerable should leave you feeling awkward. I know the current state of media has every fan thinking they are privy to a level of candidness that falls just short of requiring athletes to install live cameras in their bathrooms. The truth of the matter is that the visual of a complete stranger mourning the abrupt, horrific death of his sister a little more than 24 hours after the fact should feel off-limits to you.
A national viewing audience saw Isaiah Thomas emotionally undressed. Throughout the period of time in which he sat there with his head in his hands and his heavy heart weighing on his chest, he was no longer a public figure. He temporarily ceased to be the best player on the Boston Celtics, the 3rd leading scorer in the NBA, and an outside MVP candidate. That still shot wasn't of 'Mr. 4th Quarter', it was of a human being - and more specifically, a brother - experiencing the type of uncontrollable grief that comes regardless of who is watching. If you felt comfortable getting a first, second, or third hand glance at someone who - given his career and stature - personifies strength while they were at their weakest then I question whether or not there is warm blood coursing throughout the beating heart in your chest.
Now, the larger point that Isaiah Thomas was unfit to play because he wasn't solely focused on basketball during the distinct time frame that Charles Barkley apparently took it upon himself to chisel into stone is a heaping load of horse shit. I don't think anyone would have faulted him for opting out of Game 1 (or 2, or 3, or 4, etc.), but I also don't think anyone truly expected him to. If there is a profession in which the ability to compartmentalize is key then it's the one that requires it's employees to be all-in both physically and mentally. Sports aren't just as escape for those watching. They are an escape for the people competing. I don't want to speak for someone who has to be an absolute wreck right now, but I would imagine a couple hours away from reality were just as therapeutic as the tears that preceded them. It may have come in a losing effort, but Isaiah Thomas' inspiring first quarter that led to a 33 point performance was proof positive that it's stupid to judge someone's psyche before the game has even started.
I don't take umbrage with Chuck's use of the word "uncomfortable" because the aftermath of a tragedy is generally just that, but to imply his participation was "a bad look" was - ironically enough - an exponentially worse look. Especially considering the way things ended up playing out.