Jamal Crawford had no idea what was just a simple act of giving back, would have such a profound impact several years later.
A bunch of high schools were at a state fair and like many high school kids then (and now), they didn’t have money.
Crawford, then a seven-figure baller in the NBA, took a picture with the youngsters.
When he asked them about getting on rides, they said they didn't have any money.
Without prompting, Crawford pulled out some cash and gave them all money to play games.
One of those kids was Avery Bradley who reminded the 36-year-old Crawford of that encounter several years later.
“He didn’t even know I was that kid that he gave money to,” Bradley told reporters on Monday. “I told him the story. He was like ‘No way, that was you?’ It’s a funny story we have between us now, connection we’ll always have.”
For those who know Crawford, this away-from-the-limelight act of charity was not all that unusual.
Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who is also from Tacoma, Wash., and he has a strong connection to Crawford that was strengthened when Thomas attended prep school at South Kent School in Kent, Conn. while Crawford was playing with the New York Knicks.
“When I was in prep school, I was across the country, I was far away from family and friends,” Thomas said. “(Crawford) was my only family. He was the guy that took me under his wing. Every weekend he would let me take the train to his house. I’d be at the (Madison Square) Garden watching Knicks games.
Thomas added, “He’s done a lot for me. I can’t explain it all.”
That is why tonight’s game against Crawford and the Los Angeles Clippers in so many ways has become more than just another game for Bradley and Thomas.
While the story lines involving ex-Celtics coach Doc Rivers and former Celtics Paul Pierce and Jeff Green will certainly generate discussion, the bond between the Tacoma, Wash. tandem and Crawford is just as significant.
“I’m so proud of those guys,” Crawford told CSNNE.com recently. "I've been around a long time to watch these guys, mentor and still be out here going strong. It's a great thing."
Crawford added, "They’ve put in the work, paid their dues and all that hard work and time they put in to become better players, better people, is paying off for them now. I'm proud of my young guys.”
And while Crawford is quick to praise them for what they’ve done to get to the NBA, both Bradley and Thomas see Crawford as the one player that really gave them hope – real hope – that they too could someday be an NBA player.
“He’s just a really good guy,” Bradley said. “You ask any young kid in Seattle who their favorite player is, even around my age they would have said Jamal Crawford growing up. He gives back to the community. He’s a perfect role model.”
Thomas added, “He’s meant the world to me. Without him and guys like (former Celtic) Jason Terry, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in right now. He’s a big brother to me, someone I talk to every day for like the last 10 years.”
But even before prep school, college and the NBA, Thomas said Crawford was someone he always looked up to.
“He’s the guy everybody looks up to,” Thomas said. “He’s the guy everybody wanted to be like. He’s a great basketball player but if you get to know him, he’s an even better person.”