BOSTON -- The wait is finally over.
The “little fella” who did so much for the Boston Celtics franchise in such a short period of time, got the kind of love that so few receive upon their return to the TD Garden.
Isaiah Thomas, the former two-time All-Star, was on the receiving end of a video tribute that drew thunderous applause from the Celtics fan base, showering Thomas with the kind adoration fitting his contributions to the franchise in his two-plus seasons.
Watch the video, played during a timeout in the first quarter, and Thomas' reaction here:
Thomas, visibly moved by the moment, had been waiting for a moment like this for years.
Traded to Cleveland in the summer of 2017, Thomas was physically unable to play when the Cavs returned to the Garden and Thomas respectfully asked that he not be honored with a video tribute.
The next opportunity came on the same night that Paul Pierce was being honored, and Thomas eventually decided to request that he not be honored that night.
Another trade to the Los Angeles Lakers and more surgery ensued, which brings us to tonight - the first time the 30-year-old has been healthy enough to actually enjoy the tribute and be healthy enough to get on the parquet and play.
But in an ironic twist of bad luck, Thomas was taken out of the Nuggets rotation three games ago. Still, he entered the game to another ovation from the Garden crowd with 2:42 left in the first quarter.
“I’m here to help,” Thomas told reporters prior to tonight's game. “I’m not here to cause any problems. When my opportunity comes, I know I’ll be more than ready.”
That has been the story of Thomas’ NBA career.
Drafted with the 60th and final pick of the 2011 draft - 59 places after the man he was traded to Cleveland for, Kyrie Irving - it has been an uphill battle for the 5-foot-9 guard.
But Thomas more times than not, finds a way to use life’s setbacks as a springboard to bigger and better things.
In Sacramento, he was named to the NBA’s all-rookie second team.
He would later sign with the Phoenix Suns, splitting time in what turned into a three-guard rotation.
Thomas was traded to Boston and was viewed as an instant-offense, spark plug of a player coming off the bench.
But an injury to Marcus Smart opened the door for Thomas to be a starter, and he never looked back.
And for those who forgot how dominant Thomas was with the Celtics, tonight’s video tribute was a much-needed reminder.
“At the end of the day, I ’m human,” Thomas said. “Getting love, genuine love always feels good. I’m glad to be back, around familiar faces.”
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