On June 19, 1988, Isiah Thomas went off, dropping 25 points during the third quarter of the Detroit Pistons’ NBA Finals Game 6 with the Los Angeles Lakers.
He actually put down 43 for the game, but it was the third quarter that was the most amazing, not just because of what he did, but because of how he did it.
Already having put in 14 for the frame, Thomas turned his ankle badly, going to the ground, writhing in pain.
He tried to stand up but collapsed back onto the floor.
Unbelievably, he somehow returned after 31 seconds and continued his scoring onslaught. According to The Shadow League, he said afterward:
“The first thing that went through my mind was that I had turned my ankle really bad. And I thought it was something that I could just run through.
But the more I put pressure on it, the more it hurt.”
And it was obvious. He was more than “playing through the pain.” He was playing with the pain. I remember watching the game live, and every step he took sent bolts of agony up my leg.
But. Zeke. Kept. Scoring.
Thomas notched another 11 points on one leg. When all was said and done, he had 43 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, 3 rebounds and 1 block. But it still wasn’t enough.
The Pistons lost by one point when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar nailed a pair of late freebies.
Nonetheless, it was one of the most courageous, heartbreaking performances a basketball fan alive during that era has ever seen.
Kelly is a TBW co-Founder and frequent contributor. He spent 4.5 years in the USAF before attending University of Minnesota, Bible college in Anaheim and 15 years in youth ministry. Basketball blogger-turned-NBA Featured Columnist with Bleacher Report, BBallBreakdown, Fansided, The Step Back, Hoops Habit, SportsNet, Vantage Sports, Dime and FanRag, among others, his work has been read over 25 million times. The former NBA Assistant Editor at FanRag (2016-18), he is an NBA Twitter staple who is well-connected and respected among today’s finest basketball writers.