There are times in life when a person can tell when they are witnessing something truly special. This moment occurs in the life of the best sports scouts when they watch a young kid play and just know innately that they will become great. And it can only be better when a player with legendary abilities spots someone else that can reach the same great heights that they have.
Isiah Thomas perhaps doesn't get as much respect as he deserves for his place in NBA history. He was the man on the 'Bad Boy' Detroit Pistons, leading his team to multiple NBA championships. He had to retire in 1994 after an Achilles injury, and he became Executive Vice President of the Toronto Raptors that same year. It was when he was with the Raps that he had an encounter with none other than Kevin Garnett.
KG became the first player since 1975 to be drafted straight out of high school when the Minnesota Timberwolves took him 5th overall in 1995. And this was in large part thanks to how impressive he was in high school. In a profile on Garnett that GQ did, Isiah explained what it was like for him to watch a young Garnett play in the same game with established legends like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
"Isiah Thomas is a key character in Garnett’s coming-of-age. Over 25 years ago, as an executive for the Toronto Raptors, Thomas was in a random Chicago gym, watching a pickup game, when Garnett strode in and took the floor. He was still in high school. Two other players on the court: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
“'I had targeted him as the person that I wanted to draft and start our franchise with,' Thomas tells me. 'But being in his presence...it was overwhelming. You felt his energy, his intensity, his passion, his love for his craft in high school beyond anybody else who was in the gym. It was one of the most poetic, beautiful experiences I had had or felt from a young player.'"
Isiah didn't get the chance to draft Garnett for the Raptors, the Timberwolves took him in 5th before Toronto got involved with the 7th overall pick. However, Garnett is quite grateful to Thomas regardless, speaking about it in the same profile and later being inducted into the NBA Hall Of Fame by the Pistons legend.
"Garnett—who was introduced at his Hall of Fame induction by Thomas earlier this year—gets wistful thinking about that game, after which Thomas told him he could play in the NBA right now. 'I felt like if that pivotal part of my life doesn’t happen, I don't know if I’m sitting here,' he says. 'I don’t know if the story is the same, I don’t know if the results are the same. I’d like to be able to say, Man, you know, but Isiah was an intricate part of me having confidence in myself and taking those steps because once you take those steps, you can’t take steps backwards.'"
The Big Ticket's contributions to the sport were endless, he was must-watch television for the longest time. His intensity only got crazier as he grew into his role as a superstar, and he eventually got what he had always wanted after he won a championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. Isiah Thomas may have his fair share of haters, but he sure was right about Garnett.