Basketball has been a healthy escape and source of strength for Isaiah Thomas, who continues to ball while mourning the loss of his sister, Chyna, who died in a one-vehicle accident at the age of 22 on April 15.
While preparing for Game 3 of his Boston Celtics Eastern Conference semifinals playoff series against the Washington Wizards tonight, Thomas took the time out to mention another major assist that he has gotten during this trying time — and it's from an NBA legend.
As reported by ESPN, the Celtics' All-Star point guard revealed that Kobe Bryant reached out to him after his sister's passing and has helped him break down playoff game film. And the timing couldn't have been more significant, as the two chatted on FaceTime while the Celtics were down 0-2 to the Chicago Bulls in their opening-round playoff series and Thomas was back in Washington state with his family.
As a five-time NBA champion, Bryant gave IT invaluable advice on how to kick his playoff game into another gear. Whatever the Black Mamba told the 5-foot-9 guard worked, as Thomas wound up rallying the Celtics to close out that series in six games and are currently up 2-0 on the Wizards. Thomas feels grateful to have Bryant on his side.
"We've been in communication the last couple weeks since my sister passed," Thomas told reporters yesterday, as reported by ESPN. "He's been a big help since Game 2 [of the Bulls series]. We actually watched film together on the phone for 30 minutes. He was going over my film with me and teaching the things that he looks at when he watches film."
That being said, Isaiah wasn't willing to cough up the goods on what Kobe told him.
"I'm not going to tell you his secrets. He wouldn't want me to do that," Thomas continued. "Mentally, he's on a different level than anybody I've ever met. We were on the phone for 30 minutes. I emailed him my film and he watched every second of it. He was telling me what times to go to and what to look at, just certain plays and things I didn't look at when I watched film. Like I said, mentally, you could tell he's one of the greatest ever."
Since Bryant initially reached out to him, Thomas has been averaging 28.5 points, 6.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game, with the Celtics 6-0 during that stretch.
While TNT's Inside the NBA spoke last night about Bryant reaching out to Thomas, Kobe tweeted about the Celtics' All-Star having the "Mamba mentality," before gifting him with a new nickname.
#MightyIT ... we're with that.
Bryant reaching out to Thomas also marked a brief escape for his family, considering Isaiah's dad, James, was a big Los Angeles Lakers fan.
"[Bryant calling was] the craziest thing that's happened to me," Thomas said, as reported by ESPN. "I remember when I was at home in Washington and I was on the phone and my mom kept saying, 'Who are you talking to?' I'm like, I had to put it on mute and I told her, 'It's Kobe!' She started tripping a little bit. That was fun."
Thomas enters tonight's Game 3 against the Wizards, having scored 53 points in Game 2 on what would have been his sister's 23rd birthday Tuesday night.
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(Photos from Left: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images)