Modern-day fans know Isaiah Thomas as a former NBA star who used to be one of the best scorers in the NBA. At 5-foot-9, Thomas was unbelievable as he could score from pretty much wherever on the court.
In his prime, Thomas was undeniably a tremendous player and was unstoppable at one point. But while he often dominated his NBA peers, Thomas, believe it or not, used to get schooled by one of his coaches during practice sessions.
A rivalry at the training facility
Thomas became an All-Star player during his phenomenal three-season stint with the Boston Celtics. However, he first hit his stride with the Sacramento Kings.
In his third year in Sac-Town, Thomas averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. Consistent practicing played a key role in Thomas’ development, but there was more than met the eye at the time.
According to the two-time NBA All-Star, he played 1-on-1 with Kings’ assistant coach, now Kings’ development affiliate, Bobby Jackson, and admittedly, he would sometimes lose. What’s even more interesting, Thomas took those losses like a mature player as he let it fuel him to perform better come game night.
“We play three spots on the floor – the wing, the top of the key and the other wing. We go to five and you get three dribbles,” Thomas told NBA.com of playing against Jackson in 2013. “He has his days when he plays really well and he hits some tough shots, but you can even ask him – he can’t guard me.”
“When he wins, those are probably the best games I have when we play later that night because I’m so upset he beat me,” he continued.
Bobby knew he still had it
Former Kings forward James Johnson said Jackson could still ball, stressing, “If he really wants to, he can get back in shape and sign a 10-day contract.” Apparently, the man himself was also well aware of it back then, as he knew he was lighting them up in 1-on-1 games.
“They get the best of me [in one-on-one games],” Jackson laughingly said. “But I think at the end of the day, it’s just getting them prepared to play, getting them in the mindset of being aggressive and making something happen when they get the ball.”
Jackson played his best season in the league during the peak of the Kings in the 2002-03 campaign. He won the Sixth Man of the Year award that season and went on to play for two more productive years with the team. He retired at age 35 despite knowing he still had something left in the tank. However, Jackson has already set his priorities in life.
“I think sometimes you have to be honest with yourself as a professional athlete,” he explained. “I still could’ve played (longer), but I was looking for the next chapter in my life.”
Indeed, Jackson was an underrated player. But if we’re going to ask Isaiah Thomas and other Kings players, he is a legend.