An emotional Isaiah Thomas sat sobbing on the sideline ahead of his return to the court on Sunday night, just one day after the death of his little sister.
The Boston Celtics star went on to score an astonishing 33 points in the team’s playoff game despite the devastating loss of his sister, who was killed in a car accident.
The Celtics held a pregame moment of silence for Chyna Thomas, 22, ahead of their playoff opener against the Chicago Bulls.
Chyna died in the early hours of Saturday in an accident in their home state of Washington.
Meanwhile, former NBA great Charles Barkley has come under fire for the insensitive and offensive comments he made about Isaiah before the start of the game when he saw the young man in tears.
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Difficult day: Isaiah Thomas broke down in tears on the sideline be his playoff game on Sunday night (above)
Overcome: The Boston Celtic star had learned just 24 hours prior that his sister was killed in a car crash
Chyna Thomas was not wearing her seat belt when her car careened off of the interstate
Thoughts: ‘I don’t know how this night is going to turn out, but for him to be sitting on the sideline a few minutes before the game crying, that makes me uncomfortable for him. That’s just not a good look in my personal opinion,’ said Charles Barkley (above)
Backlash: Many on Twitter spoke out against Barkley and some called for him to be fired
‘I’m not feeling comfortable with him sitting on the sideline like that, that makes me uncomfortable,’ said Barkley.
‘That tells me he’s not in shape to play. I don’t know how this night is going to turn out, but for him to be sitting on the sideline a few minutes before the game crying, that makes me uncomfortable for him.
‘That’s just not a good look in my personal opinion.’
The backlash to Barkley’s comment was swift.
‘Maybe the most disgusting thing to ever come out of Charles Barkley’s mouth,’ wrote Pinpoint Sports.
‘So Isaiah Thomas crying because he lost his sister makes you uncomfortable? it’s a bad look? Charles Barkley is a joke of Human being,’ said Alex Ott.
Multiple people also called for TNT to fire Barkley after his comments.
Thomas was informed of his sister’s death following the team’s practice Saturday afternoon.
It was initially unclear if he would play on Sunday, but decided to take the court against the Bulls.
But Thomas led the team out of the tunnel when Boston took the floor for pregame warm-ups.
He looked toward the rafters just before the tip-off.
On his shoes were written several messages, including ‘Chyna,’ ”RIP Lil Sis’ and ‘I love you’.
Thomas did not address the media after the game but his teammates said emotion trailed him throughout the day.
‘It says a lot. Isaiah, to me, is like family,’ Bradley said. ‘We grew up in the same area. I know it’s tough for him. It says a lot about him.
‘He’s a true competitor and tonight he was playing for his sister and he was playing for his family.’
Chyna crashed her vehicle when it drifted out of the left lane on Interstate 5 at about 5 am on Saturday morning.
Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas stands by himself during team introductions before a first-round NBA playoff basketball game against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday
Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas, center, and teammates bow their heads during a moment of silence for Thomas’ sister Chyna before a first-round NBA playoff basketball game against the Chicago Bulls Sunday, April 16, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas wears a message on his shoes in memory of his sister
Washington State Patrol said her 1998 Toyota Camry careened 50 feet off of the roadway and hit a barrier, which launched the car into a sign post.
‘All of a sudden it started to drift very casually onto the left shoulder,’ said Trooper Nick King, a State Patrol spokesman, according to The News Tribune.
When she hit the Jersey barrier, ‘that vaulted the vehicle head-on into the sign post,’ King continued.
Chyna was reportedly not wearing her seatbelt and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Condolences have poured in from around the league, from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and various players and friends.
Thomas, now in his sixth season, grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and starred at the University of Washington.
The All-Star point guard had 33-points, six assists and five rebounds in a 106-102 Game 1 loss to the Bulls.
Golden State’s Kevin Durant talked about Thomas after the Warriors’ Game 1 victory over Portland.
Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas battles Chicago Bulls’ Robin Lopez for a rebound
‘We’re all praying for him, the NBA family’s behind him,’ Durant said.
Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas shoots during the fourth quarter of a first-round NBA playoff
Coach Brad Stevens said Thomas was ‘struggling’ prior to the game, and it showed early as he uncharacteristically missed his first free throw attempt short off the front rim.
But how he was able to lock in down the stretch was no surprise to his coach.
‘He was incredible,’ Stevens said. ‘He’s an amazing player, amazing person. And days won’t get any easier for him, but he somehow plays like that.’
He said Thomas has the freedom to do ‘whatever he needs to do’ in relation to his sister and family.
Stevens added the decisions on his availability are Thomas’s alone.
‘Those have got to come on his own time, and then we’ll adjust accordingly,’ he said.
The Bulls were among the first NBA teams to release a statement of condolence for Thomas on Saturday.
Butler, who played alongside Thomas on the past two Eastern Conference All-Star teams, said he also was in awe of what Thomas was able to do.
‘He’s a hell of a player,’ he said. ‘It just goes to show the type of player and man he is to go out there and battle through what he was going through for his organisation and team.’