Who’d you rather?: Isiah Thomas, Isaiah Thomas or Isaiah Thomas

American Antiquarian Society/Creative Commons, Keith Allison/Creative Commons

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We at The Daily Californian recently had occasion to look for pictures of Boston Celtics star point guard Isaiah Thomas. If you are an NBA fan, you’re aware that Thomas shares the name of legendary ‘80s Piston point guard, Isiah Thomas. If you’re not an NBA fan, you’re aware of that fact now. So when we were looking for a picture of Celtics Thomas, we expected to have to wade through many pictures of Pistons Thomas. How naive we were.
When we searched Celtics Thomas’ name, a huge number of what looked like pictures of Thomas Jefferson popped up instead. Perhaps, we thought, there was an issue where Jefferson was so important in the database that putting in the name Thomas would always lead to him. But alas, that’s untrue. It turns out, there are not two famous Thomases, but three! So after learning about the absolutely renowned 18th century American newspaper publisher Isaiah Thomas, it’s time for another round of “Who’d You Rather.”

Importance in Boston History

Celtics Thomas is, of course, currently doing incredible things in Boston and seems to have the edge going into this. He’s putting up some of the biggest numbers in Celtics history, currently averaging just a shade less than 30 points per game and getting his name on all sort of monthly and fourth-quarter scoring records.

But those 30 points per game are simply nothing compared to Printer Thomas (which we’ll call him now). This man is a true local (unknown) legend. Born in Boston in 1749, he helped to make the city one of the foremost revolutionary cities by publishing the radical newspaper, the Massachusetts Spy. He was eventually run out of Boston by the British, but he stayed in the state and fought in the Revolutionary War (for the winning side). Hell yeah. Those sorts of accomplishments put feats of silly sports into perspective. Clearly, Printer Thomas is the Thomas that mattered most in Boston history.

Oh wait. No one knows who he is, and his Wikipedia page is, like, five paragraphs. How can he possibly matter more to Boston than the man who dethroned its beloved Larry Bird? Pistons Thomas and his bad-boy squad looked to be a fun runner-up to the legendary ‘80s Celtics. But Pistons Thomas more than got his revenge, brutally ending that era of Boston basketball by knocking them out of the playoffs two straight years. Celtics fans probably won’t like being reminded of it, but Pistons Thomas determined Boston’s history more than any other. The Boston category goes to the greatest Detroit Piston of all time, naturally.

Spectacle of Seeing Them Live

Printer Thomas, like most newspaper men, didn’t exactly look like a performer or electrify crowds with his powerful … editing? He finishes last in this category by a mile.

Pistons Thomas was a spectacular performer, incredibly gritty and unselfish, with an unsurpassed feel for putting his teammate in the best situations possible. He was also 6-foot-1, which is small, and that’s always fun.

But newsflash! Celtics Thomas is listed at 5-foot-9! If he’s officially listed at 5-foot-9, he is 5-foot-7, tops. And he still averages about 30 points per game! It’s as if Michael Jordan possessed Muggsy Bogues. It’s as if Allen Iverson put up the same numbers playing on his knees. It’s as if that little person that famous baseball promoter Bill Veeck hired to have an at-bat in the MLB ended up becoming the all-time home run king. It’s one of the most fun things to ever grace the world of sports, and Celtics Thomas wins by a landslide.

Late-Life Legacy

Celtics Thomas is still well in the prime of his life, so he’s disqualified from this category. Pistons Thomas, for how smart he was on the court, has not exactly transferred that to his off-the-court career. Mildly unsuccessful stints running the Raptors and coaching the Pacers turned into full-blown disasters running the Knicks and coaching Florida International University, perhaps the most legendary basketball program in all of college sports (to have only made the NCAA tournament once). Top that off with a sexual harassment lawsuit during his time with the Knicks, and you realize Pistons Thomas probably would have been better served dropping off the face of the Earth after retiring from the NBA.

Printer Thomas wins by default.

Clutch Gene

Here’s where it gets fun. Celtics Thomas is currently having one of the most incredibly clutch seasons in NBA history, routinely scoring in the double-digits in the last frame of the game. Individually winning games for his team late in games has become routine, and there’s seriously no one I’d want more on my team when things are close than him.

But who really remembers regular-season heroics? What’s iconic is when you can reach that level in the playoffs, and few players did so as regularly as Pistons Thomas. I’ve already waxed poetic about how his one-ankle performance in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals is maybe the best-ever playoff performance, despite his team eventually losing the game. He has as many iconic playoff moments as anyone not named MJ and should take this category easily.

Should. Reader, I’ve left out the most important aspect of Printer Thomas’ life. When the forefathers of this country laid out their aspirations of what this revolutionary project could end up being, who was tasked with reading the Declaration of Independence out loud to the people of Massachusetts for the first time? Printer Thomas himself. Was he the first person to read it out loud to the American public? No, readings had been going on for almost a week. Was he the most fervent speaker to deliver an oral performance of the incredible document? Probably not, more seasoned public speakers gave other versions.

But no matter! Printer Thomas’ grandson reported that the declaration was received with every demonstration of joy and confidence.” And who knows if the citizens of Massachusetts would have fought as hard as they did if it weren’t for the local printer delivering the words of a much more famous Thomas.  
Points are good, and championships are great. But helping to establish a country is a feat almost no man can claim. Printer Thomas wins the category, and the whole shebang.

Andrew Wild is the assistant sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @andrewwild17.