THAT WAS THEN ... THIS IS NOW: Zeke and Franchise
The game has evolved dramatically over time, but NBA.com's That Was Then ... This Is Now proves the more things change, the more they stay the same. We compare two All-Star point guards: Isiah Thomas and Steve Francis. Check back to see which old-school All-Stars are most similar to: Shaquille O'Neal (Jan. 31), Kobe Bryant (Feb. 4) and Tim Duncan (Feb. 6).
Gervin-McGrady
-- By Rob Peterson


Name
ISIAH THOMAS
STEVE FRANCIS
Nickname
Zeke
Stevie Franchise
Height
6-1
6-3
Weight
182
195
Career
(Seasons)
1981-1994
(13 NBA seasons)
1999-present
(Fourth NBA season)
A-S Selections
12
2 (includes 2003)
First
All-Star Game
1982
(in New Jersey)
2002
(in Philadelphia)
Age (first A-S Game)
20
24
A-S scoring average
16.8 ppg
3.0 ppg
Best A-S
performance
1986:
30 pts., 10 asst., 5 stl.
2002:
3 pts., 2 reb., 3 asst.
A-S Game MVP
1984, 1986
None
Career avg.
19.2
20.2
Best season
22.9 ppg (1982-83)
22.9* ppg (2002-03)
Most memorable performance
Set Finals record for points in a quarter (25) against Lakers in 1988
Scored a career-high 44 points in OT win over Lakers on 1-17-03
THE SKINNY
Isiah Thomas' greatest moments: 56k | 300k
Isiah Thomas and Steve Francis share qualities NBA coaches seek in a point guard -- quickness, fearlessness, leadership.

Thomas and Francis entered the NBA as underclassmen. Thomas spent two years in college and was fresh off an NCAA title with Indiana University in 1981 when he was chosen in the first round by the Pistons, with whom he spent his whole career. Francis left the University of Maryland after playing one season and was drafted by the then Vancouver Grizzlies, who traded his rights to the Rockets.

Like Thomas, Francis possesses a quickness off the dribble that precious few other point guards can defend. This quickness also helps Francis be fearless when he journeys into the lane. Francis' free throw attempts have increased each season. At 6-3, Francis is two inches bigger than Thomas and is a more explosive leaper (participated in two Slam Dunk contests) and is a better rebounder (averages 6.2 rebounds per game compared to Thomas' 3.6). Francis, also like Thomas, is a point guard who can score. While Thomas' had his best season scoring (22.9 ppg in 1982-83) his second year in the league, Francis' scoring average has increased every season to where he's averaging three points more (22.9 ppg) than his career average.

Thomas, who was a mesmerizing ballhandler, was better at getting his teammates involved. Thomas averaged 9.3 assists per game in his career, led the league in 1984-85 with 13.9 assists per game, the third highest average of the past 20 seasons. This ability to make his teammates better made Thomas one of the best point guards in NBA history.

Thomas never shied away from contact, either, as he would go into the lane often. His 25 points in one quarter against the Lakers in 1988, is still a record and is even more amazing considering he scored a majority of those points on a sprained ankle.

Photo credits: (Thomas - Tim DeFrisco/NBAE Photos; Francis - Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images/NBAE)