By: Alex Kramers
Doubted and continuously underrated throughout his basketball career, Kings guard Isaiah Thomas rarely needs added motivation or words of encouragement. But when an undefeated world champion calls on gameday, No. 22 is eager to listen and learn.
As he prepares to step on the court to contend with the NBA’s top point guards, the UW product absorbs valuable advice from his close friend and mentor – boxing superstar and eight-time world titleholder Floyd Mayweather.
“He just says, ‘Everybody’s the same guy – he laces up his shoes just like you, no matter if it’s Michael Jordan or not,’” reveals Thomas.
“He calls me before every game and says, ‘It’s time to focus. It doesn’t matter if you’re going against Chris Paul, Derrick Rose – they put on their jerseys just like you. You just have to outwork them.’”
Possessing unrivaled quickness, unheralded determination and the competitive drive of a champion, the parallels between the Sacramento draftee and the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world extend far beyond their under-6-foot stature.
“We’re both small guys – both guys who they said could never do what’s been done,” says the 5-foot-9 guard, who met and exchanged contact info with Mayweather after watching the 45-0 boxer train in Las Vegas in 2011.
“He’s undefeated, so he’s really done what hasn’t been done, but at the same time, in my profession, you don’t see small guys who makes it in the NBA – or any professional sports, at that. So, I���m trying to shock the world with that, just like he’s trying to shock the world with having an undefeated career.”
Impressed by the veteran boxer’s unprecedented dominance in his sport, Thomas plans to enhance his conditioning by putting his body through a grueling training regimen with Mayweather next summer.
“He already talked to me about (working out together) – getting me in the best shape of my life – and I can’t wait to experience it,” says the Tacoma native. “It’s definitely going to help me on the basketball court.”
When it comes to contending on the hardwood, Thomas discloses he’s looking forward to challenging the two-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year, who showcased his basketball ability by scoring 14 points in the 2008 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game.
“I haven’t played one-on-one with him, but he always talks about how he could be in the NBA (and) how he’s so talented,” says Thomas with a chuckle. “One day, when we do get in the gym, I’ll let (everyone) know if he’s official or not.”
After No. 22 attended Mayweather’s championship bout on Sept. 14 – calling the star-studded event the “experience of a lifetime” – the boxer returned the favor by catching Thomas and the Kings in action against the Hawks at Sleep Train Arena on Nov. 5.
“He said, ‘I always keep my word,” recalls the 2012 NBA All-Rookie Second Team selection. “’I told you I’d come to support you and I’ll be at a few games this year.’”
With Mayweather in his corner, the third-year guard is in prime position to continue to stymie the competition.
Saving his best for the final round, Thomas has routinely come off the bench to lead Sacramento’s spirited comeback efforts, scoring 18 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter with his mentor in attendance on Nov. 5.
“I always want to be me and bring energy, and when I do come in the game – whether I start or come off the bench – I just want to change the game,” he says. “That’s my biggest thing I try to do – just change the outcome of the game.”