Here’s a secret: Before NBA players were NBA players, they were NBA fans. Some had favorite teams, and others cheered for particular players. But they all enjoyed professional basketball as outsiders in some form.
Sacramento Kings guard Isaiah Thomas’ dad is famously a Lakers fan – naming his son Isaiah because he lost a bet on the 1989 NBA Finals, when Isiah Thomas’ Pistons beat the Lakers.
And the Kings had a real rivalry with the Lakers while Thomas was growing up. The Lakers eliminated Sacramento from the playoffs in 2000, 2001 and 2002 – three of the series going the maximum length, including the 2002 conference finals.
If you’re unsure where Thomas’ allegiances fell, wonder no more.
Everybody knows your dad was a Laker fan, but you were in Seattle. How did that work? Were you a Laker fan?
I was a little brainwashed. My dad’s from LA, so growing up in his house, I was a Laker fan. But I loved the Sonics, I loved Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp. The Glove and the Reign Man, those were my two favorite players. But growing up, like I said, I was in a Laker household and got brainwashed. My favorite player is Kobe Bryant. I like the Lakers.
It sucks. I mean, it doesn’t suck I got drafted by the Kings, but that’s their biggest rival, so you gotta watch what you say about the Lakers around Sacramento.
Thomas is very clearly saying that one of his reactions to joining the Kings was feeling conflicted as a Lakers fan. If you watch him play, he clearly had other reactions, too – including being overjoyed to reach the NBA.
He’s a full person, allowed to have a complex – and even conflicting – range of emotions. There’s no reason to doubt whether he’s handling his conflict of interest appropriately.
Thomas plays really hard for Sacramento, and the Kings are definitely getting their money’s worth. He can like the Lakers and Kobe Bryant while still delivering for his current team, and that doesn’t change even when the the Lakers are the opponent.
In his last game against the Lakers, Thomas had 26 points and eight assists — and two blocks, a career high for the 5-foot-9 point guard.