Picture being 5’9” in a sport where the average man towers over you with a seven-inch advantage. Now picture being one of the best players in your position, despite that height differential. That’s Isaiah Thomas.
‘Book of Isaiah’ is a documentary that gives a voice to the Boston Celtics’ elite point guard who this season has averaged NBA career-highs in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
For a player of his size, Thomas’ average of three rebounds per game is staggering. Even a glance at his 26 points per game, in a sport where the man guarding him is always a stronger and more imposing physical specimen, is bewildering.
But this is a testament to the man nicknamed the Conductor’s hard work and growing appreciation for the game – something this documentary explores effortlessly.
One of the most regularly searched things on Google regarding the 27-year-old is: ‘Are Isaiah Thomas and Isaiah Thomas related?’ For the uninitiated, this documentary – right from the get-go – answers this question once and for all.
While the Celtics’ point-guard isn’t related to the hall-of-fame Detroit Pistons guard, it is revealed that Thomas’ father named him after the legend due to losing a bet with a friend.
Perhaps, as the film suggests, Thomas was always destined for success in the NBA – regardless of his height.
In school, Isaiah was often the smallest kid on the court. In college, the smallest on the team. Now in the entirety of the NBA? He’s the smallest in the league.
Some stock footage of Thomas’ college years is inserted into the second act of the documentary, which helps to establish the chip on the shoulder of this outrageously gifted guard.
It’s easy to see him dominate in the NBA and just accept it; but true appreciation grows when one sees his humble beginnings and how he has always been at a disadvantage in any tier of basketball.
“I just want to be the modern-day Allen Iverson,” Thomas states. Hall of Famer Iverson is someone that Thomas admired when growing up, particularly in his formative years as a college superstar.
This is due to the fact that Iverson, in his day, was also the smallest guy in the league. But he was also one of the most mercurial point guards, inventing various dribbling moves to size-up his towering opponents.
In that regard, Thomas is the same. When you spend all game struggling to see the basket over the man guarding you, you have to develop special moves to give you some sort of an advantage.
“This kid spends so much time in the gym just inventing the sort of handles that I have never seen before,” says Celtics coach Brad Stevens in ‘The Book of Isaiah’.
The images support that quote, too. The documentary is shot and promoted as a quasi-motivational video. Scored by a collection of Thomas’ favourite hip-hop tracks, most of the runtime is dedicated to 27-year-old just straight-up training.
In said training, his handles are revealed. Some of the moves that Thomas pulls off are mindblowing, purely because they are born from the need to succeed in a sport where his height should see him rejected immediately.
“This kid spends so much time in the gym just inventing the sort of handles that I have never seen before.”
At one point, assistant coach Jay Larranaga says: “First in the gym? Isaiah. Last in the gym? Isaiah! Last year he called me on Christmas day to come and watch him practice his core.”
By allowing Thomas and those around him to almost dictate the story on camera, ‘Book of Isaiah’ becomes a documentary that is held back by a lack of insight. It feels more as though a piece of work that announces Thomas’ hard-working nature, rather than one that relentlessly focuses on why he’s had to work hard.
There are sporadic mentions of his struggles, but these are more visual aids than anything spoken to camera.
This is frustrating since anyone familiar with the point guard’s life knows that he struggled to find a college team due to his size, or even the fact that he was the 60th pick in round 2 of the 2011 NBA Draft – again, a downside to his height.
As a side note, that was the final pick of the draft. Essentially, the league had told Thomas he was the worst player out of a possible 90 candidates.
Thomas is now one of the top five point guards in the league. Those above him have a solid five inches extra of height to work with. The fact that this is sporadically explored makes ‘Book of Isaiah’ a disappointing watch for those looking to learn about his struggles.
Regardless of the fact that it is a self-loving and clearly biased documentary that focuses not on negatives, it is still incredibly inspirational.
A true testament to the fact that physical difference shouldn’t matter if one works hard enough and develops ways around their size.
If one is looking for an insight into the psyche of a hardworking man with a clear chip on his shoulder, then ‘Book of Isaiah’ is a must-watch.
Otherwise, you have to be pretty crazy about basketball – or the man himself – to wholeheartedly enjoy it.
Iverson called up Thomas after the documentary ended and, allegedly, spoke just one sentence to the guy who has idolised him his entire life: “Keep doing your thing. I’m watching.”
Except now the entire NBA is watching. Thomas could very well, if he keeps these numbers up, enter the all-star team for the first time in his career. He would be the second smallest player of all-time to do so behind Muggsy Bogues.
A brief showing of Thomas’ aforementioned handles and how exactly he manages to dominate in a sport where he is always at a disadvantage