"Being the last pick in the draft, to becoming a starter and later becoming All-Star, Top Five, and MVP voted, and then getting hurt and traded... it’s been an up-and-down career. But I wouldn't trade it for anything."

It’s laughable that Isaiah Thomas was once recruited as the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft. The Point Guard went on to be a two-time NBA All-Star, a three-time awarded NBA Player of the Month, and five-time winner of the Player of the Week Award. Averaging over 22 points per game and celebrated for his career-high 28.9 points per game with Boston, Thomas was drafted to the Denver Nuggets after 15 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Photography by Peter Roessler

Photography by Peter Roessler

As a young kid, after seeing tattoos on the court for the first time on favorite basketball player, Allen Iverson, Thomas was interested in getting ink. After getting his first tattoo at 16 years old for his hometown of Tacoma, Washington, Thomas was hooked. While his most meaningful basketball memories lay on courts across the country, his most meaningful tattoos are permanently carried with him on his back. These include pieces for his grandfather, who passed away in 2006, and for his younger sister, who passed away in 2017. Along with his ink for his sons, he says he will "always cherish the art he carries."

You were named after the Detroit Pistons Player, Isiah Thomas?

Yeah, there’s actually two sides to it. My dad's side of the family is from Los Angeles, California, so my dad [James Thomas] was a big Lakers fan growing up. He made a bet with one of his close friends that if the Pistons beat the Lakers, he would name his son Isiah Thomas. My mom liked the name, but she grew up in church and wanted it spelled the biblical way, so that's why it's spelled differently than the older Isiah Thomas.

At any point, did you want to be something else when you were growing up, or was this path already laid out for you?

Ever since I could remember, I loved basketball. While it happened to go with the name, it was just something I always loved doing.

You are outspoken about being a proud father before a great basketball player.

I just think it's important. I’ve got two boys and a newborn daughter. Having my oldest kid during my last year of college made me grow up a little faster than normal. The boys, eight and seven, have seen it all. I just knew what it took for my parents to raise kids, and I knew how important it was to them. You can just mold them into whatever you want them to be, and I want them to be respectable young men and young ladies. And I take that very seriously. I think it's more important for me to be a father than it is to be a basketball player. I know there's so many young kids in the world that look up to me and watch my story and watch my career. So I try to show them that I'm more than a basketball player; I’m a father first and foremost.

Photography by Peter Roessler

Photography by Peter Roessler

You were traded to Cleveland after three seasons with the Celtics, even through the injuries, your best basketball year, and the passing of your sister. It obviously came as a shock to fans, but what were your feelings surrounding that, if I may say, betrayal?

I just tried to get my mind off of it. I mean, it was definitely the hardest time in my life, but basketball has been that outlet, that no matter what I was going through in life, I can go to a basketball gym and get that off my mind. I still deal with it to this day, but at the same time, basketball has helped me get through it, as well as my family and friends. But it will be something I always have to battle. At the same time, as long as basketball is here and I'm able to get to a gym and play ball, I will be able to deal with what I’m dealing with at that point in time.

Moving to the Nuggets, how are you settling into Denver?

I am definitely happy to be in Denver. We are the third best team in the NBA and we're having a hell of a season, and I can't wait to get on the floor and help my team out. Especially during the playoffs.The reason I went to Denver was that the head coach [Michael Malone] coached me when I played with the Sacramento Kings in my earlier years in the NBA, so I'm very familiar with him and he's familiar with me. I know he's going to give me the opportunity to go out and showcase my skills. We're most excited about getting to the playoffs and making some noise.

Being an eight-year vet, what's your biggest takeaway from your overall NBA experience?

Being the last pick in the draft, coming into the NBA and not really playing at the beginning of my career to becoming a starter and later becoming All-Star, Top Five, and MVP voted… and then getting hurt and traded. It’s been an up-and-down career. But I wouldn't trade it for anything. Everything that's happened in my career has taught me a lesson, and it's made me cherish every moment and situation that I've been in. The ride has been great and I’ve had a lot of people following my story, which has been an inspiration. To me, my job is to just to keep going, and don't let anything stop me. 

Photography by Peter Roessler

Photography by Peter Roessler

Check out Isaiah Thomas' Tattoo Tour: