SPOKANE, Wash. — Saturday, it was Rui Hachimura gracing Hoopfest with his presence.
Today, Isaiah Thomas was in Spokane, but he wasn't just taking it all in.
“When was the last time you played a game of Horse?” asked Sports Director Brenna Greene.
“The other day with my kids,” answered Thomas.
But this game of HORSE wasn't quite the same.
“It was tough to play in a chair. You gotta have upper body strength and be able to have the core work. That's something that was a little different,” said Thomas.
Thomas was here at Hoopfest to play the classic school yard game with Spokane parasport athlete Phillip Croft.
“My coach called and said, ‘Hey are you up for another interview?’" explained Croft. "I said, ‘Yeah sure, what do you want me to do?’" She said, ‘Do you know Isaiah Thomas?’ I'm like, ‘Uh, no.’ She's like, ‘Okay he's going to play HORSE with you during Hoopfest.’ I was like, ‘Okay.’ She was like, ‘You can look him up too.’ So after the end of the call I looked him up and I was like, ‘He's an NBA player?!’”
It was definitely the thrill of a lifetime for Croft, who also got to see Isaiah's competitive side.
“I was surprised how easy he was to trash talk me. When we first met I was like, ‘Hey Isaiah.’ He was like, ‘Hey Philip right? You're going to lose.’ I was like, ‘Wow that came quick.’ But then again he spoke the truth," Croft said.
The plan for the rest of the day for Thomas was to just walk around and take in an event that he definitely respects.
“Hoopfest is just something as a kid, especially growing up in the state of Washington, you know about at a young age. Any chance I can get to come out here and support any cause and support any program, I'm willing to do so. I'm just happy to be here and be able to interact with people and put smiles on people's faces," Thomas said.
And it's not just an event Thomas respects.
He says his NBA counterparts also are well aware of the tournament, even if their geography may not be totally up to speed.
“Everybody knows about Hoopfest, they just don’t know where it's at," Thomas said. Everybody knows about Hoopfest and how big it is. I talk about it all the time. I used to have a former teammate, Kelly Olynyk who played for Gonzaga, so he always used to talk about it as well so it's something that we are familiar with. I'm just happy to be out here and happy to be able to support Hoopfest.”
So as NBA free agency news heats up — and Isaiah is an free agent this year — he got the chance to just get back to the basics, watch some street basketball, and play a game of HORSE, which is exactly what he says he wants to be doing.
“This is what it's really about. The NBA is the NBA. It's a business. It's all fun and I'm blessed to be able to play in it, but to give back to kids and the community is always what it's about first and foremost. I'm just happy I'm able to be here and to be able to be out here to support in any way I can," he said.