This time, Isiah Thomas is calling the shots
Isiah Thomas awed sports fans with his prowess over the past decade. Whether it was a no-look pass or a three-point shot, Thomas left the hardwood with nothing more to prove.
Now, Thomas is set to return to his sport, only this time he'll be working behind the scenes, and much more will be riding on his decisions than before.
Thomas will go back to the National Basketball Association as part owner of the Toronto Raptors, a fledgling expansion team that debuts later this year.
As an African-American and a former NBA player, that puts Thomas in an exclusive group. NBA great Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who briefly coached the Los Angeles Lakers, now owns part of that team. Deron Cherry, the 34-year-old, former six-time All-Pro safety with the Kansas City Chiefs, is one of eight owners of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are set to debut this fall. Another black, Bill Simms--who is not a former player--is also one of the owners of the jaguars (see Newspoints, May 1994).
Thomas returns to the NBA as vice president of basketball operations for the Raptors, driving the distance from the Motor City, where Thomas became one of the best athletes ever to play his position.
An all-star guard with the Detroit Pistons for 13 seasons, Thomas won two championships as a member of the famed "Bad Boys." He retired in April 1994, after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon. There was speculation that Thomas would land a front-office job with the Pistons after retiring, but that never materialized. It wasn't long, however, before something even better came along.
"As soon as I announced my retirement, the phone was ringing off the hook," Thomas recalls. "But I had always prepared myself, hoping I would get to own part of a team."
Published reports put Thomas' cut with the Raptors at just below 10%. Thomas will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the franchise, including hiring coaches and evaluating players. He admits that the high-profile job comes with added pressure. "I know a lot is riding on my shoulders, and I plan to do a good job," Thomas says. 'I hope other pro athletes might look at me and realize there's more to playing die game than just playing...