Isiah "Macbeth" Thomas: Knicks Play Shakespeare Tragedy and Triumph (maybe)

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Isiah
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Isiah in his Knicks days

I am fascinated by the beasts that don't die. The villains and heroes who keep coming back much to the audience's bewilderment.

You again?!?

Is there any question that Isiah Thomas is the most fascinating person in the NBA? I honestly think the NBA needs a new front office award: NBA Shakespearean Figure of the Year. Thomas would win easily this year and maybe every year.  

He just won't quit, he just keeps coming back. The castles burn, the fields have been plundered, the cattle have been killed and he sits there on the last standing horse still trying to mount a rallying charge with child soldiers and hay carts. Oblivious to the destruction around him, he still hears the cheers in his head, and that's what keeps him going.

Recently it's been reported that "Zeke" Thomas has his fingerprints over the New York Knicks recent moves to acquire Carmelo Anthony, who is definitely playing Hamlet with all his pondering.

As someone who is not a Knicks fan or hater, I have no personal view on Thomas. I look at his record during his four years at the Knicks, and Thomas' return seems like a dubious move. But it makes for great drama! 

And this—for better of worse—is an amazingly American characteristic. Come on, we love people like this. We may not like them, we may even feel the world would be better without them. But they are fascinating like some awesome force of nature.

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Knicks fans wail like war widows at the sound of his name, while opposing teams cheer the return of Thomas. In fairness, Thomas must be good at something. He had some early success with the Indiana Pacers, and he must have a few fans within the Knicks organization besides to the owner. Even Saddam Hussein had supporters. Why not Isiah, right?

If Thomas does return to the Knicks, he should be forced to wear a Napoleonic bicorne hat and ride into MSG on a white horse. A similar Shakespearean figure re-entered New York decades ago by the name of George Steinbrenner. He was hated, loathed, but contagious. People couldn't stop talking about him, cursing him and loving him. Eventually Steinbrenner returned to a glorious final act. Yes, it was bloated, messy, dramatic and overpriced. But there was also glory.

What if Thomas had the same return? Could there a more unbelievable story of chutzpah? Wouldn't you just slap your head and think "UN-FREAKING-BELIEVABLE!" Don't you secretly want to believe that "Zeke Macbeth" is tapping into that alligator-part of the brain that is fascinated with sheer power over talent/intelligence/reason.

Two decades ago, the Knicks had another Macbeth in the front office by the name of Pat Riley. Remember that?!? That was fun. Intrigue, power and glory all rolled into the big lights of MSG. Of course, Riley is actually a genius coach and president who has won championships while Thomas's record remains...underwhelming (I'm trying to be kind here!).

But the Knicks were fascinating. Here was the model for Gordon Gekko, Machiavelli in an Armani suit and slicked-back hair haunting the sidelines. New York became Riley's town, and Riley became even more "Riley-esque" in his determination and manipulations.

There is something about the city, the Garden, and this organization that brings out the 'glorious' and delusional in coaches, presidents and owners. This is the gift and the curse of New York.

It has the magic, the stage and lights to make anyone dream. For Isiah Thomas, this dream is slowly becoming a reality for his resume and a nightmare for Knicks fans. But it is utterly watchable.

 

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