Isaiah Thomas Talks Kobe Bryant Giving Him His 'Welcome to the NBA' Moment

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 27, 2021

Former Washington guard Isaiah Thomas taps his fist to his heart as he is introduced during a ceremony retiring his jersey at halftime during an NCAA college basketball game against Colorado Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018, in Seattle. The Tacoma, Wash., native led the Huskies to three consecutive conference championships, and finished his three years with 1,721 career points, now eighth in all-time in scoring for men at the school. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

NBA veteran Isaiah Thomas described his "welcome to the NBA" moment and the role Kobe Bryant played in it during an interview this week.

Appearing on All The Smoke with former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, IT recalled being tasked with guarding Kobe in his first NBA regular-season game (beginning at the 31:28 mark).

Thomas, who was the final pick of the 2011 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings, said head coach Paul Westphal had made a rule during the preseason banning any player on the roster from backing down Thomas since it usually resulted in a turnover.

Because of that defensive skill, Westphal put Thomas on Kobe in his first game as a rookie, and the Los Angeles Lakers legend went to work. 

Thomas noted that the Lakers ran three consecutive iso plays to Kobe, with Bryant knocking down two of the three shots.

Of that moment, Thomas said: "The first shot he hit, I'm sprinting down the court just laughing like, 'Damn, I'm here.' It was the first time in my life where someone scored on me and I was smiling and happy about it because that was my favorite player."

While Kobe schooled Thomas and scored a game-high 29 points, Thomas and the Kings got the last laugh in that game, as they won 100-91.

Bryant would go on to play four more seasons after that before retiring, while Thomas has two All-Star nods in 10 NBA seasons.

Kobe, who is a Hall of Famer and one of the all-time greats, tragically died last year in a helicopter crash at age 41.

While Bryant is gone, his memory will always live on thanks in large part to the fact that so many players have Kobe stories like this one.