While Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been able to take the court with his new team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, as a result of a hip injury, that hasn’t stopped him from making big moves off the court.
According to ESPN, Thomas made a special connection with 5-year-old Gavin Heileman at the Cavaliers’ annual “Big Shots and Little Stars” fundraiser for the Flashes of Hope charity.
Via the ESPN article:
Gavin wasn’t supposed to be here, either. Not with anaplastic astrocytoma. Not two years removed from the discovery of a grade III brain tumor when he was just 3 years old. Not having overcome seizures and chemotherapy and loss of feeling in the right side of his body all before enrolling in elementary school.
Flashes of Hope brought them together. Since it began in Cleveland in 2001, the organization has photographed tens of thousands of kids fighting cancer, capturing a still image of each child to help serve as a confidence booster while they cope with the disease.
This year’s “Big Shots and Little Stars” — in Thomas’ case, the “big” wasn’t quite as literal — raised a record $1.15 million, with 150 volunteers helping to bring the “Alice in Wonderland” theme to life. Actors came dressed as characters such as the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, and the night marked the first time Gavin dressed in a bowtie to complement his three-piece suit. Thomas chided Gavin a bit for his white socks and black shoes combo giving him a Michael Jackson look.
While Thomas has been sidelined with an injury, he’s coming off the best season of his career, a season that saw the 5-foot-9 star average 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. On top of that, he helped lead the Boston Celtics to the best record in the Eastern Conference at 53-29. He also helped lead Boston to the Eastern Conference Finals against — you guessed it — the Cavaliers.
Thomas is averaging 19.1 points per game over the course of his career; however, his 28.9 points per game from 2016-17 was the third-highest mark in the NBA. Needless to say, he is going to give Cleveland a huge boost once he makes his big return/debut.
In a blockbuster trade involving Kyrie Irving, Thomas was sent to the Cavs in the offseason.
Back to the connection Thomas made with Gavin.
Per the ESPN article mentioned above:
Aside from Thomas’ relationship with his sons — 5-year-old Jaiden and 7-year-old James — naturally drawing him to Gavin, there was another commonality between the two.
“I’m one of the shortest kids in my class, but that’s fine with me,” Gavin said. “I like it.”
“You like it?” Thomas said, his face lighting up. “Being small is so cool. I’m the smallest guy in the NBA. I’m the smallest guy in basketball, so we’re like the same guy.”
“Yeah,” Gavin said, nodding his head.
“It’s not always fun to be tall,” Thomas said.
It remains to be seen when Thomas will make his big debut for Cleveland, but the latest rumblings revolve around him returning in December.
According to ESPN, “The Cavaliers are hopeful that All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, the key player in the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston, could be back at some point in December. Thomas has been increasing the progression and intensity of his rehabilitation and workouts. He has been trying to return from a hip injury that ended his season prematurely in the Eastern Conference finals last spring.”
While Derrick Rose has missed some time this season, and Thomas has yet to play a game in a Cleveland uniform, the Cavs have still managed to have one of the best records in the Eastern Conference. They are currently third in the East with a 12-7 record thanks to a seven-game winning streak.
An early return for Thomas would be huge for the Cavs, especially since Rose’s future is filled with uncertainty right now. Recently, Rose took a leave of absence from the Cavs, and was considering retirement due to injuries.
Thomas has not played a game since May.
More from the ESPN article:
Gavin’s final chemo session is Dec. 18. The tumor has been completely removed. The seizures have ceased. He’s the appropriate height and weight for a healthy 5-year-old boy (even if he says he’s short for his class). The feeling has returned to the right side of his body. He doesn’t show any signs of trouble with his fine motor skills, nor has he struggled with any learning disabilities.
Thomas and Gavin shared some special moments with each other at the charity event (such as the amazing story via the ESPN article below), and it’s stories like this that really help to warm the heart.
What was fun was their time together, talking about Gavin’s favorite movie (“Cars”) and making their way down a fashion runway that spanned the floor of Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavs’ court usually is, as the 1,300 guests snapped photos.
After the runway, Thomas and Gavin were interviewed by Cavs play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod. Thomas stood behind Gavin with his hands on the boy’s shoulders. While Thomas was speaking, Gavin reached up and wrapped his hand around one of Thomas’ fingers.
Final words from IT (via ESPN):
“These kids come here so happy, and they’ve been through so much in their lives when you wouldn’t even think they have,” Thomas said. “These events are always special to me because they’re smiling, they’re happy where they’ve been through tough times. Like, I have half the worries they have, and they’re still smiling. That helps me out when I’m going through tough times. It’s like, people are going through worse things than I am, and they’re still pushing through. So these kids are everything. These kids are what keep me going.”
While Thomas was Gavin’s chaperone at the charity event, it appears both parties helped each other out equally.
To read the entire story from ESPN, make sure to follow this link.
As for Thomas, hopefully he is able to make his return to the game soon.