Isiah Thomas, one of the best point guards in basketball history, made it official Wednesday: It’s time to let go of the game that has had such a powerful hold on his life.
Thomas, 33, who led the Detroit Pistons to two NBA championships during 13 seasons in the league, announced his retirement at a news conference packed with old teammates, friends and family.
The announcement was a formality. Thomas had made it clear he was finished when he tore his Achilles’ tendon April 19.
“This is a special day,” said Thomas, fingering a large NBA championship ring on his left hand. “The hardest thing for an athlete to do is to know when to quit. When do you let go of the thing that has shaped your entire life?
“This basketball, it’s so powerful. It’s your whole life.”
It had been thought that Thomas would hold off on his retirement until after July 1 to help the team’s salary cap. But he and Bill Davidson, the Pistons’ managing partner, said that was wrong.
The team would be limited to half of Thomas’ $2.52-million salary in either case, they said, because he is retiring. Only if Thomas were leaving to play for another team could the Pistons use his entire salary slot to sign other players.
“The Achilles’ injury wasn’t the problem,” Thomas said. “I’ll be walking next week. The thing that makes me good is the energy and intensity I can bring to the game every night.
“I don’t have that type of energy anymore. I don’t have that rah, rah rah anymore. There’s just no more energy left in my body.”
Thomas led the Pistons to NBA championships in 1989 and 1990 and scored more than 18,000 points.
NBA Commissioner David Stern called Thomas one of basketball’s finest players.
Thomas also was hailed by two recent retirees--Magic Johnson and Larry Bird.
“He was a fierce competitor, leaving everything he had on the court,” Johnson said.
Added Bird: “To me, Isiah was one of the players who raised the level of competition in the NBA up another notch.”
It was thought the Pistons would offer Thomas a management position when he retired, but those plans are on hold.
Isiah Thomas’ Career Highlights
REGULAR-SEASON TOTALS (All With Detroit)
* Detroit Pistons’ all-time leader in points, assists and steals.
* Member of two NBA champions, 1989 and 1990.
* 1990 NBA finals most valuable player as Pistons defeated Portland.
* Holds NBA finals record for most points in a quarter (25), against Lakers in 1988.
* 12-time NBA All-Star, and two-time All-Star game most valuable player.
* Member of NCAA champion Indiana (1981).
* Second pick in 1981 NBA draft.
* Member of U.S. Olympic team (1980).