James Thomas, Isaiah’s Father: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

It has been a difficult time for the Thomas family after Chyna Thomas tragically passed away in a car accident on April 15, 2017. Isaiah Thomas and his father, James Thomas, have been there for each other throughout their lives and this time is no different.

As the country sends their thoughts towards the Thomas family, we have begun to learn more about those that are close to Isaiah. His father has often been referred to as the one that named him after the Detroit Pistons legend. While this is true, there is much more to their relationship than James losing a wager almost 30 years ago.

While he still lives in Tacoma, Washington, James tries to make it to Boston as much as possible to show support for his son. Like Isaiah, he is grieving the loss of his daughter during this trying time.

Learn more about Isaiah’s father.

1. James Lost a Bet & Named His Son After the Former Pistons Great Isiah Thomas

Isaiah can thank James’ friend Tony for his name. According to ESPN, James made a wager with his friend Tony about the outcome of the 1989 NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers. If the Lakers lost the Finals, he would have to name his son after Isiah Thomas. The Pistons did indeed win the championship, and basketball fans now have another Isaiah Thomas in the league.

James wife, Tina Baldtrip, made a slight tweak to the bet. Since Tina is a person of faith, she wanted to spell it the Biblical way rather than the Pistons great’s spelling of Isiah. The younger Isaiah started wearing the No. 11 just like the NBA legend.

There has been a bit of confusion with names. Some fans think Isaiah is related to the other Isiah Thomas. While they are not related, Isiah Thomas has mentored Isaiah since he came into the league. In a twist of fate, Celtics fans are now rooting for Isaiah Thomas whose name is associated with the Celtics rivalry in the 1980’s-90’s.

2. Isaiah’s Parents Separated When He Was Young

According to Sports Illustrated, James and Tina separated when Isaiah was young. Tina still lives in Tacoma and works as a hospice nurse. Years ago, it was Tina who arranged for her son to meet his namesake. Isiah Thomas was at one of Washington’s games (where Isaiah went to college) doing some scouting for the New York Knicks, and Tina arranged for her son to meet the NBA legend.

What did Isiah Thomas tell the younger Isaiah during their first meeting? He explained the conversation to Sports Illustrated.

“The first thing I told him was that what separates a good player from a bad player is how much that player believes in himself,” Isiah Thomas told Sports Illustrated.

3. James Would Only Play in Pickup Games if the Group Allowed Isaiah to Play

Given his height of 5’9″, Isaiah has overcome a lot of doubters to make it into the league. Growing up, Isaiah was just fighting to play in pickup games with his father. Like his son, James loved to play basketball but after Isaiah was old enough to play he would only play under one condition.

According to Sports Illustrated, James would only play in pickup games where his son could also participate. If you wanted the older Thomas, you had to take the younger one as well. Just like he dealt with in the NBA, others thought Isaiah was too small to play the game. Sports Illustrated recounts the story.

When Isaiah was in grade school, his dad would have him tag along to play pickup games against adults. ‘He’s too small,’ some grown-up would object, and James would declare that if little Isaiah couldn’t play, then his father wouldn’t either. To the consternation of more than a few middle-aged Tacoma men, the approach often succeeded. But the Thomas family knows that the same old criticism remains. Crowds like to sing It’s a Small World when Isaiah shoots free throws, and NBA talent evaluators do not covet prospects less than 6 feet tall.

4. Isaiah Thomas Has a Son Named James

Isaiah has two sons of his own, James and Jaiden. According to the Boston Globe, James is his oldest son at 6-years-old and shares a name with his grandfather. Isaiah’s youngest son, Jaiden, is 5-years-old.

According to the Boston Globe, James has worked for Boeing as a parts inspector for 28 years. He remains active in his sons life and attends Celtics games when he can. Isaiah often posts photos of the two of them on Instagram.

“Happy Father’s Day! Thanks pops for showing me how to be a man and take care of my responsibilities,” Isaiah noted in one Instagram caption with his father.

5. James Lost His Daughter, Chyna, In a Tragic Car Accident

The Thomas family received tragic news on April 15, 2017. James daughter, Chyna, died in a car accident in Federal Way near Tacoma where James lives. Witnesses noticed a car behaving normally before it started to slow down and collided with a sign post. Chyna was 22 years old and was not wearing a seatbelt.

After news of the accident broke, James spoke briefly with the Boston Globe. “It’s a crucial time for our family right now,” James told the Boston Globe.

Isaiah and Chyna shared the same father but had different mothers. Isaiah ended up playing in a Celtics playoff game about 24 hours after learning his sister had passed away. It was an emotional scene in Boston as fans gave him a standing ovation in pre-game warmups with signs supporting the Thomas family all over the arena.