The sister of the Boston Celtics’ star player “may have fallen asleep at the wheel” prior to her death in a gruesome car accident. A little over 24 hours before the Celtics took on the Chicago Bulls in the first game of their NBA playoffs series, Isaiah Thomas’ sister, Chyna, died in Washington. The point guard’s sister was driving to Tacoma, where she lived, when the accident occurred. Her car veered off the road at around 5 a.m. on April 15. Chyna was not wearing a seat belt when she died. Isaiah Thomas, like many had believed, chose to stay with his teammates and play game one. When he entered the court, Isaiah the words, “RIP Lil Sis” and “I love you” emblazoned on his shoes. He cried during the moment of silence for Chyna.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Chyna’s Vehicle ‘Vaulted Head-On Into a Sign Post’
Fox Seattle reports, citing authorities, that Chyna “may have fallen asleep at the wheel.” A Havard study has determined that around 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel every day in the United States. While the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that falling asleep causes around 100,000 crashes every year, killing 1,550 people.
The Tacoma News-Tribune reports that Chyna was driving along I-5 in Washington when her car veered off of the road. A witness told the newspaper that Chyna’s 1998 Toyota Camry looked to be driving normally until it began drifting 50 feet into a barrier and metal pole. State Trooper Nick King told the media, “That vaulted the vehicle head-on into the sign post.”
2. Chyna Attended the Tacoma School of the Arts
According to her Facebook page, Chyna had been a student at the Tacoma School of the Arts. At the time of her death, Chyna had been working as a FedEx delivery person. Her page says that she lived in Seattle and was from Tacoma. There is no mention of her famous brother visible on her profile.
3. Chyna’s Father Said, ‘It’s a Crucial Time for Our Family’
Speaking to the Boston Herald, Chyna’s father, James Thomas, said, “It’s a crucial time for our family.” He added that he didn’t know when his son would be flying out to Tacoma to be with his family. Though the Boston Globe reports that Thomas is likely to remain with his teammates. The second game of the Celtics/Bulls series is on April 18.
Isaiah was told of his sister’s passing just after the Celtics’ afternoon practice session. ESPN reports that Isaiah’s teammate and fellow Tacoma-native, Avery Bradley, broke the tragic news inside a trainer’s room.
Shaquille O’Neal said on an appearance on NBA on Sunday that he had spoken to Isaiah saying, “He’s very down. I just told him, ‘My condolences to you and your family.’ I told him my heart was heavy and I understood what he was going through and I wish him well.”
The Celtics kick off their playoff campaign against the Bulls at the TD Garden in Boston at 6:30 p.m. on April 16. The Celtics have been made favorites to advance in the series.
4. Chyna & Isaiah Worked Side-By-Side a Gospel Mission in Their Youth
A 2011 Seattle Times feature on Isaiah mentioned that he and Chyna would regularly accompany their father to work at a mission in Tacoma on Saturday mornings. Isaiah said of the pair’s work, “We’d serve food or do whatever was needed to be done. We did that every Saturday or every other Saturday. We’d get up at 6 a.m. I did that through middle school and high school. I didn’t like getting up, but it was something I liked to do when I got there.” The siblings’ father, James, said of the experience, “You can’t forget how easy it is to fall. I had friends that made it big in sports, and I’d be down at the food bank and I’m feeding them.”
Chyna and Isaiah Thomas were half-siblings. The Boston Globe reports that Chyna’s parents were James Thomas and his wife, LaNita. A source close to the family told the Globe, “Still doesn’t seem real. Absolutely devastating.” While a man saying he was also Chyna’s brother, wrote on his Facebook page, “It’s Chyna’s world.”
Isaiah had played college ball at the University of Washington and attended Curtis High School in the state. His mother is named Tina Baldtrip.
Despite being based in Boston, Isaiah remains involved in the Tacoma community. During his team’s run of games on the west coast in February 2017, he donated $80,000 to the Al Davies Boys and Girls Club. reported the News Tribune. While in August 2016, Isaiah was married to long-time girlfriend Kayla Wallace in Seattle.
5. Isaiah Thomas Is Receiving a Huge Amount of Support From the NBA Family
As news of Chyna’s death spread, the NBA family has become tweeting en masse to offer their condolences to the Thomas family. In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “The NBA family mourns the tragic passing of Chyna Thomas and we send our deepest condolences to Isaiah, his family and the Celtics organization during this difficult time.”
Here are some of the most poignant tributes: