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Despite Being Marred With Injury, Isiah Thomas’ Otherwordly Resilience Earned Him the Original “Baby Face Assassin” Name

Published 09/24/2023, 3:42 PM EDT

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The Pistons in the late 1980s were a force to be reckoned with. The physicality with which they played and the ferociousness on the defensive end gave them the nickname ‘Bad Boys Pistons’. Surprisingly, the leader of the Pistons was the shortest player on the team and looked the friendliest.

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Judging him by his looks will definitely be the biggest mistake that any person can make. Years later, we look back on the legendary performance of the original bad boy, Isiah Thomas, that made people realize why he is known as the Baby-Faced Assassin.

Isiah Thomas in the 1988 NBA Finals


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Most people know Stephen Curry to be the Baby-Faced Assassin. Having a small frame and having no facial hair while completely destroying the opponents on the floor at the time earned Curry this nickname. But a recent video from Henry Hoops is here to remind people of the true owner of the nickname.

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He goes on to say, “Steph Curry isn’t the first Baby-Faced Assassin, the original title goes to Isiah Thomas“. In his 13 seasons in the NBA, Isiah Thomas was an All-Star for 12 of them. He won two championships with the Detroit Pistons and was the leader of the Bad Boy Pistons.


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During the 1988 NBA finals, Isiah Thomas sprained his ankle just before halftime. He could barely walk after that and was limping on the floor.

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This was game 6 of the NBA finals, and the Pistons were leading 3-2. Isiah Thomas fought through the pain and went on to drop 25 points in the third quarter. Thomas ended the match with 43 points, 8 assists, and 6 steals.



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But this performance was not enough, as the Los Angeles Lakers forced a game 7 and eventually went on to win the championship. If they had won this series, maybe the Pistons could have become the third team ever to three-peat in the NBA. This is because the Pistons went on to win the NBA finals in the next two seasons.

Isiah Thomas’s redemption against the Lakers

In the following year, the Detroit Pistons started off the season by winning eight games in a row. Isiah Thomas, along with his running mate Joe Dumas, was the epitome of elegance among the rugged play style of the pistons. A coach in the league at the time said in an interview, “I call him the baby-faced assassin because he smiles at you, then cuts you down”.


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Piston again reached the NBA finals. Luckily, they got their revenge as they met the Lakers yet again. This time, the outcome was different. The Pistons swept the Lakers, and thus Isiah Thomas earned his first championship ring. They went on to repeat as champions the following year as well.

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Written by:

Rijin Varghese


One take at a time

Rijin is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He has been following the NBA for over a decade. He likes to learn about the nuances of sports, understand every player's contribution to a team, and also learn the logic behind player signings and team building.
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Edited by:

Stefan Thomas