“Great Teachers”: Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas Reveals How the 80s Laker-Celtic Rivalry Benefitted His NBA Career

Published 11/14/2020, 7:00 AM EST


The Detroit Pistons of the 80s were a force to reckon with. ‘Bad Boys Pistons’, as they were infamously called, won back-to-back championships to close out the 80s era and earn a reputation for themselves. Isiah Thomas, who led the team during their triumph, recently revealed how he used to slide into the Lakers and the Celtics’ locker rooms to learn their championship mentality. 

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The Lakers-Celtics rivalry dominated the league in the 80s. These two teams won a combined six championships during the decade to etch their names into history. Isiah Thomas didn’t play for either team during that time, but he used to be a regular presence in their locker rooms.

The 2x NBA champion recently connected with Shannon Sharpe on Club Shay Shay on YouTube, where he revealed the depths of the brotherhood he shared with his colleagues. Thomas addressed that there’s always an “education curve” when one enters the NBA.

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When he joined the association, the Lakers and Celtics were the two standout teams. “Fortunate enough that I was friends with Magic Johnson, Dr. Buss Jerry West, Kareem,” Isiah said. 

“All of them let me enter their inner sanctuary in terms of how they win, how they lose, how they prepare, what their tradition was; All about how organization works.” 

Isiah Thomas meticulously took notes from every Laker-Celtic finals in the 80s

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Isiah Thomas embraced his learning curve before he became a superstar in the league. Maybe that enabled him to become the player he was. Standing at 6’1”, he was one of the most explosive guards in his time and his talent was unparalleled. 

A lot of it came from observing numerous NBA finals series up close. “When Boston and L.A. was competing, I was in one of their locker rooms all the time taking notes,” Isiah informed. 

“I was at every finals game just learning and educating myself on how to win, how to be a champion, and understanding what the pressure would be like in those buildings.”

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But Isiah Thomas did all of that on purpose. He backed his own talent, knowing that the stage would one day be his. “I knew at some point in time I was going to come there and beat them and right, that’s what I did,” he proudly stated. 


The former Piston credits the Lakers and the Celtics as “great teachers” for guiding him on a champion’s path. He took the right route and earned several accolades during his playing career. And he sure justified the ‘Bad Boy’ tag through on-court displays! 

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Arjun Athreya

2176 articles

Arjun Athreya is a senior writer at Essentially Sports and has been contributing since early 2020. Having developed an avid interest in sports at an early age, he pursued a Journalism degree and graduated from Madras Christian College. Arjun manages the Golf division and its content, and primarily covers news pertaining to the NBA as well.

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