Will the Boston Celtics give former star and current Cleveland Cavaliers Isaiah Thomas a video tribute when he plays his first game back in Boston on February 11? Conventional logic may say yes. But Boston legend Paul Pierce — who will have his number retired on the same night — is not keen on the idea.
— ESPN (@espn) January 4, 2018
It’s not that we don’t understand where Pierce is coming from. Jersey retirement nights are usually meant to honor not only the great player, but also great players from the franchise’s history. Thomas certainly qualifies, but he plays for another team. So, mixing a tribute to an opposing player would be awkward.
With that said, this really isn’t the end of the world.
Pierce himself said that he was okay with Thomas getting a video. Keeping that in mind, only two dates presented themselves as natural options. One of them was Wednesday, when Cleveland played its first game in Boston on the season. But as the Associated Press noted (via ESPN), Thomas requested that a video not be played in a game where he was not active. If you believe that the Celtics should have done so anyway, that’s fine. But at this point, we can’t do anything about it.
That leaves February 11, the Cavs’ second and final trip to Boston during the regular season.
Anything beyond that is impractical. While it seems likely, there’s no guarantee that the two teams will face in the postseason. Even if there was, a video tribute honoring an opposing player during a postseason game would be significantly more awkward than it ever would be on Pierce’s night. There also wouldn’t be much of a point in honoring Thomas next season, especially after he’s already played against the Celtics in Boston at least once.
Pierce would be best backing off of this stance. We understand not wanting to share the spotlight, but that doesn’t take precedence over everything else.
It’s become a custom in sports for a team to honor a past player when he returns as a visitor. The Celtics did it for Pierce, after all.
Thomas certainly did enough in his time in Boston to deserve his own tribute — even if the timing is less than ideal.