This is a good thing...because I'm torn.
You see, ever since the time I was a sophomore in high school, my first son was always going to be named Isiah. It was simply a given--Isiah Thomas Rosenthal. Or maybe Isiah David Rosenthal (named after my father, not the cold hearted son-of-a-gun who stole my No Sallies fantasy championship on Christmas Eve last year). I would even share this information with girls on first dates. (In retrospect, I'm now getting a sense as to why I wasn't more lucky with the ladies as an adolescent...) No ifs, and, or buts about it...My son was going to be "Isiah."
The problem is:now there's a "but."
You see, I'm a pretty simple sports fanatic, and I live by a couple of the simple rules of the sports fan. One is you never go and get a beer for a friend if he just referred to you as "beer bitch." (Unless of course you just lost a game and are therefore the official "beer bitch", in which case grabbing the beer is now mandatory.) Another is you never leave a ball game early, unless the starters have been removed. (Because if the coach has given up, any hope for that miraculous comeback has been shattered.) You never answer the phone during a Packer game. You never celebrate getting a foul ball if you picked it up off the ground. You never pee in the urinal right next to a guy, if there's an open urinal two or more spaces away.
(By the way, this last rule is an extremely important one in my book. I was traumatized in the eighth grade while peeing in the Middle school bathroom when our friend Metke stood two feet behind me and peed between my legs into my chosen urinal. As I hollered, "What the F are you doing?" he only laughed and said, "Stay still. We don't want to cross the streams." I felt like Batman in the old tv series, praying that the laser beam would not come close to me and slice at the inner side of my pants leg. "Will this be the end of our hero? Tune in tomorrow. Same bat time, same bat channel..." Miraculously, my jeans somehow remained dry, but to this day I break into a sweat any time the lines at Lambeau's urinals are four or five deep behind me. Because even though we're both in our mid-30s now, I have no doubt that if I met up with Metke in some arena's bathroom, he'd do the exact same thing today...)
And you never name your son after a man found guilty of sexual harassment.
As a kid, I had developed a knack at looking past Isiah's indiscretions. When he was accused of trying to orchestrate a freeze out of Michael Jordan at the all-star game, I chalked it up as a veteran trying to teach a young up-and-comer an important lesson. When he fell under fire for saying that Larry Bird would be just another ball player if he was black, I was quick to point out that Rodman had actually made that statement first, not Isiah. (He just agreed with it.)
And regardless of what was going on with Isiah Thomas the person at that time, all of it was forgotten whenever I was able to sit back and enjoy Isiah Thomas the ball player. Now, you can argue with me all you want, but nobody is going to ever convince me that there was a better player of his height than Zeke. What has always impressed me most about Isiah was his willingness to sacrifice his personal success for the success of the team. Many players will claim they are willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship. Few actually follow through. Isiah Thomas is one of the few exceptions.
Isiah could have been Allen Iverson before Allen Iverson was Allen Iverson. I have no doubt in my mind about this. As a matter of fact, I think he could have been an even more prolific scorer than Iverson because he was a better shooter, and could blow by any point guard who tried to defend him. (As a matter of fact, I remember my friends used to tease me that Isiah was only shooting 45% from the floor. It seems crazy now, considering how many times Iverson has failed to even hit 40%.) But Isiah knew (largely because Daley convinced him it was so) that in order to win championships he'd have to focus on making his teammates better. And he did just that. Oh, he'd still score. But he'd pick his spots and only start shooting daggers when the game was on the line. This is similar to the approach Jason Kidd takes today. Except, as great as Kidd is, he's nowhere close to Isiah on the all-time list of greats, largely because Kidd has nowhere near the same kind of scoring tools that Zeke had. As a matter of fact, I rank Isiah as the 9th greatest player of my lifetime, behind
5. Shaq (Lean, dominating Shaq of the early '90s)
6. Dr. J
D-Wade and Lebron certainly have the potential to join this list and knock Isiah out of the top 10, but they're not there yet. I'd listen to anyone make a case for Kobe too, but since he wasn't smart enough to recognize how sweet he had it and orchestrated the trade that sent Shaq packing, I refuse to put him ahead of the guy that made the likes of Vinnie Johnson, Rick Mahorn, John Salley and Dennis Rodman become three times the players that they really were anytime he stepped on the floor.
Anyhow, I could defend Isiah the player for days...
I'm not so sure, however, I could do the same for Isiah the person. Running the CBA straight to bankruptcy and running the Knicks to quickly becoming the embarrassment of the league was tough enough to defend.
But there's no defending his use of the word "bitch" towards a woman, especially in a professional setting. And even more so, there's no defending someone who shows no remorse for doing it. I'm puzzled about Isiah's opinion that it's okay for him to call an African American woman a "bitch" because he's black. And I'm wondering if there's anyway I can blame it on Dennis Rodman.
But as for my son, whenever he might be born, I don't know if the name Isiah makes sense anymore. And unfortunately, my wife despises the names "Brett" and "Robin."
I suppose I could name him after one of my high school friends, Eric or Darren. But they don't really set the greatest example either...
...especially when you consider how often they tried to make me their beer bitch.