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Isaiah Thomas.

Isaiah Thomas: From NBA long shot to 2016 All-Star

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In June 2011, Isaiah Thomas had to wait until the final pick of the NBA draft to hear his name called.

On February 14, 2016, the Boston Celtics point guard will take to Toronto's Air Canada Centre as a first-time All-Star.

Thomas' journey from NBA long shot to All-Star is distinct to him and certainly hasn't been straight forward. But when he does take to the hardwood next weekend, the NBA's shortest active player will be able to stand tall knowing that he has proved his doubters wrong.

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Arriving in the league with question marks hanging over his name due to his 5ft 9-inch stature - despite two First-team All-Pac-10 nominations whilst with the Washington Huskies - the diminutive star had to watch four other point guards go before him on draft night. Only one of them, Norris Cole, remains in the NBA.

Since then, he has had three teams in his first five years as a pro; three solid seasons leading to a sign-and-trade from Sacramento to Phoenix before being traded to the Boston Celtics after finding himself at the back of a long queue of Suns point guards.

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This haphazard start to life in the league provided ammunition for his critics but it also served to expand the chip that Thomas admits has always been on his shoulder.

Upward curve

Since arriving at TD Gardens almost a year ago to the day, however, the 26-year-old has set about changing his NBA trajectory.

So far this season, only Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook and reigning MVP Steph Curry have averaged more points-per-game from the point guard position than the former "Mr. Irrelevent." He ranks fifth amongst his position in PER this campaign, too.

Handed more minutes by Brad Stevens, Thomas has been given the opportunity to put his relentlessly competitive drive to good use. 

Chicago Bulls v Boston Celtics

When that compliments clutch shooting and play-making ability, it is a winning formula. He has been the driving force behind the Celtics' run to fourth spot in the East.

The Washington native is setting career-high numbers in virtually every category through 2015-16 and has gained a host of admirers from within the game along the way - a point proven by the NBA coaches' decision to select him for the All-Star game ahead of the likes of Kyrie Irving.

The jibes and cheap shots still come, of course. Only earlier this season, the Atlanta Hawks' Jeff Teague made reference to Thomas' height after making a play against him in November.

And Thomas, speaking after his All-Star place was announced last week, knows there will still be some who won't be convinced:

"I asked myself yesterday, ‘What can they say now?'" he said, via ESPNBoston.com. "But they'll find something."

Mentality

Thomas has had to fight hard to stake a claim as one of the league's best, and lesser players may have fallen by the wayside by this point. Not Thomas, though. His mental assuredness is as strong, if not stronger, than his ability to drive to the rim.

He hasn't done it all on his own, however. Muggsy Bogues, another of the NBA's famous 'small men', has been mentoring the Celtics star for years now - communicating over the phone on a regular basis and reminding him of just how good he can be.

Thomas can also list the 5ft 8 inch Floyd Mayweather as a close friend after, somewhat bizarrely, being invited by the boxer to watch a Robin Thicke concert back in 2010. 

If you're looking for advice on self-confidence, there can't be many better people to associate with than the notoriously self-assured fighter.

Validation

In Boston, Thomas' stature is increasingly seen as a weapon by his team, and a frustration for opponents. Of course, he will always have to fight off those who see him as unorthodox, but that will only add fuel to his fiery ambition.

Unlike the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant - players who will share the court with Thomas next weekend and who's success in the NBA was always seen as a sure-thing - Thomas' has taken the scenic route to the All-Star game.

Finally, though, almost five years after entering the league, he will be able to look his critics in the eye (or a few inches below) and say he has made it.

Isaiah Thomas' self-belief has always been at an All-Star level and, in just eight days time, he will finally be able to categorically say that his basketball ability it too.

Topics:
NBA
Isaiah Thomas
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
Kobe Bryant
LA Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
LeBron James
Cleveland Cavaliers
Central Division

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