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Isiah Thomas    

Businessman, Legendary Sports Icon & Philanthropist

Isiah Lord Thomas, III, professional career spans more than three decades in business and sports. He has garnered worldwide attention for his contributions in all levels of professional basketball, including induction into the NBA Hall of Fame, and for his successful business initiatives and philanthropic endeavors. As a player, Thomas built a reputation as a tireless worker and formidable competitor. Considered one of the greatest “small men” ever to play professional basketball; he combined intelligence, court savvy, and physical gifts to attain true NBA superstardom.

Thomas is Chairman and CEO of ISIAH International LLC, and Isiah Imports, a certified minority owned investment holdings company. For over 30 years, he has been investing in new and existing businesses. He is the owner of several companies: Isiah Real Estate, a development firm specializing in commercial properties and most recently, Isiah Imports, the exclusive United States owner and importer of Cheurlin Champagnes. When he embarked on the journey of becoming a champagne importer, Isiah wanted healthy, great tasting champagne without the added sugar, and it had to be reasonably priced. It took years but that's exactly what he found in Cheurlin Champagne.

Thomas also co-owns GRE3N Waste Removal and RE3 Recycling, with his daughter, Lauren. Other business investments include Popcorn Indiana (Co-Founder), and Sweetgreen.

Thomas could be found studying the latest business trends and related issues during his free time, meeting with his professional counterparts that he has forged a relationship with and eventually invested in a series of ventures, including a large chain of printing franchises, American Speedy Printing., as Co-Chairman. As his business mentor and partner, Rick Inatome explained, “He’s the definitive study of picture it and it becomes” – a motto that Thomas continues to bring to all of his business ventures.

In May 2015, Thomas was named the President and Alternate Governor of the WNBA’s New York Liberty. Thomas recently completed his second season and is determined to see the team win their first WNBA title. “Victory favors the team that makes the fewest mistakes,” says Thomas. “Our team has to be the smartest team on the floor. If we can accomplish that, we will win the championship.”

With Thomas at the helm, the Liberty has enjoyed the most successful stretch of basketball in franchise history, posting 3-consecutive 20-win seasons for the 1st time, to go along with 3-straight trips to the WNBA Playoffs. Throughout his basketball career, Thomas possessed the skill and determination to take over a game at will. Considered to be an unselfish player, he approached the game on an intellectual level. Since his appointment he has elevated women to key roles in the WNBA including Head Coach, Director of Franchise Development, Director of Player Development, and VP for Business Development.

Following a storied 13-year playing tenure with the Detroit Pistons (1981-82 through 1993-94), Thomas earned enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000, as well as designations in 1996 as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He was a 12–time NBA All-Star (the Game’s MVP in 1984 and 1986) as well as a five time all NBA selection. In 1988, the NBA players elected Thomas to serve as President of the NBPA, where he served through 1994. During his NBPA tenure from 1983-1994, he helped establish four historic Collective Bargaining Agreements and pushed to raise the average NBA player’s salary, which increased from $300,000 to $1.8 million. Above all, of course, Thomas was the central figure in leading the Pistons to back- to-back NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990, earning Finals MVP honors in 1990. The Pistons retired his number 11 on February 17, 1996.

Prior to his NBA career, Thomas played two seasons at Indiana University. He earned Sporting News first team All-American honors in 1981, the year he led the Hoosiers to the NCAA Championship. He was also a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic basketball team that did not compete in the Moscow Games. Thomas’ leadership and sharp business acumen continue to serve him well in his post-playing days. Following his retirement from the NBA, Thomas took a front office position as part owner and Executive Vice President of the Toronto Raptors expansion team. He also served as head coach of the Indiana Pacers; President, General Manager and Coach of the New York Knicks.

Thomas’ commitment, intelligence, and his athletic ability fortified him to become an NBA All-Star and Champion. Off the court, he dedicates a large portion of his time to working with youth programs in urban communities, helping to instill confidence, teamwork and leadership skills in young people. Inspired by his mother’s work to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and families in Chicago, Thomas founded the Mary’s Court Foundation in her honor to support the health, safety, academic and personal achievement of Chicago’s youth and youth around the country. Thomas’ service to educational, anti-crime, and anti-poverty programs began in Detroit when he was in the NBA and continues today in many more cities across the United States.

He gained national recognition for his role in Chicago’s Peace Tournaments and his advocacy to prevent youth violence. With Father Michael Pfleger, Thomas launched the Peace Game Tournaments to reduce gang violence through communications and athletics. Thomas in partnership with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel started a fundraising campaign to launch the Windy City Hoops program in ten park districts, offering a safe haven to kids and families through sports, and he now serves on the Chicago Public Safety Action Committee.

Thomas credits his mother for instilling in him the importance of education. He finished his college degree at Indiana University during the Pistons’ off-seasons and received his Master’s in Education from the University of California at Berkeley in 2013. Isiah has awarded more than 100 scholarships to criminal justice students through the Isiah Thomas Scholarship at Indiana University and has recently announced a new annual scholarship at the University of California at Berkeley in the African American Studies department.

Along with the talented and highly acclaimed actor, Robert Townsend, Isiah worked as the Executive Producer of “Playin’ for Love,” a romantic comedy film about life on and off of the basketball court starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Jenifer Lewis, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Esai Morales and was shot on location in Overtown, one of Miami’s roughest neighborhoods. Due to Isiah’s continued work in the community, upon connecting with Townsend for this film, they received many corporate and community sponsorships not limited to the Miami Heat, NBA star Dwayne Wade, Jamba Juice, Connor Sports, and American Federation of Teachers.

Born and raised on Chicago’s West Side, Isiah Thomas is the youngest of nine children raised by his mother, the late Mary Thomas. His mother’s courage and conviction continue to inspire his business and philanthropic work today. Isiah Thomas has two adult children, and currently lives in New York with his wife of 34 years and college sweetheart, Lynn Kendall Thomas.

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