Isaiah Thomas’ first love will always be basketball.
But boxing seems to be gaining steam in the later rounds.
Thomas, the 2006 News Tribune All-Area boys basketball player of the year from Curtis High, has teamed up with an interesting ally for his second annual “Memorial Day Zeke-End Basketball Tournament” starting Saturday at Foss High.
The Boston Celtics guard has become close friends with undefeated boxing champion Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
In fact, usually before every NBA game Thomas plays in, he gets a phone call from Mayweather — with a full scouting report on the guards he will be facing.
“He loves basketball,” Thomas said. “All we do is talk basketball.”
Thomas said he first met Mayweather in 2010 through a friend while he was still at the University of Washington. He was in Las Vegas, and was invited to attend a workout by Mayweather, a champion at five weight divisions.
“Come to find out, Floyd watches college basketball and the NBA, and knows who the players are,” Thomas said.
That night, Mayweather invited him to a Robin Thicke concert. The two hung out into the wee hours of the morning.
When Thomas was drafted by Sacramento in 2011, Mayweather began attending his games. The friendship grew from there.
“We like being around each other,” Thomas said. “He is 38, and I am 26 … so he is definitely like a big brother. We talk almost every other day. I will come and see him (in Las Vegas), and we’ll chill and relax. We are very close.”
After ending last season with Phoenix, Thomas returned as the team’s sixth man. But on Feb. 19, he was traded to Boston in exchange for Marcus Thornton and a first-round draft pick.
“I had never experienced that before, so that was tough for me and my family,” Thomas said.
Thomas immediately flew to Boston for a sitdown meeting with Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and coach Brad Stevens.
“They wanted me to come in and be myself — score the basketball and lead for four quarters,” Thomas said. “And I instantly felt the players wanted me there, too. I mean, my first game against the Lakers, I felt like I had been on the Celtics the whole season.”
In 21 regular-season games coming off the bench, Thomas averaged 19.0 points and 5.4 assists in 26.0 minutes. Twice, he was named the Eastern Conference player of the week.
And suddenly, Boston climbed from potential lottery-pick team to playoff participant, losing in four games to a Lebron James-led Cleveland squad. Thomas finished second in voting for the NBA’s sixth man of the year behind Toronto’s Lou Williams.
“It was a hell of a run. We changed the whole mindset,” Thomas said. “It feels like they want me part of their future. I hope I can call this place home.”
This offseason, Thomas has been searching for a house in Boston after leaving his family behind on the West Coast, and living out of a hotel room the final two months of the NBA season.
He also attended Mayweather’s recent “Fight of the Century” showdown with Manny Pacquiao on May 2 in Las Vegas.
Mayweather won by a unanimous decision.
“My dad has always been a big boxing fan … but I was never into it. But as I’ve gotten older, I have started to watch the fights more and more,” Thomas said.
“That night, seeing stars from around the world out for it, it was just an amazing night. I was glad to share it with him.”
Now Mayweather gets to share a few basketball dates with Thomas this weekend at the five-on-five tournament.
“He can play basketball,” Thomas said. “He said he will play in the tournament, but I don’t think so.”