The first day of NBA all-star Isaiah Thomas’ “Zeke-End” basketball tournament tipped off Friday – and it felt like the whole city of Tacoma was there.
Despite a hip injury holding Thomas out of play, the Tacoma Community College gym was filled with spectators in support of the former Curtis High School star.
“I was happy,” Thomas said. “Going into it, I was thinking Friday might be a little dead because people work – and it’s nice out. But it says a lot about the support I get from this city. It was good.
“Tomorrow, I think it will even be better. Everyone seems happy.”
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Three years ago, when the tournament first debuted, Thomas set out to treat his hometown by inviting some of his NBA colleagues to play.
In attendance Friday were Seattle native and Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, Celtics teammate Kelly Olynyk and Wizards point guard John Wall.
Wall donned his 2016 NBA All Star Game shorts and sat next to Thomas on the bench during two games. He wasn’t in action on the court, but Wall made a contribution on the bench with Thomas as the two laughed and enjoyed the day.
Olynyk, who played in last years Zeke-End tournament did not play due to contract talks with the Celtics, but he knows how special this weekend is for his point guard.
“It’s important,” said Olynyk, who played at Gonzaga. “For everything Isaiah does, and for us, it’s good to give back to this city. It’s nice to come down here and spend a little time.”
Even though they didn’t play, Wall and Olynyk took pictures and signed autographs for fans.
Meanwhile, Team Zeke cruised through the first two games of pool play. Saturday will see the start of the elimination round.