BY MARK KNUDSON
Special to woodypaige.com
What’s in a name? For Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics, it’s a lot to live up to.
If the 2016-2017 NBA season is any indication, he may at least come close to living up to the moniker. The Boston Celtics guard has had an eventful last few weeks. He tragically lost his sister on the eve of his team’s first round play-off series with the Chicago Bulls. After falling into a 0-2 hole, Thomas and the Celtics rebounded to win the series and advance. Then, he had a tooth knocked out in a Game 1 win against Washington in the Eastern Conference semis, before putting up 53 points in leading Boston to a Game 2 victory. In the middle of all this, he also flew across the country to attend his sister’s funeral.
On the basketball court, this Isaiah Thomas has quite a ways to go to match the career of his namesake, the basketball Hall of Famer. Isiah Lord Thomas III (yes, that’s his real middle name) was a two-time NBA champion with the Detroit Pistons, the Finals MVP in 1990, was a 12-time All-Star, had his number retired, was a member of the league’s 50th anniversary team, played in the Olympics and even coached an NBA All-Star team. In short, he’s one of the best point guards in NBA history. The current Celtics star, twice an All-Star selection now in his seventh season, has but plenty of career left to try.
So who are some other pairs of great athletes who share the same name? It’s not that uncommon. Of course when you have so many Smiths and Jones on rosters, there will be some Mikes and Bobbys. But there are some less common names that have been duplicated as well. Leaving out the most common ones – no (Roy) Williams, or (Mark or Reggie) Jacksons, or (Jimmy) Johnsons, here’s a Six-Pack of the best pairs of athletes to share a not-all-that-common name:
6. The Brandon Marshalls. Both are active NFL players right now. The Pro Bowl receiver will be entering his first season with the New York Giants in hopes of reaching 1,000 receptions for his star-crossed career, which has seen him forced to deal with numerous off the field hurdles. That career began with the Denver Broncos, who traded him to Miami in 2010. The linebacker now plays in Denver, and has what the receiver never got there – a Super Bowl ring – to show for his five-year career. The linebacker also raised eyebrows last season when he joined the protest started by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick spurred by several cases of police brutality across the country.
5. The Dustin Browns. The hockey player has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice as the captain of the Los Angeles Kings, where’s he played for 13 seasons. He’s also a medal-winning member of Team USA. Known for his physical style of play, the hockey player is often among the NHL leaders in penalty minutes. The tennis player gained notoriety after beating Rafael Nadal in a tournament in 2014, and is a crowd favorite for his willingness to attempt trick shots during matches that count. During his career, Brown has won 24 professional tennis tournaments and is currently ranked #76 in the world.
4. The Jeremy Lin(n)s. A tiny bit of a stretch here, since the basketball player has just a single ‘n’ in his last name, while the swimmer has two. The well-traveled hoopster is best known for a 26-game stretch in February of 2012 when he led the New York Knicks to a winning record during a brief period labeled “Linsanity” by the national media. It didn’t even last until the end of that season. The swimmer is a former world record-holder, having been a member of the Team USA men’s 400-meter relay team that set a new mark during the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. He also set a new American record in the 100 meter breaststroke while capturing the silver medal in that event in Atlanta.
3. The Aaron Brooks. The basketball point guard has spent more than a decade in the NBA, and is currently with his sixth different team, the Indiana Pacers. In 2010 he was selected the league’s most improved player when he became the sixth player in league history to hit more than 200 three-pointers while registering better than 400 assists in one season. The quarterback is a member of the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame, having been under center there from 2000-2005. In 2001, he threw for a then-franchise record tying 26 touchdowns (pre-Drew Brees) and more than 3,800 yards. All totaled he played seven seasons in the NFL
2. The David Lees. They share three things: Their name, great height and great court skills. The well traveled 6’ 9” basketball player, a two-time All-Star who’s played for five teams, has an NBA championship ring with the Golden State Warriors in 2015 and now plays for the title contending San Antonio Spurs. The 6’ 8” Volleyball player has jewelry too: He’s a key member of Team USA, which won Olympic Gold in 2008 and Bronze in Rio in 2016 among his dozen team medals. He’s currently playing professionally in Turkey.
1.The Jay Cutlers. Okay, so the NFL quarterback recently turned TV broadcaster wasn’t all that great. He did play in one Pro Bowl…but the fact is he was pretty much the second coming of Jeff George: Lots of arm talent with a lousy “it’s not my fault” attitude and the worst body language on earth. He put up career numbers that never came close to living up to his promise. The body builder, on the other hand, is a four-time Mr. Olympia winner (2006, ‘07, ‘09 and ’10) among his 14 professional titles. After retiring from competition, he’s concentrated on his business venture, “Cutler Nutrition.” Ironically, the body builder – at 290 pounds – might have been able to help better protect the quarterback.