When Boston Celtics point guard, Isaiah Thomas, was growing up in the Tacoma, Washington area, he spent long hours playing basketball at the Al Davies Boys & Girls Club while his parents worked. The young Thomas would practice on a hardwood maple court from Action Floor Systems®, which was installed by our partner, Gifford Industries.
In early 2017, the star player was back in Tacoma with tears of pride and joy in his eyes.
The club now has a new gymnasium that bears his name, complete with a new Action Floors court. It’s destined to be a place where kids can follow in Thomas’s footsteps and be inspired by the story of how someone from their own neighborhood became a standout NBA star despite a host of challenges and plenty of doubters.
A Court Designed for Big Dreams and Big Stars
The Al Davies Boys & Girls Club had the opportunity to expand into what was once the Tacoma Boxing Club, increasing the amount of space it has for hosting area kids, especially those who want to shoot hoops or play other sports in a gymnasium setting.
Along with a $50,000 grant from Lowe’s, Thomas donated $80,000 to help pay for the renovation and convinced the NBA Players Association to donate another $20,000. Action Floors and Gifford Industries are proud to have played a part as well.
Owner and President of Gifford Industries, Harvey Gifford, says his company has completed many projects with different Boys & Girls Clubs around Washington state over the years, but this one was special.
“This floor, with its graphics and the entire new facility, is quite breathtaking,” Gifford says. “It really is a focal point for the community that will serve the children well.”
Gifford Industries installed an Action Thrust I flooring system in the 5,700 square-foot gym complete with high-quality, first grade maple from the Action Floors mill in Mercer, Wisconsin. But, the project involved even more than the flooring.
“We installed the basketball goals, wall padding for safety issues, the Action Floors system, custom thresholds and some special millwork to make it handicap accessible and safe for the children,” Gifford says.
Gifford Industries also used a unique varnish on the court. It’s a product Action Floors provides dealers to help reduce glare for television cameras. This is important because there are bound to be members of the media in the gym from time to time as kids won’t be the only ones using the facility. NBA players who make their permanent home in Washington need places to practice, and this new court will be one of them.
“On any particular day during the offseason, the players will exchange information and meet to play at a court, like the Isaiah Thomas court,” Gifford explains. “The biomechanics and physics of the floor protect the athlete. So, when the professionals come here in the summer, they don’t have to worry about their knees and legs.”
This also means that young people at the Boys & Girls Club have the advantage of playing on a basketball court that’s fit for the NBA. Gifford says the superb shock absorption and playability of the floating floor system will protect the developing bodies of teenage athletes as well.
A Foundation for Inspiration
To truly appreciate what this new gymnasium means to Tacoma, you need to know something about the Isaiah Thomas story and understand what makes him such a hero to kids in his hometown.
Before he entered high school, Thomas was known for his talent on the basketball court. Gifford says he recently reminisced with an area youth basketball coach who remembers Thomas playing as a boy.
“Isaiah was on the bench, his team was behind and the opposing coach told me, ‘They put this little guy in and I didn’t know who he was. He was just a blur on the floor. He lit us up for 43 points and we lost the game!’ People around here have known for a long time that Isaiah Thomas was a player,” says Gifford.
However, on larger stages, Thomas would struggle to shed that label of “little guy.” At only 5’ 9”, he is among the shortest athletes ever to play professional basketball. After choosing to go pro following his junior year with the Washington Huskies, Thomas fell to the very last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
He didn’t wait long to make his mark, becoming the first player drafted last to win an NBA Rookie of the Month award. Today, he’s an NBA all-star and one of the top scorers in the league up to this point in the 2017 season.
The design of the Isaiah Thomas Gymnasium draws a lot from his story. Gifford Industries painted the athlete’s personal logo at center court, and there’s also a depiction of the Tacoma skyline.
The facility is decorated with Thomas’s various jerseys and reprints of Nike advertisements that feature the phrase “Pick me last again.” Plus, there is a line painted around the gymnasium wall in Washington Huskies purple that is exactly 5’ 9” tall. All of this serves as a reminder to kids that they can achieve their dreams.
Gifford describes Thomas as a very humble man who comes from a classy family. Thomas was on hand with many family members for the official court dedication in February, scoring the first basket in the facility. Dozens of young people who attend the Al Davies Boys & Girls Club were there as well.
“For me to be able to do that in my hometown, it was very emotional,” Thomas told USA Today’s Sam Amick. “All that emotion that’s built up since I was a little boy, always having to fight my own battles and continue to keep going with all the doubt … it was one of the best days of my life being able to dedicate a court to the city that raised me.”
During the ceremony, Thomas told kids in the crowd “My job is to be around you guys so you can see I was like you.”
At Action Floors, we’re delighted to see our products used in places that are making a difference in the lives of young people, and we are honored to play a small part in the inspiring story of athletes and role models like Isaiah Thomas.
Let us help with your next project! Contact Action Floors today and we’ll put you in touch with a sports flooring professional in your area.