WALTHAM, Mass. -- For the better part of the past week, Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas has been seeing tweets from fans who have encountered the "Pick Me Last Again" signage that Nike has pasted all over Boston's transit stations as part of the company's "Come Out of Nowhere" campaign.
Thomas, the 60th pick in the 2011 draft who has elevated to All-Star status in Boston, is one of 10 players spotlighted in Nike's NBA promotion. Told there were some signs at North Station, the railway that sits beneath TD Garden, Thomas had his wife, Kayla, snap some pictures during Wednesday's home game against the Chicago Bulls.
But his followers repeatedly implored him to get to South Station, the city's largest railroad station and bus terminal. So after a late dinner with Kayla and a friend, Thomas ventured over to South Station in the early hours of Saturday morning. The building was locked, but Thomas managed to sneak in when one of the doors opened from within. Thomas encountered workers still constructing a sprawling black-and-white display that includes multiple hanging banners and gigantic window coverings above the main entrance.
"That was like a dream. I can’t even explain it," Thomas said. "The workers said they've been doing it for the last four or five days and they've still got way more to do. I was taking pictures and [security] was telling me that it was against the rules to take pictures in the train station, but I kept telling them, 'I know you got to do your job, but I'm taking these pictures and these videos. I'm sorry.'"
Even as Thomas' celebrity status explodes in Boston, these are still pinch-me moments for the 5-foot-9 guard who has propelled Boston back to contender status since his arrival at the 2015 trade deadline. Thomas has improbably elevated to become the face of the one of the most storied franchises in NBA history, but seeing his image all over Boston's most trafficked commuter stations left him in awe.
"I tried to FaceTime my mom and dad," Thomas said. "It was late, but I tried. They didn’t answer. The people who were putting up the signs, they wanted to take pictures. They said, 'We never get to take pictures of the people we put up.' It was a great moment. God has blessed me in ways that I never thought would happen."
Thomas knew Nike was putting together a commercial spot featuring himself, Golden State Warriors big man Draymond Green and Indiana Pacers forward Paul George, but he didn't know the scope of Nike's transit campaign.
"Nike said they had something special for me, but I didn’t know it was going to be that," Thomas said. "When people sent me pictures on social media, it was of like North Station, and then my wife had taken a picture of it last game. But the next day someone said South Station had bigger ones. I’m like, 'I gotta go by this.' So that was my first time ever even at South Station. The posters are like everywhere. It’s unbelievable.
"When I went last night, me and my wife, we had a moment."
This is only the start of Thomas' image taking over the city. Over the summer he filmed some commercial spots for Mountain Dew, and that campaign is expected to put him on billboards and buses around the city.
"It’s crazy," Thomas said. "I just smile because I don’t even know how to describe it."
For the "Come out of Nowhere" campaign, Nike released a player-edition shoe for Thomas, customizing its HyperLive to include a green-and-black Celtics colorway. Thomas can't help but dream bigger now.
"Maybe that’ll be the next thing -- I get my own shoe," Thomas said. "Who knows? It would be great to have my own shoe, but it’s a blessing just to be in this position."