Remember when Tyrus Thomas jumped over former Bulls and current Bobcats teammate Ben Gordon in the Slam Dunk Contest? That was in 2007, almost six years ago to the day. Tyrus was a 20-year-old rookie then, a slam-dunking pogo stick of a power forward who seemed to enjoy attempting to tear the rim down every time he got the chance.
A lot can change in six years, especially in the world of sports. Case in point, the average NBA career doesn’t even last six years. That said, one would figure that Tyrus Thomas, who entered the NBA in ’06 with a reported 40-inch vertical and nine-foot standing reach, would still be able to dunk a basketball. While he may no longer be a young basketball player, at 26 years old he is still a very young man — a very young man who stands 6’8”, maintains his physique for a living, and has suffered no catastrophic leg injuries. There’s absolutely no way he can’t dunk a basketball, right?
In all seriousness, the case of Tyrus Thomas is a baffling one. Even the greatest of athletes miss a dunk from time to time, obviously, but Tyrus Thomas is different. Almost overnight, he went from throwing down contest-worthy jams on a regular basis to rarely even attempting to dunk. This season, Thomas averages just 0.7 shots (shots, not makes) “at the rim” per game. In 14 appearances, that’s a total of 10 on the year. Meanwhile, he’s launched 68 shots from beyond three feet — 51 of them from outside the free-throw line. Go back just two seasons and his “at the rim” attempts equaled his shots from 16-23 feet. That’s a sudden, drastic change in playing style, and one that seems rather unwarranted as Thomas’s outside jumpers rarely go in (33%).
Tyrus Thomas was never a starting-caliber player in the NBA. He simply didn’t develop the skill set, nor the understanding of the game. However, I don’t think you could find one Chicago Bulls fan who’d tell you Tyrus Thomas didn’t display effort and energy. The problem wasn’t that he wasn’t trying, it’s that he wasn’t trying to do the right things sometimes. As frustrating as it was, it was more forgivable than whatever it is he’s doing now.
I mean, off the front rim, Tyrus? That……. was frightening.