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How Many Isaiah Thomases Would It Take to Bench-press a Truck?

Or beat MJ and Scottie? Or do 1,000 push-ups? We crunched the numbers.

(Henry Kaye)
(Henry Kaye)

Is it possible to talk about Isaiah Thomas without talking about his height? No, right? Everything he does seems to spiral back to it. The good things (like the time he hung 52 on the Heat, including 29 in the fourth) become folktales due to his height (HE DID ALL OF THAT AND HE’S ONLY 5-foot-9!!!), and the bad things (like defense) become research papers due to it.

This article is no different, I suppose.

As I write this, Isaiah is averaging 29.2 points per game. No player under 5-foot-10 has ever done that in the whole entire history of the NBA. In fact, the closest anyone’s come is when Calvin Murphy, 5-foot-9 like Isaiah, averaged 25.6 points per game for a season. That was almost four decades ago, lol.

As such, a fun game to play is called “How Many Isaiahs …?” It’s inspired by the utterly nutty way that he has been a dominant offensive force this season. We’ll take a scenario and then ask, “How many Isaiahs would it take to do that?” We know how many Isaiahs it would take to score a ton of points in an NBA season. (One Isaiah.) How many Isaiahs would it take to stop a truck traveling 60 miles per hour? How many Isaiahs would it take to eat 100 boxes of cereal? How many Isaiahs would it take to level a square mile of a South American jungle? On and on.

Isaiah is incredible, is what I’m saying. I’m trying to get as many Isaiahs as possible in my life.

(Henry Kaye)
(Henry Kaye)

How many Isaiahs would it take to … build a small airplane?

Let me answer this one in two pieces:

Piece 1: I read a story a while back about a man who taught himself how to build airplanes, which, quick sidebar: If we’re taking things you can teach yourself to do and ranking them based on how dangerous the results are if things go wrong, teaching yourself how to build a plane has got to be up there with teaching yourself how to perform surgery. But that’s what this guy did: He taught himself how to build airplanes. And he got really good at it. And now he’s famous for it (or, at least as famous as you can get for building your own plane, I guess). His third airplane, which is the one that I was reading about, an impressive and beautiful project he called Savor, took him 15 months to build.

Piece 2: One time, back when I was a teacher, I had the kids working on this activity where one kid used a Q-tip and lemon juice to write a secret, invisible note on a page and the lab partner was supposed to move the page back and forth over a heat source (in our case, each table in the class had a candle). The heat, I’d read on the internet two days before but hadn’t tried out for myself, was going to cause the lemon juice to darken, revealing the secret message. I thought it was going to be a cool and easy thing for the kids to work on. I really did. But it was not. It super, duper was not.

Many of the messages never showed up well enough for the effort to have been worth it. Several of the pages caught on fire because the kids were holding them too close to the flame, which of course caused giant drama. And at least two separate kids used the assignment as an opportunity to send vulgar messages to their lab partner (one boy drew a penis, because in the eighth grade somebody always draws a penis, and a different boy wrote the phrase “WEAK BITCH” for his secret note, which made for drama even more giant than the fires).

Anyway, the point is: Making stuff is hard. Building things is harder. And building things you’ve never built before is the hardest.

Building a plane with zero experience has got to be basically impossible.

I Googled a whole bunch of different variations of “Has Isaiah Thomas ever built a plane” and they all came back negative. That being the case, I think we need at least five Isaiahs working full-time for at least three years to build a small airplane safe enough to fly in.

How many Isaiahs would it take to … bench-press an 18-wheeler?

An 18-wheeler weighs approximately 80,000 pounds. During his NBA draft combine workout, Isaiah bench-pressed 185 pounds 13 times*. Using that as a barometer, I think we can safely assume Isaiah could probably bench 200 pounds at least once. That means we need 400 Isaiah to bench-press an 18-wheeler, because 400 x 200 = 80,000.

*This is a crazy number to me. Kawhi Leonard was able to bench-press that same amount only three times during his combine workout. Kevin Durant never even got it up once during his.

How many Isaiahs would it take to … defeat a shark?

Well, if we assume (a) the word “defeat” here means “kill,” and (b) that our Isaiahs came upon the shark while swimming, and (c) the encounter happened in waist-high water, giving them both an equally fair shot, then really it just depends on the shark you’re talking about. There’s one shark that’s only about 11 inches long, for example (the spined pygmy shark). I don’t imagine you’d need more than one Isaiah to defeat that shark. Meanwhile, there’s a different shark that’s about 40-feet long (the whale shark). You’re probably looking at needing at least 150 Isaiahs to take down that bad boy.

Some other sharks:

  • Hammerhead shark (about 18 feet): Five Isaiahs. Unless our Isaiahs were able to use actual hammers during the fight, in which case three Isaiahs get it done.
  • Mako shark (about 8 feet): secretly an elite shark. Did you know mako sharks can hit up to 45 mph while swimming? That means a mako shark can swim 18 miles per hour faster than Usain Bolt can run. Despite its small size, I think we need at least four Isaiahs to take the mako down.
  • Nurse shark (about 13 feet): Very wack shark. One Isaiah is all we need here. And he doesn’t even have to be all-the-way coherent. He could be drunk or sleepy and he’s still making it out alive.
  • Tiger shark (about 12 feet): has a Sharkopedia, which includes great detail about all the different kinds of sharks. The tiger shark section mentions how one time someone found a chicken coop in the belly of a tiger shark when they cut it open. A chicken coop ain’t a one-bite meal, bro. It’s at least 20 bites, easy. That means a tiger shark bit into it, had a mouthful of wood and wire, and was like, “Yup. I’ma eat this.” That’s super gnarly. We need at least five Isaiahs here.
  • Blacktip reef shark (about 5 feet): One Isaiah.
  • Bull shark (about 11 feet): Three Isaiahs. (Bull sharks are the second best of all the sharks named after other animals. Tiger sharks are first, obviously.)
  • Great white shark (about 23 feet): Seven Isaiahs, and we’re losing at least two of them in the fight.

How many Isaiahs would it take to … take me out on a date?


How many Isaiahs would it take to … do 1,000 push-ups in two minutes?

This one is simply a matter of math (and also a matter of squinting your eyes just a bit). In November 2016, Isaiah referred to himself as “the 5-foot-9 Kevin Garnett.” During the 2012 playoffs, Garnett, following a hard foul from Udonis Haslem that resulted in Garnett lying on his back under the rim, rolled himself over and began doing push-ups. He did eight of them in six seconds. If we extend that out to a full minute, that means Kevin Garnett can do 80 per minute.

Now, I’m sure there’d be some drop-off there; I wouldn’t really expect him to maintain that pace for an entire minute. Even at 75 percent of that total, though, we’re still looking at KG doing 60 push-ups per minute. If we take that number and give it to Isaiah, then that means we need nine Isaiahs doing push-ups at max speed for two minutes to break 1,000. (Nine Isaiahs x 60 push-ups per minute = 1,080 push-ups in two minutes.)

(Henry Kaye)
(Henry Kaye)

How many Isaiahs would it take to … beat 1987 Michael Jordan and 1995 Scottie Pippen in a game to 15?

Tough, tough, tough. We could get into 100 different ways this is terrifying, but just think about these two things: (1) Michael Jordan averaged over 37 points per game for the 1987 season. That’s still good today for the fifth-highest amount of all time (Wilt has the four spots ahead of him). Mike was getting busy that season. (2) Scottie Pippen, who was an NBA All-Defensive First Team selection from 1992 to 1999, led the league in steals in 1995. He averaged 2.94 per game, lol. He was a 6-foot-8 jewel thief that season.

So you’ve got Mike when he was at his most offensively unstoppable on one side and Scottie when he was at his most defensively overwhelming on the other side, meaning you’re looking at one of, say, the two or three most intimidating two-on-two teams of all time. Again: tough, tough, tough.

If our team of Isaiahs gets the ball first, I think we can sneak by here on four Isaiahs. (They win that game 15–10). If ’87 Jordan and ’95 Pippen get the ball first, though, then we need at least six Isaiahs to get a W (15–13).

How many Isaiahs would it take to … watch all of the episodes of Friends?

There are 236 episodes of Friends. Each one is 23 minutes long (our Isaiahs are watching them on Netflix so we don’t have to account for commercials). If the rules here are that our Isaiahs have to watch all the episodes straight through, and that any time he wants to take a break to eat or sleep or go to the restroom then we have to replace him with a new Isaiah, then that means we’re staring down 5,428 minutes of Friends, or 90.4 hours of Friends, or about four days straight of Friends.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I think we can get away with just one Isaiah here. Given that we can just have him eat in front of the TV, the only real pitfalls he’d face would be falling asleep and having to use the restroom. Humans have, with regular frequency, proved that staying up for up to 10 days straight is possible, so I’m not worried about the sleeping part. I think he’d be able to stay awake for 90 hours pretty easily. For the restroom thing, I remember reading this story about how one time, during a close game in college, Isaiah had to go to the restroom very badly. Rather than running off to the locker room to use it during a timeout, Isaiah, afraid he wouldn’t make it back in time and would miss the end of the game, decided to just stuff a towel down his shorts and pee into that. That’s a legit genius move, if I’m being honest, and also a pretty good indicator of the type of competitive drive Isaiah has in his bones (or in his weiner, as it were). We’re getting by with one Isaiah here.