Isiah Thomas is regarded as one of the greatest NBA players of all-time and a tenacious competitor. But to his son, he’s just “dad,” and that’s the greatest title of all.

Zeke Thomas, who publicly came out as gay as a sophomore in college, delivered a special Father’s Day wish to his old man Sunday. Zeke’s letter was produced in concert with CBS Sports.

“The world knows you as the legendary Isiah Thomas. But this Father’s Day, I wrote to the man behind the myth: My dad, whose passion became a necessary gift,” he says at the top.

A successful DJ, Zeke made headlines seven years ago when he revealed he was sexually assaulted on two occasions. The first instance happened when he was 12 years old, in the back of a van with other kids. Zeke says he was forced to provide oral sex against his will.

The second incident happened years later during a Grindr hookup. Living in Chicago at the time, Zeke invited his perpetrator out for a drink in Boys Town, the city’s primary gayborhood. He assumed it was a safe setting: Zeke often socialized in the neighborhood and knew many of the bartenders. But after one drink, he didn’t feel right.

Zeke remembers being carried into a cab, and then waking up on the couch in his apartment, when his assailant handed him a glass of water. “That was great. Let’s hang out again,” he said.

The interaction was chilling.

“My ass was destroyed. Destroyed. I’m bleeding,” Zeke told New York Magazine. “And I’m just like — terrified. I can’t move. I didn’t move from my apartment for two days. I didn’t move. I didn’t talk to anybody. I froze.”

A year later, Zeke went public with his story. Today, he remains an ambassador for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

“I want to give the voiceless a voice,” he said on Good Morning America. “The healing really begins with the voice. The healing begins with, ‘This happened to me. I can get through it.’”

Around the same time, Zeke wrote a song about dealing with the assault and its traumatic aftermath: “Dealin’ With It.” The single’s music video begins with a clip from his GMA interview.

“This video is for my friends who helped me through my trauma,” he told Billboard. “I hope that everyone who has made it through a trauma or is going through trauma can deal with it in positive ways and get the love and support needed.”

Growing up, Zeke says his father never pushed him into athletics or forced him to take a particular path in life. Isiah only asked for his son to “honor the family name.”

It’s safe to say Zeke has done exactly that.

A 12-time All-Star and 2-time NBA champ, Isiah Thomas was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. He played the entirety of his 13-year career with the Detroit Pistons before entering coaching.

Though Thomas is a basketball legend, he experienced racial animus as head coach of the Indiana Pacers. Zeke says his father needed police escorts to games, because of the threats he received.

At an early age, Zeke learned what it means to be a Black man in America, even one with a decorated NBA resume. In the aforementioned Father’s Day video, he credits his dad for teaching him how to navigate his dual identities.

“As an NBA champion, you fought through the ups and downs. Quietly, your support helped me build my own crown,” he says. “Navigating my dual identities, Black and queer, your resilience passed down helped me conquer my fears.”

Zeke continues, “A Piston bad boy turned great father. This Father’s Day, we celebrate the lessons children can teach. Choosing to love your kids, no matter who they love, or who they become. You earned your spot in the Father’s Day Hall of Fame for living with no hate, and becoming a beacon of change.”

Isiah’s unflinching love for his gay son mirrors the relationship that another NBA legend, Magic Johnson, enjoys with his son EJ.

Earlier this month, Magic wished EJ a very happy birthday.

Zeke says his dad and Magic show that a father’s love is unequivocal.

“You look at my dad and Magic,” he said. “You have strong Black men, whose sons are gay and are also strong black men, who are living their truth and expressing their truth. “I want every young Black, Brown, white gay kid to know that we’re going to breathe. We’re going to keep going. We’re going to keep marching.”

Wherever Zeke goes, we are happy to follow.

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