NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas is adding talk show host to his resume.
Thomas — who won two NBA championships during his 13 years with the Detroit Pistons — is set to host Unfinished Business With Isiah Thomas, a weekly half-hour interview and commentary show debuting on cable network Cinemoi North America TV in June.
The show will focus on notables from all fields of accomplishment who have achieved success against all odds as well as Americans from all walks of life who are icons in their own way, having overcome obstacles that seemed impossible to conquer, to reach personal success.
“Isiah Thomas has been a champion and an all-star at all of the challenging occupations he has tackled,” Cinemoi North America president Daphna Edwards Ziman says. “And his debut as a charismatic host should be another rookie-of-the-year success, because in the art of evocative conversation and relevant and lively exchange, he is already an all-star. He will focus on the victory of the spirit over all obstacles, and this is a very apt subject for an iconic sports figure, whose life story epitomizes what the victory of the spirit is against all odds.”
Thomas, the youngest of nine siblings, was born and raised in extreme poverty by a single mother in one of Chicago’s roughest neighborhoods. But he beat the odds by completing high school and earning his college degree at Indiana University while leading his team to the NCAA championship under coach Bobby Knight. With the Pistons, he became a 12-time All-Star and was named NBA Finals MVP before retiring in 1994. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 2000, the first year he was eligible. He also has served as part owner, executive and coach in the NBA and now is an analyst for NBA TV and a columnist for NBA.com while studying for his master’s degree in education at University of California, Berkeley.
The idea for Thomas’ talk show came about as a result of a conversation Thomas had with friends Ziman and Minyon Moore, principal in Washington D.C.-based public relations firm Dewey Square Group, about all he’s been able to accomplish given his early beginnings and how he might be able to put the spotlight on others who have done the same. He immediately sparked to the idea.
“All of us who have had great success also had to overcome and try to persevere when others were telling you that you couldn’t do it,” Thomas tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wanted to try to find the commonality of that struggle and journey and connecting it to the everyday person who has those hurdles in their lives.”
He says the show will focus on both well-known personalities as well as regular people, noting that most people share the same issues and problems in life, whether they are famous or not.
“It won’t just be about dealing with the front-page, ultra-successful person,” he says. “It also will be about connecting those familiar threads of success with people who haven’t been on the covers of magazines or in front of TV cameras.”
Thomas says his ideal guest would be someone like Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. (Thomas acknowledges that the timing is not right to reach out to the 94-year-old Mandela, who has been struggling with health issues in recent months.)
He also hopes that, with the various new-media platforms available today, his show will reach a global audience.
“I want it to be inspirational, educational and just share the commonality of success and failure,” he says. “Failure is really just a learning process to the next stage of success in your life.”
Cinemoi, which originated as a premium channel in Europe, was reimagined as a more accessible 24-hour network for U.S. audiences and launched in September on DirecTV’s channel 259 with a lineup that includes domestic and international movie and lifestyle programming. Thomas’ new series is part of Cinémoi’s expansion into the talk show genre following on the heels of its successful weekly broadcast of the U.K.’s The Jonathan Ross Show.
Cinemoi’s programming falls under such categories as CineDramas, CineFilmNoir, CineFestivals, CineDoc, CineCouture, CineGreen, CineThriller and CineRomance. Its lineup also includes Stars of the Silver Screen, which features interviews with actors and filmmakers; a series of mini biographies on top fashion designers such as Tory Burch and Oscar de la Renta; profiles of top chefs and restaurants; and a slew of content from film festivals and fashion weeks around the world.
The network also has aired such movies as Contempt with Brigitte Bardot and Jack Palance; Dangerous Beauty with Naomi Watts and Jacqueline Bisset; Roman Polanski’s Repulsion with Catherine Deneuve; and Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson.