Chicago basketball legend investing in native city

An NBA legend is investing in the Chicago commercial real estate market.

Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas' list of accomplishments is gaudy: a pair of NBA championships as a player with the Detroit Pistons, an NCAA championship with Indiana, 12 All-Star selections, and more than 18,000 career points and 9,000 career assists in the NBA.

Now, nearly 20 years after his retirement, Thomas is looking to make waves off the hardwood.

The Chicago native recently purchased a six story, 20-unit apartment building in Evanston, Ill., for $7.3 million. Evanston is a northern suburb of Chicago.

"I am excited about this new business endeavor and look forward to being a part of the Evanston community which is so close to my hometown Chicago where I am deeply involved in the business and philanthropic community," said Thomas, according to Evanston Now.

Thomas said he plans on making more commercial purchases in and around the city in the near future.

Thomas and Chicago property purchases to come

While Thomas hopes to get more involved in the Chicago real estate sector, he's already a well-established businessman in the area.

Thomas is the CEO of Isiah International Co., which features a wide range of business endeavors, including private equity, waste removal, film production and gourmet popcorn. The headquarters for Isiah International is found in Chicago's River North neighborhood.

The annual revenue of Isiah International remains undisclosed, according to Crain's, but Thomas reported the company could make purchases in the $50 million to $100 million range, which would greatly exceed the $7 million spent on the Evanston property.

Thomas hopes to get more involved in Chicago's Garfield Park neighborhood, which is on the city's West Side.

"There will be more risk because those areas have been decimated," Thomas told Crain's. "Some investors don't want to invest their money there. But it really is about being strategic and finding the right areas to invest and reinvest."

Crain's reported that a street in Garfield Park – near Homan Avenue and Jackson Boulevard – was named after Thomas' mother, Mary Thomas, in 2012.

"We definitely want to play more in the affordable-housing arena," Thomas told Crain's Chicago Business. "There's a need there and there's an emotional tie for me to come back home."

Thomas currently lives in New York but said he comes back to Chicago once a week for business and family purposes.

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