NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas has been reunited with his 1984 NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy, one of several items stolen from his former high school’s trophy case in recent years. The trophy was among the lots to be featured in Heritage Auctions’ Summer Platinum Night Sports Collectibles event that takes place August 29-30.
But on August 10, Thomas informed Heritage, via Twitter, that the item had been stolen from the trophy case at St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Ill., where the Hall of Famer played under legendary coach Gene Pingatore.
The trophy, which had been consigned to Heritage Auctions by Absolute Memorabilia owner Peter Kiefor, was immediately pulled from the sale. The Dallas-based auction house immediately began an investigation into Thomas’ claim.
On August 11, the Detroit Pistons great and television analyst told Heritage he loaned the school the MVP trophy, along with several other items, to honor Pingatore, who died on June 26, 2019, at the age of 82. The items were loaned to St. Joseph with the understanding they would one day be returned.
Westchester Police Department investigators and a St. Joseph official told Heritage that in recent years several of Thomas’ items were stolen from that trophy case. One such break-in occurred last year, during the week of Pingatore’s memorial service that took place on campus. Only the 2016 break-in, which involved the theft of Thomas’ NBA Hall of Fame plaque, was ever made public.
A police investigation into the series of thefts remains ongoing.
Westchester police said this week that Peter Kiefor called the department once he learned of Thomas’ claims. The sports-memorabilia dealer said he was unaware the trophy had been stolen when he bought it and later consigned it to Heritage Auctions, and continues to work with authorities to help recover additional items.
Westchester police this week gave Heritage Auctions permission to return the 1984 NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player Trophy to Thomas. Kiefor relinquished ownership of the trophy so it could be overnighted to Thomas Wednesday evening.
The trophy and its owner were reunited Thursday afternoon.
“I am very happy that my 1984 NBA All-Star Game MVP Trophy has been returned to me, and I want to thank Heritage Auctions, the Westchester Police Department and St. Joseph High School for all of their hard work and professionalism throughout this process,” Thomas said Friday. “This trophy is a special piece of memorabilia for me and my family, and it remains something that I am very proud of being awarded during my playing career.”
Since its establishment in 1976, Heritage Auctions has been committed to ensuring the authenticity and provenance of the items it receives on consignment.
“It came as a shock to discover the MVP trophy had been stolen from St. Joseph,” said Chris Ivy, Heritage’s Director of Sports Auctions. “But we are pleased and proud to have been able to return the trophy to the man whose name is inscribed on the award.”