The hype around Jayson Tatum has been enormous ever since cameras caught sight of the scoring machine in Missouri. Recruiting for the young star's services was very public, and ultimately the phenom chose Duke. After a year of building his profile with the Blue Devils, the Boston Celtics selected him third overall in a draft where they traded away the first overall pick. They have been enamored with the possibility of having the next NBA scoring champ on their roster ever since.
Jayson Tatum earned his first NBA All-Star nod by the coaches, and many around the league believed it was just a matter of time before the prospect was bound to take the floor among the league’s elites. Those in Boston have been singing his praises since he posted gaudy stat lines in the Las Vegas and Utah summer leagues. The league watched as Tatum turned into a major offensive weapon for the Celtics, and the world watched as Tatum led the Celtics to the second round of the playoffs, nailing shots rookies don’t usually take against the Milwaukee Bucks, and putting away the 76ers with huge nights on offense. The star couldn’t have been brighter for Boston’s newfound centerpiece.
Numbers steadily improved offensively his second season, and his marketing popularity led him to gain a Jordan endorsement in the summer of 2019. He’s worked for this, and he doesn’t want to take it for granted either.
"Once you finally hear. I wanted to cry. I didn’t cry. I might cry later, though,” Tatum told the Boston Herald after finding out about his selection. “But I’m just so grateful. It’s something I’m not going to take for granted. There’s only 24 guys who make the All-Star team, so I’m super thankful and I’m going to enjoy the opportunity of the moment.”
But the ascendance to this moment hasn’t been totally smooth. With the joys that came last year and the ride that came with a near Finals berth his rookie season, the sophomore slump was a label that was nearly pounded on his forehead last season. After being picked predominantly to win the East, a pretty abrupt thrashing by the Milwaukee Bucks in the second round put to focus the struggles Tatum was dealing with all season, especially on defense. Gregg Popovich ripped his defense at Team USA, and many commentators piled on to the notion that Tatum’s game can be decisively one-sided.
“Last year for me, especially when things weren’t going my way, unfortunately, it translated to defense,” Tatum admitted to Jackie McMullan of ESPN. “I wasn’t as engaged when I wasn’t happy. That happened a lot last year. They were some very tough days, more often than not. It really wasn’t any fun.”
The new season has brought a new focus for the third year star, and the coaches have rewarded that determination by giving him the All-Star nod over players like Bradley Beal, Eric Bledsoe, Zach LaVine, and even his teammate Jaylen Brown.
Once thought of a potential trade piece in the pursuit to Anthony Davis, Tatum and the Celtics are well-positioned to make a serious run at the Eastern Conference title this season. The addition of Kemba Walker has helped Boston remain among the elites on the east coast, and are hopeful that the right matchups will continue to trend their way.
But for now, the lights will shine on the Walker and Tatum as they represent Boston in the All-Star game on February 16th in Chicago.
Tatum has modeled his game after the late Kobe Bryant, even receiving mentoring from the legend of the game. The resemblances seem almost eery, and the mentality Bryant instilled in other players can be directly seen in young stars like Tatum. The memory of Kobe looms over Tatum and serves as another motivation to live up to his role model's legacy.
Gregg Popovich has called Tatum a possible next, “Kawhi Leonard or Paul George”, and for the sake of all basketball fans, we hope he does. Tatum’s next shot at claiming the torch of basketball supremacy may come in the Windy City.