Jayson Tatum has become one of the top young players in the NBA, something made possible by the sacrifices of his mother, Brandy Cole. Brandy found out she was pregnant with Jayson when she was just 18, just months before starting college. Jayson’s father, Justin Tatum, ended up playing basketball overseas for a good portion of Jayson’s early years. This left Brandy with the day-to-day responsibilities of raising Jayson, and a lot of financial hurdles to overcome.
There were times when Brandy would have to prioritize different bills, and the electricity would get cut off. Jayson and Brandy came home one evening to an eviction notice on their door. The family would eventually be able to keep the house, but it was a difficult time for both Jayson and Brandy. Jayson wrote about these struggles in a story he penned on his mother for The Players’ Tribune.
My mom broke down in tears as soon as she saw it. Whether it was heat being cut off, or the water, it always seemed like it was one problem after another. And she was hurting. She went to her room. I could hear her crying through her bedroom door.
I went to my room as well. I was just so upset — angry at myself for being so young, unable to help, with no control. Of course I was just a kid, only 8 or 9 years old, so I didn’t really understand the whole situation, but I knew enough to know what that pink paper meant.
When Jayson was growing up, he worked out with Bradley Beal. Bradley saw something special in Jayson, and a lot of it had to do with how hard Brandy was working to give her son every opportunity to succeed.
“Nothing was given to him. Nothing was ever given to his family,” Bradley told the Sentinel and Enterprise. “That’s something I respect about his mom. She’s a true warrior. She took care of him. She loves him to death. She’s his No. 1 fan. And when you come up in that type of setting, you have no choice but to have that mindset that this is how it’s done, and, ‘I’ve got to do it for mom. She’s provided so much for me.’ That pushes you and motivates you. She put all her own dreams on hold.”
Learn more about Jayson’s mother, Brandy.
1. Brandy Took Jayson to Her Classes at the University of Missouri-St. Louis As Well As Law School
Growing up, Jayson often went with his mother to class as she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Brandy tried to keep her son occupied with video games and snacks. Most of her professors did not have an issue with Jayson’s presence, but there were times where Brandy would have to fight to bring him to class.
“I remember one teacher said something to me about it,” Brandy told ESPN. “I said, ‘I pay tuition like everyone else. He’s not disrupting the class.’ As long as I was holding him, Jayson was fine.”
As for Jayson, he admits those were not the most exciting nights, but he saw the hard work his mother was putting in to better herself.
“I was bored,” Tatum explained to ESPN. “She used to give me games to play and snacks to eat, but just sitting there next to her while she was taking notes, it was pretty awful.”
2. Jayson Played on the Law School Softball Team
Brandy’s perseverance paid off in the form of a law school degree as well as an MBA. It was not all bad for Jayson as Brandy’s classmates included him on the law school softball team. Basketball may be his sport, but Jayson was also pretty good on the diamond.
“It couldn’t have been fun for him, but he wasn’t a fidgety child,” Brandy told the Sentinel and Enterprise. “He even got to play on my team in the law school softball league. He was 9 or 10, and there were people pitching with a beer in one hand. He was like the best player on our team. … In order for me to go and participate, I’ve got to bring him with me, so why not let him play?”
Education remains an important cornerstone for the family. Jayson left Duke after one year to enter the NBA draft, but Brandy would like for her son to eventually earn his degree.
“Coach K won’t retire your jersey until you graduate,” Brandy told ESPN. “That’s a big thing for me. A lot of Duke kids come back and get their degree. I told him, It doesn’t matter how long it takes. He’s seen how hard I’ve worked.”
3. Brandy Had an Offer to Play Volleyball at Tennessee, But She Opted to Stay Closer to Home After Becoming Pregnant with Jayson
According to the Sentinel and Enterprise, Brandy had a scholarship offer to play volleyball at Tennessee. Brandy had already begun taking college classes when she was in high school, and had dreams of going to MIT to study biomedical engineering. Brandy planned on going to Tennessee since MIT would have come with a high price tag, but things changed when she learned she was pregnant with Jayson.
Brandy opted to stay close to home, but she did not let having a young child prevent her from getting a college education. Brandy was 19, a college freshman, when she gave birth.
“I had Jayson on spring break,” Brandy explained to the Sentinel and Enterprise. “I had to go back the next week and take midterms.”
4. Brandy’s High School Volleyball Coach Was Bradley Beal’s Mother, Besta
Celtics fans have Brandy to thank for Jayson’s lethal ability to knock down jump shots. The explanation goes back to Brandy’s high school volleyball career where she played at University City High for Besta Beal. Besta’s son, Bradley Beal, would go on to play in the NBA. According to The Boston Globe, Jayson began training with Bradley in seventh grade when Bradley was a high school senior.
Bradley’s trainer, Drew Hanlen, initially believed Jayson was too young to work with. Bradley kept pestering Drew to train Jayson, and he eventually agreed.
“You could just see Jayson could be a Magic Johnson-type player, or a scorer like Kevin Durant,” Bradley told The Boston Globe. “So I told Drew, ‘You’ve got to trust me on this one. Jayson is special.’ ”
Drew has become one of the best player development specialists in the world and a top shooting coach. Through their work together, Jayson became a top three-point shooter in the NBA.
5. The Celtics Admit Brandy Had More Questions About Jayson’s Contract Than Any Other Parent
Most NBA teams are not used to working with parents who have law degrees. The Celtics admit they received a lot of questions from Brandy during Jayson’s contract negotiations. The Boston Globe detailed the process, noting Brandy was an active participant in making sure her son received the best contract possible.
Celtics assistant general manager Mike Zarren said that during his time with the team, no player’s parent had ever had such specific, detailed questions about their son’s contract as Brandy did last summer.
Jayson achieving his NBA dream is something his mother worked hard to make a reality. Brandy admits there were times when she prioritized Jayson’s basketball expenses over bills.
“There were times when, yeah, maybe I shouldn’t have paid for him to travel with this team or go to this tournament,” Brandy told The Boston Globe. “There were times if I hadn’t done that, we would have had the electricity on. But I knew that’s what he wanted, and I knew he was special.”