Celtics forward Jayson Tatum came into the NBA young. After one year at Duke, he entered the 2017 draft at age 19—he didn’t turn 20 until March 2018. When he earned a starting spot from the beginning of his career and almost immediately began putting up big numbers, including a 22-point game against the Knicks in his fourth NBA game, the common refrain from broadcasters and writers was: “He’s only 19.”
Problem is, it was often repeated even after he was no longer 19. As Tatum’s game and notoriety grew—he was an All-Star this year—for some, he remained a teenager.
During a Q-&-A on Twitter this week, Tatum was asked about that by podcast host Anthony Irwin. “What’s it like to be 19 for this long?” Irwin wrote.
To which Tatum responded, “You get used to it lol.”
That prompted one Twitter user to wonder how it will be 18 years from now for Tatum’s son, Deuce, who is two years old.
Tatum Has Joked That He’s Still 19 Before
It’s not the first time Tatum has had fun with the idea that he is perpetually 19. In August 2018, when Tatum was 20, he did a commercial for Foot Locker’s “Discover Your Air” campaign in which he uncovered a time capsule from the 1990s, a decade that ended before he turned two.
The goal of the campaign, to connect today’s sneaker-lovers with peak 1990s shoe styles, was, according to the company’s press release, “tapping into the 90s and the retro style trend.” It went on:
“As one of the original destinations to get the best of Air in the 90s, Foot Locker and NIKE are still leading the pack together. NIKE athlete and NBA forward Jayson Tatum, to kick off the integrated campaign by ‘unearthing’ a time capsule filled with some of the most beloved items from the 90s, including a fresh pair of shoes from the NIKE Air Origins pack.”
The highlight of the campaign, though, probably was Tatum’s tweet on the day the campaign launched.
“90’s commercial … ‘he’s only 19’” he wrote.
Jayson Tatum Had Been on a Hot Streak
Tatum now, of course, is 22 and has risen to the ranks of the NBA’s elite. He was an All-Star for the first time this season and had been dominant in the second half of the season. In 23 games before the season was shut down on March 12 because of the spreading coronavirus pandemic, Tatum was averaging 27.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists, shooting 48.8 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from the 3-point line.
He was the Eastern Conference’s player of the month in February. Tatum scored 41 points on a nationally televised game against the Lakers in Los Angeles on February 23, tying a career-high. After the game, he drew praise from Lakers star LeBron James on Instagram.
“The kid is special,” James said in the locker room after the game. “Obviously that’s a reason he’s a first-time All-Star, and he’s been special all year.”