Tatum, who finished with 29 points, 12 rebounds, and 7 assists against the Raptors, led the Celtics in a series-clinching win and became the youngest NBA player since Kobe Bryant to finish a Game 7 with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists.
He was interviewed on TNT’s Inside The NBA following the Celtics’ 92-87 win over Toronto where Ernie Johnson revealed to Tatum that he had made Game 7 history.
“I didn’t know that,” Tatum said. “That’s great company to be in. Everybody knows how much he meant to myself, how much he meant to this world, to the game to basketball, obviously, Shaq and those guys. Anytime you’re mentioned with somebody like that it means you’re doing something good. For me, I just try to get better every day, every game; just try to improve. You know, I’m one of the young guys and I just try to be the best player on the court every night and I think that’s the mentality I take every time I step on the floor.”
How Kobe Bryant & Jayson Tatum First Met
For Tatum, Kobe was an idol and mentor. Prior to the 2018-19 NBA season, it was well-documented that Bryant shared workouts with Tatum and that the two kept in contact with one another.
Per NBC Sports Boston, Tatum, back in 2018, talked about how the relationship between the two started.
“It started back when we were in the playoffs. Kobe was doing the ‘Detail’ documentary thing on ESPN,” Tatum said back in the summer of 2018. “We were playing Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. We just played Game 1. So we got practice the next day to get ready for Game 2. Come back, sit down at my locker, look at my phone and he would tweet the link out. I saw Kobe tweeted me, I was like ‘Oh, (expletive).’
“I literally sat there and watched it like 20 times in a row. He did a ‘Detail’ of me in Game 1. And then I guess he went through my agent and texted me. He said, ‘Young fella, happy for your success. Stay focused. Keep going. If you’re in LA this summer, and you want to work out, just let me know.’ I was like, I can’t believe it.”
The Workout In L.A.
Tatum will forever cherish his workout with Bryant, the 22-year-old All-Star considers it to be one of the best days of his life.
“It was just a surreal moment,” Tatum said. “Just looking at him, remembering myself when I was a toddler, just a young kid watching him on TV and being like ‘That’s who I want to be like. This is why I love basketball.’ He inspired me.
“Fast forward, now I’m 20 and I’m having a one-on-one interaction with him… Besides my son being born, that’s like the best day of my life just to be in that gym with him and work out with him and learn his tips. I’ll never forget that day, how I felt going into the workout, how I felt afterward. I just felt like that was the coolest thing ever for me. I’ll never forget that.”