Celtics All-Star Duo: Bonding Stars or Dueling Competitors?

Getty Images Jaylen Brown of Team LeBron is defended by Jayson Tatum of Team Durant during the first half in the 70th NBA All-Star Game at State Farm Arena on March 07, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia

From the outset, Boston Celtics All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown challenged one another to become better players; as two young prospects destined to make their respective marks, in the NBA. But now their mission is on to something much greater.

Fresh off their first joint All-Star Game appearance, Sunday night in Atlanta, Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn chronicled the star duo on Monday for an inside look into the depths of their friendship. In the midst of their fourth consecutive season together, Tatum and Brown are considered to be one of the better 1-2 scoring punches the Eastern Conference has to offer.

However, unlike the Conference-leading tandem leading the 76ers in Philadelphia — Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — or the tanalizing trio representing the Nets in Brooklyn — Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving — Tatum, Brown, and the Celtics find themselves outside of the Conference’s upper echelon.

Jayson Tatum On His First Year With Jaylen Brown: ‘Just Two Young Guys Trying To Prove Themselves’

Looking up at Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and the Bucks sandwiched between Boston’s divisional nemeses no. 1 in the Sixers and no. 2, respectfully in the Nets, Brown, and Tatum will certainly have their work cut out for themselves when they return to Boston this week, to resume the regular season. Still, the Celtics’ All-Star duo will continue to push one another, just like they did back in 2017; Tatum’s rookie season.

“Just two young guys trying to prove themselves,” Tatum said, per the Boston Globe. “He had gotten here a year before me. When I first got here, we had the same shooting coach. We always kind of shot together. We were just always in the gym, trying to work hard, trying to get better. Just trying to push each other. Playing games, shooting drills. Just came kind of natural.”

Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown Shine In  2021 NBA All-Star Game

That fierce competitiveness was on full display, Sunday as both competed in the 2021 NBA 3-point Contest — where Tatum reached the final round before losing to champion Steph Curry. And then came the All-Star Game itself, where Brown’s Team LeBron topped Tatum’s Team Durant, 170-150.

Tatum finished with 21 points, 7 assists, and four rebounds. Brown scored 22 points and grabbed 5 rebounds off the bench.

“[Jayson] fouled me when he was on me,” Brown said after the game, per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “You know how that was going to go. Jayson fouled me, of course. It was just fun to be out there playing with some of the best players on the court in my hometown. I got fouled on a three and my brother came to pick me up. That moment right there we will never forget because family falls down you have to be able to pick them up.

“My grandpa [is a] cancer survivor, COVID survivor,” he added. “To have them at the All Star game was a great moment for us, a great experience.”

Can Tatum & Brown Carry Celtics To The NBA Finals?

It’s undoubtedly unique to be recognized as one of the NBA’s premier players, however, how this experience will vastly impact the 19-17 Celtics is what’s really on everyone’s mind. Also, how has the dynamic of this relationship changed, thus far?

In order to reach the next level, cohesively — Tatum and Brown’s friendship, coupled with their respective ascensions into stardom — have to have had progressed to new heights before the postseason. But, has Tatum and Brown ever given you the impression that these two are in the constant talk about how to make the Celtics better as opposed to just simply competing with one another?

Or do they have the kind of relationship where they’ll occasionally share their differences about the team before retreating to giving each other a pat on the back and returning to being the team’s top scorers? And they do a pretty darn good job at it but these are still important questions to ask an All-Star duo that’s leading this Celtics team.

The one that had a — let’s just say, less than ideal — players-only meeting, following Game 2 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals. As of right now, what’s changed, and who’s to say something similar won’t happen again in this year’s playoffs when tension is at its highest?

Tatum’s averaging 24.9 points, good enough to crack the top-15 in points per game, this season. And two slots below Tatum lies Brown scoring 24.7 a night while making 43.7% of his shots but the Celtics have only won 52.8% of their games.

Jayson Tatum’s Ultimate Goal: ‘I Want To Be A Champion’

Tatum and Brown will have to lead accordingly, alongside veteran guards Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart. For now, it’s back to business.

The ultimate prize — an NBA title — is on the line and Tatum says he already sees it in his sights.

“First and foremost, I want to be a champion,” Tatum said. “I think that’s why you play this game, to reach the highest level. That’s to win a championship. If that’s what you aim and that’s the ultimate goal. All the other individual accolades will take care of itself.

“Championship is the main, No. 1 priority. Everything else will take care of itself.”

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