Fresh off an All-NBA third-team finish in 2019-20, all Jayson Tatum did this season was come out and put forth his most prolific campaign to date, posting career-highs in points (26.4), rebounds (7.4) and assists (4.3). Yet, despite his on-court brilliance, the 23-year-old phenom was somehow left on the outside looking in when it came to All-NBA voting this time around — a snub he firmly feels was unjust.
“I know I should have made it with the season I had,” Tatum told Ashley Nevel of Kicks’ Beyond the Media podcast in his first public statement since his costly omission.
Per numerous reports, including ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Boston Celtics star and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell were each eligible to receive an additional $33 million had they been named to one of the three All-NBA teams. Tatum, who inked a five-year extension worth $163 million, would have seen that number increase to approximately $195 million had he been selected. Yet, despite missing out on a pretty penny, Tatum proclaims it’s the lack of recognition that stings the most.
“I mean $33 million on the line. Obviously, that would make anyone feel some type of way,” he admitted. “And I wasn’t necessarily upset about losing the money. I think I just felt like the way I was playing, everything I did, I thought it should have been a no-brainer. I think I was just more frustrated with that.”
“I know nobody’s going to necessarily feel bad for me and Donovan (Mitchell) because we still get paid a lot of money,” Tatum added. “But I just felt like I deserved to make it.”
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Tatum Calls for Changes
Tatum’s stellar season didn’t go completely unnoticed. He received 69 votes in total, two first-team votes, nine second-team and 32 third-team votes. The St. Louis native actually received more combined votes than third-team selection Kyrie Irving. Yet, because Los Angeles Clippers wing Paul George garnered more votes at forward rather than guard, the guard slot went to Irving.
If Tatum had his way moving forward, he’d prefer if the NBA didn’t leave such a pricey decision up to chance, calling for stricter, more firm conditions.
“I think what they do need to change is — it’s kind of opinion-based,” Tatum said. “100 media members have the vote, and what’s the criteria, right? Is there a certain amount of games you need to play. Should you be in playoff contention? There’s a certain amount of points you should average, depending on your position. I think there should be something like that in place because I think if you just allow people to just vote…and there’s nothing set in place, like, ‘you gotta play this many games’, whatever it may be. I think that would help it out a lot.”
Ime Udoka Sends Message to Tatum & Jaylen Brown
Tatum isn’t the lone Celtics star who rightfully could hold a grudge regarding how the All-NBA voting transpired. Jaylen Brown put forth a career season in 2020-21 en route to his first All-Star nod. Like Tatum, Brown averaged career highs in both points (24.7) and assists (3.4), yet was nowhere to be found on the trio of All-NBA teams — snubs that new head coach Ime Udoka believes should serve as added motivation for the star-studded duo.
“Talking to Kawhi Leonard as a young guy, I used to tell him, ‘Why wait? What are you waiting for?’” Udoka explained at his introductory press conference. “’These guys, don’t give them too much respect.’ And I’d say the same thing to Jayson and Jaylen. The sky’s the limit. The fact that you’re not All-NBA, that should be a chip on your shoulder. You should play with that edge, and want to prove people wrong. But my message to them would be, ‘Why wait?’ The talent is there. The work ethic is there. It’s a chance to be a better leader, more vocal at times, but don’t wait for anything. Go out and take it now.”