Jayson Tatum had just dominated proceedings at the TD Garden as the Boston Celtics dismantled the Los Angeles Lakers 108-130. En route to the victory, the All-Star wing scored a resounding 37 points, as he tortured the Lakers defense on possession after possession.
Sitting in the stands were two former Celtics, both of whom hold legendary status within the TD Garden and the city of Boston. Bill Russell, the former Celtics who boasts 11 championships with the franchise, and Paul Pierce, the homegrown talent who helped lift Boston’s last NBA title in 2008, both sat and watched on as the next Celtics legend got to work against his team’s fiercest rivals.
There’s no more significant NBA rivalry than Boston vs. Los Angeles, and it brings a passion and vigor that is seldom seen outside of European soccer stadiums. Yet, somehow, Tatum always finds a way to assert his will under the bright lights of expectations.
After the game, Tatum fielded a multitude of questions from a bevy of eager reporters, one of which was an inquiry about the pressures of performing in front of Russell, who is undoubtedly Celtics royalty.
“It’s a surreal moment, obviously, Bill Russell, you know the impact he had on the Celtics and the NBA. I didn’t get to see him play but having somebody like Paul, somebody I have a relationship with, I remember watching him play, and now he’s watching me play, that’s crazy to me,” Tatum said.
Tatum Grew up Watching KG
Like most of us, Tatum would often spend evenings glued to his TV as a child, watching the NBA’s most extraordinary talents do battle. It’s no secret at this point that the Celtics star’s favorite player was the late, great Kobe Bryant, something that is a point of contention for Celtics fans.
Yet, as he sat at the podium, Tatum offered further insight into his basketball education, as he explained how his dad would often have Michael Jordan and Kevin Garnett games on television.
“My Dad’s favorite player was Michael Jordan, his second favorite player was KG, and he always had me watching when he played with Minnesota and then with the Celtics. The aggressiveness he played with, the intensity, the passion. I can relate, obviously, I’m not nearly as emotional or outgoing as he is, but I understand how he feels and how he played the game. But I admire and appreciate him being who he was. Even to this day, when I get a chance to be around him and talk to him, he’s the same person that you see on TV, and I’ve always appreciated that and how hard he played. And how everybody, his teammates and the city of Boston rally around him, and love him as a player and a person,” Tatum explained when discussing which players he molded his game after at a young age.
Tatum Took Parts of Paul Pierce’s Offensive Game
While Tatum sees part of his competitive spirit in Kevin Garnett, it’s Paul Pierce who had the more significant impact on how the two-time All-Star performs on the court, especially on offense.
“Kobe was my favorite player, but I watched a lot of guys play. But somebody like Paul that could get his shot off against anybody, he was never rushed, amazing footwork, always got to his spot, great touch, somebody I always watched and stole moves from, watched how he played the game. He could do everything. He wasn’t the most athletic guy but always figured it out,” Tatum said.
Over the years, we’ve all heard how Tatum’s well-publicized workout with Kobe Bryant negatively impacted his approach on the offensive end but hearing how he’s also grown up taking aspects of Celtics legends approach will be music to fans’ ears.
Tatum and his Celtics teammates will have another opportunity to keep the feel-good factor flowing on Saturday, November 20th, as they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in what is their second game of a back-to-back.