Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum, who earned the inaugural Larry Bird award for Eastern Conference Finals MVP after leading his team to the 2022 NBA Finals, shared a special message after beating the Miami Heat on May 29 in Game 7 of their best-of-seven series.
Tatum, who wore a commemorative purple and gold wristband that read “24” in honor of the late-great Kobe Bryant in Game 7, shared a text message he sent to the Los Angeles Lakers legend before the game.
The latest Celtics news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Celtics newsletter here!
Jayson Tatum’s Dedication to Late-Great Kobe Bryant
Tatum posted the text as part of a series of images he shared via Instagram on May 30.
“How much does it mean to you,” read the caption. The final image is a screenshot of the message Tatum sent to Bryant hours before Sunday’s tip-off: “I got you today.”
“That was my idol. That was my inspiration; that was my favorite player,” Tatum said about Kobe after Sunday’s 100-96 Game 7 win. “The shoes I’ve been wearing the last couple of games were dedicated to him. Today, before I took my nap — I do it sometimes — I was watching some film and some moments from him in his career. This is the biggest game of my career thus far, and I wanted to wear that armband to honor him. And, kind of, share that moment, in a way.”
Tatum: ‘I Just Really Believe in Myself’
Tatum finished with 26 points on 9-of-21 attempts, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in the series clincher. Now, the ECF MVP is heading to his first NBA Finals.
“I just really believe in myself; I really believe in our team,” Tatum said. “It’s the biggest game of the season, my career. I just had faith we were going to give it all we had, regardless of the outcome. But it feels great, honestly. Some of those guys have been to the Eastern Conference Finals four times; this is my third time.”
It’d been two years since the Celtics’ last appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Facing the same opponent in the Heat raised some familiarity for Tatum, but knowing what was waiting on the other side of a win — an NBA Finals berth — was all the motivation the three-time All-Star needed.
“We know we want to win a championship, right? But, to get over this hump in the fashion that we did,” Tatum added. “Obviously, we took the toughest route possible. Then, to win a Game 7 to go to the championship on the road is special.”
Tatum on Facing the Warriors: ‘Doesn’t Even Seem Real’
Tatum, 24, will face off against three-time champion Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors will host the Celtics in San Francisco on Thursday night for Game 1.
“Still doesn’t even seem real right now,” Tatum said. “I’m just extremely happy and grateful for all of this. Regardless of how long I’ve been in the league, I’m not too far removed from when I was in high school and when I was dreaming about moments like this. So, I still feel like a kid, at some times, that I’m truly living out my dream. I thank God every day just to be in this position to be able to do that.”