From New York, Cowen van der Velden highlights developments in American sports on a weekly basis. Today: How Celtics player Jason Tatum became a fan of late basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
Led by superstar Jason Tatum (24), the Boston Celtics are two games away from the NBA Championship. With the 18th title, Boston was distancing itself from its rival Los Angeles Lakers, Tatum’s youth club, but especially its idol Kobe Bryant.
In the final match against the Golden State Warriors (2-2 in a best of seven), Tatum is currently the offensive spearhead of Boston’s defensive choke machine. Tatum, just 24 years old, rose to stardom in the playoffs this season.
The man from St. Louis, who is 2.03 meters tall, is his team’s top scorer with over 26 points and has developed as an advertiser. In the first match of the final, Tatum scored 13 assists.
What is remarkable, especially at his age, is his composure in moments of extreme stress. In this regard, Tatum mentions the man he calls his mentor. His great example is Kobe Bryant.
“Kobe was my inspiration,” Tatum told the Miami Heat after the semi-finals. “My favorite player of all time.” In the tiebreak against Miami, he wore a yellow-purple sweatband around his elbow colliding with the green Celtics. The number 24 in yellow was the number of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in 2020.
Hours after the match, Tatum revealed on social media a text message he sent to Bryant’s old phone number earlier in the day. †I got thisor ‘read’ or ‘everything is under control’. Exaggerated, some believe. Touching, judging those who saw sincere affection. To admire Tatum’s personal history.
The hateful attacker was 20 years old when he first met his idol. Bryant retired in 2016, and has established himself as a mentor to a new generation of players after his retirement. For ESPN Sports, he analyzed his successors in the series the details, where he dissects the best players in the NBA frame by frame. One episode was about Tatum.
The young Boston star had just finished his first season in the NBA and was honored by Bryant’s interest. “When I watched the episode, I watched it 20 more times the same night,” Tatum said at the time. According to Bryant, he had to point his toes toward the basket when shooting. The student benefited from it.
The following summer, Tatum traveled to Los Angeles to train with Bryant. The master taught him the intricacies of foot movements. Then the still uncut Tatum had a mixed season. The Celtics star often took bad shots. Some have pointed to the influence of Bryant, who made impossible balls his trademark. The big difference: Bryant usually hits them.
It took several seasons before the penny went down with the sometimes fickle Tatum. It’s no surprise, given that he made his NBA debut at the age of 19. All things considered, Tatum is still an “early mistake,” with quite a few players leading their team to the Final at the age of 24.
Especially in the second half of the current season, things are starting to turn towards Tatum and the Celtics. At the beginning of this year, the selection, with new coach Im Odoka, was still on the verge of collapse, and play-offs seemed a long way off. “They don’t want to overplay it,” teammate Marcus Smart threw the bat at a press conference at the chicken house, referring to co-stars Tatum and Jaylene Brown.
As of January, Boston is the best team in the NBA, in part due to some transfers in the selection. Tatum plays a mature role and finds his teammates more easily. In the playoffs, everything seems to be clicking in time. Humble Tatum, who was always with his son Deuce (4) in his neighborhood, also seemed to be comfortable in the spotlight on the biggest stage.
In Los Angeles, where his idol Bryant is mentioned as a demi-god, any nickname from Boston would be viewed with horror. The Lakers and Celtics have been battling for NBA dominance since the late 1950s. Both clubs currently have 17 trophies, with another title helping the Celtics break the record. “We’re all for the Warriors,” former Lakers player Michael Thompson told ESPN. “We can’t let Boston get to that number eighteen earlier.” (Thomson’s son Clay plays with the warriors.)
The fact that Tatum plays green in the Celtics hurts Lakers supporters. LA club could have signed him in 2017, but chose playmaker Lonzo Ball. Then Boston took him. During the final match, Tatum inadvertently threw a shovel of salt into the wound. “The Lakers were my favorite team because of Kobe,” he said. “If they had chosen me, it would have been a dream come true.”
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