BOSTON – Jayson Tatum checked another accolade off his basketball bucket list Thursday night when he was voted to be an All-Star starter for the first time in his career.
Now, Tatum is no stranger to starting All-Star Games, having filled in for injured Eastern Conference captain Kevin Durant in each of the last two exhibitions. But this is the first time that Tatum has earned a spot via the voting process, which is a testament to his growing dominance in the league and popularity around the world.
“It feels great,” the now four-time All-Star said of the accomplishment Thursday night following a 120-117 overtime defeat to the New York Knicks. “It’s nothing I ever want to, in a sense, get used to or take for granted. While I may have expected to make the team, I never want to take it for granted. It’s an honor. It’s just something I dreamed about as a kid, so to be named an All-Star starter, it meant a lot.”
Tatum, averaging career-highs of 31.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game, finished third in the fan voting with 5,221,720 votes, first in media voting with 82 votes, and fourth in player voting with 139 votes. Fan voting accounted for 50 percent of the total vote, while media and player voting accounted for 25 percent each. Combining all three gave him a weighted voting score of 2.75, placing him third among East frontcourt players behind captain Giannis Antetokounmpo (1.25) and Durant (2.5).
Earning the nod feels extra special for Tatum after coming so close in three previous seasons. He finished fourth in frontcourt voting in 2019, 2021, and 2022, landing right behind Joel Embiid in all three instances. This time, he got the edge over his Atlantic Division rival and will be chosen from the starter pool by either Antoektounmpo or West captain LeBron James for the Feb. 19 showcase in Salt Lake City.
In the first fan returns, Tatum was trailing Embiid by nearly 50,000 votes. However, JT leapt ahead by 32,000 votes in the second returns and soared even further ahead by over 200,000 votes in the third returns before finishing more than 320,000 votes ahead of Embiid’s 4,900,720 final mark.
“I was hoping he'd get there after the first fan vote was a little shaky,” teammate Derrick White said of Tatum’s ascension in the fan pollings. “But it’s well deserved. He does so much for us as a team and it's been fun playing with him.”
Interim head coach Joe Mazzulla added that Tatum is “more than deserving” of this recognition because of how much he means to the team as a leader and to the league as a role model.
“Everybody talks about his basketball skills, but people don’t talk about how good of a person he is, and he’s a great person,” said Mazzulla. “That means a lot to me, and I want people to know that about him. We’re able to do what we do as a team because he’s one of the cornerstones, because of who he is.”
Boston’s other cornerstone, Jaylen Brown, barely missed making the cut as an East backcourt starter. He finished third in both fan voting and player voting and second in media voting, giving him a weighted score of 2.75, which trailed only Kyrie Irving and Donovan Mitchell, who both earned starting spots with matching weighted scores of 1.75.
Brown, the only East guard averaging at least 26.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, wasn’t dismayed by being left out, knowing that he’ll almost certainly be voted in by the coaches as an All-Star reserve.
“Obviously it’s an honor to represent your organization, your family, and the people who have supported you through the highs and the lows like moments like these,” said Brown, who hopes to join Tatum by earning his second All-Star nod when reserves are announced Feb. 2.
It would only be right for the best duo in the league.