LeBron James Proclaims That Jayson Tatum is 'Built for Stardom'
BOSTON – Jayson Tatum may not have beaten LeBron James, but he sure did gain his respect.
Tatum, a 20-year-old rookie, saw his first NBA season come to an end Sunday night with an 87-79 loss at the hands of James and the Cavaliers during Game 7 of the Eastern Finals. Tatum led Boston in scoring for the third time in the series by tallying 24 points on 9-for-17 shooting.
Two of those points will forever be embedded on Tatum’s career highlight reel. Midway through the fourth quarter, the rookie posterized James with a thunderous right-handed slam that brought the Garden to its feet. That play was the exclamation point on Tatum’s stellar rookie season – one that proved to James that Tatum has greatness in his future.
“I just love everything about the kid,” James said of Tatum following Game 7. “The way he plays the game, his demeanor, where he comes from.
“I just know he's just built for stardom. He's built for success.”
It would be tough to question those words even had they came out of the mouth of Joe Schmoe off the street. When they came off of the lips of James, one of the all-time greats who knows the game as well as anyone in the world? They are gospel.
James made sure to relay his thoughts directly into Tatum’s ears following Sunday’s final buzzer. That moment, which culminated Tatum’s incredible rookie season, is one that will forever be engrained in his memory.
“That was a special moment for me, because it's different,” Tatum began to explain. “It's my first year in the league. I grew up watching LeBron and asking him to follow me back on Twitter, going to his camps. So just in my first year, to be able to compete against a player like him and be a few shots away from beating him and his team to go to the championship is something I will always remember.”
Likewise, no one who watched this series unfold will ever forget how Tatum played far beyond his years while facing off against the greatest player of this generation. Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, who happens to be Tatum’s cousin, is one of those people.
Lue was tasked throughout the series with constructing a game plan that would aim to contain the rookie wing. Clearly, that plan was not entirely successful.
Lue praised his cousin’s all-around offensive repertoire following the series and commented as to how awe-inspiring Tatum’s performance was at just 20 years of age.
“To be a rookie and perform the way he's performed on this stage is incredible,” said Lue.
“He plays like a five-, six-, seven-year vet,” the coach continued. “He's always poised, always under control, never gets sped up, really no weaknesses offensively.”
Those characteristics are abnormal for a player of Tatum’s age. So, what does that mean for the future?
“He's going to be one of our best players in this league in a few years,” Lue concluded.
Truthfully, it may not even take that long.
Tatum has already proven to be capable of carrying a team offensively to the brink of the NBA Finals. James couldn’t even do that when he was 20 years old.
The scariest part of all?
“He can get a lot better,” said Stevens. “That's the fun part.”
Well, maybe for Tatum, Stevens and the Celtics organization. For the rest of the league, including James, that’s a nightmare.
For now, Tatum will be forced to find motivation to improve through his defeat at the hands of James. On the positive side, he can also take solace in knowing that his incredible rookie performance gained the utmost respect from the world’s greatest basketball player.