Tatum, Beal Fulfill Childhood Dream in 1st Matchup

BOSTON – Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Wizards guard Bradley Beal grew up in the same city, went to the same high school, and even shared the same skills trainer, Drew Hanlen, during their teenage days. Yet, they never had the opportunity to share a basketball court together.

On Christmas Day, the lifelong friends were finally gifted the matchup they had been anticipating for years. And it lived up to the billing.

Beal scored a game-high 25-points Monday, while his 19-year-old rookie counterpart tied for the second-highest scoring total with 20 points of his own. Though his point total was slightly lower, Tatum had a more impressive shooting performance, hitting 7-of-9 shots from the field, including both of his 3-point attempts, while Beal shot 10-of-25 from the field, including an 0-for-6 effort from beyond the arc.

Beal’s Washington squad would come out on top, 111-103 over Tatum’s Celtics, but it was an experience that both parties cherished regardless of the outcome.

“It was exciting,” Tatum later reflected. “It was my first time playing against him in the NBA, and on Christmas Day. It was special because we grew up together. He’s like my big brother and the person I looked up to when I was younger. So to get a chance to play against him on Christmas was fun.”

Beal and Tatum both grew up in Saint Louis, Missouri, where they attended Chaminade College Preparatory School. Being born five years apart, however, prevented them from ever taking the court together.

But that age gap didn’t prevent them from growing close off the court. Tatum looked up to Beal, who would win Gatorade National Player of the Year honors during his senior high school season in 2011. And Beal, during his lone season at the University of Florida and first three seasons with the Wizards, would watch Tatum follow in his footsteps to become the 2016 National Gatorade Player of the Year.

All along, he was confident that Tatum would continue to follow his path straight into the NBA. (Though he probably couldn’t have predicted that Tatum would be selected No. 3 overall in 2017, just as he had been five years earlier.)

“I knew in high school (that he would make the NBA),” said Beal. “Maybe even before high school. He was 6-(foot)-7 in high school, he was No. 1 in his class, and so that was kind of a no-brainer. I saw the potential early – we all saw it – and I’m just happy that he was able to stay level headed and finally let his dream come true.”

Making it to the NBA paved the way for another one of Tatum’s dreams to come true – the opportunity to match up with his hometown friend.

The fact that their first matchup was set to take place Christmas Day made it all the more special. The Tatum family hosted the Beal family for a unique Christmas Eve celebration that was full of laughs and trash talk.

“He came over last night, him and his brothers, and I got to chill with them for a little bit,” said Tatum, who’s mother’s high school volleyball coach happened to be Beal’s mother. “I told him he wasn’t going to score on me. He told me he was. I don’t think he did. But they got the win, so he won.”

While Beal earned the win in Round 1, he knows that achieving victories against Tatum will become more challenging as time goes on. He’s astounded by the young rookie’s progress so far, and believes that he’s just scratching at the surface of his superstar-level potential.

“It’s amazing to see his growth,” said 24-year-old Beal. “I’ve been watching him since he was a pup. Now he’s a man, and he’s finding his way into his league. He can score the ball a variety of ways, and it’s amazing to see him do it on this level. He’s going to be a special talent – a star in this league – for many years, for sure.”

Which means the hometown friends will have plenty more entertaining rivalry matchups in store for us in the future, as they both continue down their respective paths toward stardom.