Tatum Reflects on History with KD: It’s ‘Come Around Full Circle’
Seven years ago, high school sophomore Jayson Tatum attended a Kevin Durant-run basketball camp, during which he had the opportunity to meet and pick the mind of one of his childhood idols.
It was a surreal moment for Tatum simply to be in the presence of the man who had just won that year’s NBA MVP award, though he evidently left a strong impression upon the four-time league scoring champion, as well.
“You’re going to be in the Hall of Fame one day,” Durant told Tatum, according to a post on Tatum's Instagram page from that day. “Keep working.”
Tatum followed Durant’s advice, hoping that one day he’d get to compete against the all-time great.
Eventually, the dream came to fruition, as Tatum entered the NBA in 2017 and has since logged five regular-season matchups against Durant. And now, that dream will reach even greater heights, as Tatum will lead the Boston Celtics into a first-round playoff matchup against Durant’s Brooklyn Nets beginning Saturday night.
Two days before going to battle, Tatum took a trip down memory lane recalling his first meeting with Durant and noted how wild it is that they are now meeting again years later on the playoff stage.
“I think it’s pretty cool,” Tatum said following Celtics practice Thursday afternoon. “I always envisioned when I took pictures with those guys that one day I would be in their shoes. It’s cool. Obviously I knew him pretty well, and getting a chance to compete against him, knowing that he was a guy I really looked up to when I was in middle school, high school, it’s cool to see those things kind of come around full circle.”
The respect has also come full circle. After admiring Durant’s unique skill set for so many years, Tatum, in his ascent to superstardom, has gained Durant’s praise right back.
"JT is one of those guys that brings his own version of scoring and defending and passing and just being an overall basketball player," Durant said Wednesday afternoon. "He is unique, and we all appreciate and respect it. I know how tough it’s going to be out there, and I’m looking forward to that challenge."
So far, Durant has had the upper hand in their matchups, as he’s averaged 25.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists to Tatum’s 14.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 assists, while also owning a 3-2 record. Though, it’s worth noting that most of those matchups came toward the beginning of Tatum’s career, given that they have only faced off once since the 2018-19 season.
Their only recent matchup took place on Christmas Day of this season, during which Tatum logged 20 points, eight rebounds, and two assists, while Durant recorded 29 points, four rebounds, and three assists while leading his Nets to a 123-95 win.
Since that date, however, Tatum has risen to even greater heights as a scorer, as he’s logged three 50-point games over the past six weeks, including a 50-point effort during Tuesday’s play-in win over the Washington Wizards.
Now that the playoffs have arrived, expect Tatum to turn it up even more – especially since he’s about to go toe-to-toe with one of his childhood idols.