addByline("Taylor C. Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow");
WALTHAM, Mass. – Jaylen Brown has averaged 17.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game over his last six contests, all while shooting 51.3 percent from the field and 50.0 percent from 3-point range. While those statistics are spectacular, the most impressive aspect of the 21-year-old wing's ongoing success does not come in the form of a number; it comes in the form of mental toughness.
While in the midst of the hottest statistical stretch of his career, Brown has been dealing with emotional hardship that has stemmed from one of the greatest tragedies of his life.
Two weeks ago, Brown was hit with heartbreaking news that his best friend, Trevin Steede, had passed away. Initially, Brown felt nothing but emptiness. He couldn’t find the will to leave his room and didn’t think he’d have the strength to suit up with his Celtics teammates the next night when they were scheduled to take on the Golden State Warriors.
But it didn’t take long for Brown to break out of this rare, mentally vulnerable state. His friends and family knew he was hurting, so they lifted his spirit by providing love and support. Their compassion is what allowed Brown to return to the court less than 24 hours after hearing of Steede’s passing, and it is what has pushed him through the last two weeks.
“My family, my friends, being able to have them around has uplifted me so much,” Brown said following Celtics practice Wednesday afternoon. “I’m just so thankful for them. I’m appreciative that they were around for Thanksgiving and that we got to go to Atlanta to see my friends and see [Steede’s] family. They uplifted my spirit like no one else could.”
Brown’s basketball family has also provided him tremendous support. Kyrie Irving can relate to Brown’s situation having dealt with his mother’s passing when he was just four years old, so he’s done his best to give Brown an appropriate amount of care.
“The best way for an observer is just to give him space while also assuring them that you have their back,” explained Irving. “Just showing nothing but compassion for another human being that’s hurting. And now that we’ve garnered a relationship through this basketball court, and off the court as well, it’s just good to give him a lending hand. He’s an evolving young man, himself, and I know that he’s a strong individual, so he’s using basketball as an outlet. And it’s our job as teammates and the coaching staff and the organization just to be there for him.”
In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Brown scored 22 points against the Golden State Warriors while leading his Celtics to a win. He then scored a career-high 27 points against his hometown Atlanta Hawks, before notching 22 points against the Dallas Mavericks. It marked the first time in Brown’s career that he logged consecutive games of 20-plus points, let alone three such games in a row.
Al Horford has been beyond impressed with Brown’s perseverance, but at the same time he's not completely taken aback by it. Having known Brown for more than a year now, Horford is aware that his teammate is an unusually strong-minded young man.
“From the first time I met Jaylen last year, I could see that he wasn’t a normal rookie,” said Horford. “Physically he’s built, but mentally, you could tell that he was about the right things; he wanted to do things the right way, which is very mature. It’s not easy what he’s going through right now, but he’s done so well being able to put everything aside (by) coming out and playing.”
Not only has Brown come out and played through the tragic circumstances; he’s come out and played the best basketball of his career. Through it all, he’s proved that he’s not just a physically-gifted athlete, but also a compassionate and strong-minded human being that is capable of persevering through the toughest of times.