It's the story of a boy who dreams of the NBA, like tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of others. The story of a teenager drawn by one of the most legendary franchises, the Boston Celtics, who however imagined himself in purple and gold on the side of the Lakers… since he hated the C's. The story of a fascination that somehow brought Jayson Tatum to be who he is today. This story is therefore his and a little bit that of Kobe Bryant, his idol. In a month, the NBA will celebrate the second anniversary of the legend's death. A shock to some, a devastating event to others. Jayson Tatum obviously falls into the latter category. A month ago, on the show In depth with Graham Bensinger, Celtic told how they learned of the death of the man who made them love basketball. 'I went back to the hotel, put it on CNN… and completely collapsed in the bathroom. The next game I didn't play but I stayed in the locker room. I couldn't even look at it. In my mind he was a superhero, he was invincible.'
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Tatum dreamed of the Lakers: ‘I hated Boston'
To understand this reaction, one has to go back into the life of Jayson Tatum. In Saint-Louis (Missouri) where he grew up with his mother. 'The first time I saw him play I fell in love with himx, he says. She was playing differently. I wanted to be like him'His mother has repeatedly recounted her son's early adoration for Kobe Bryant.'I remember it as a child, she puts it back for Beat. I asked him what he would like to do later. His first answer in his life was: 'Kobe'.‘'.
His matches and then YouTube to gorge himself on highlights of all kinds and soon copy what Michael Jordan copied, Tatum lacks for nothing. He is practically obsessed with the number 8 and number 24 of the Los Angeles Lakers. To the point of imitating his gestures and playing with his shoes, the 'Kobes'. No, the fullback didn't want to be drafted by the Celtics in third place in the 2017 draft. 'I hated Boston,' he later confessed on the Bill Simmons podcast. His dream was the Staples Center in Los Angeles, on the other side of the United States. Choice in advance, the Lakers still take Lonzo Ball. The teenager who cried when Boston beat Kobe Bryant in 2008 before jumping all over the place when he got his revenge two years later will be playing in the hated franchise.
Meeting idol Bryant in 2018
But the historic rivalry between the Lakers and the Celtics does not prevent the player from continuing to talk about his idol, which many Bostonians hold against him year after year, nor does it prevent the retiree from being interested in the trajectory of someone who necessarily resembles him. Playoffs 2018, Tatum's first in the NBA. Without Kyrie Irving, their leader, the Celtics push LeBron James' Cavaliers into Game 7 before losing. That spring, a certain Kobe Bryant worked for ESPN and turned in his analysis. One of them concerns Tatum who discovers her in the Cleveland locker room.
'He had retweeted the video of his analysis. I was like, ‘Kobe tweeted me something?' I watched it 25 times in a row, laughs on JJ Redick's podcast. Then he retrieved my number and texted me: ‘Boy, I'm happy with your success, stay focused, keep working. When you're in Los Angeles in the summer, tell me, we're going to train together. I wrote to her as the wheels of the plane hit the ground'. A few days of waiting followed and then a new invitation. '‘Does Kobe know who I am?' She could have said anything about me, I would have been ecstatic', Tatum confides again in Deepening with Graham Bensinger. Sweaty hands and beating heart, the little boy lives his dream and meets his idol with whom he discusses for a long time before going to training.It was an incredible moment. I was watching it, I remembered me watching it on TV as a kid, thinking, ‘Okay, this is who I want to be. That's why I love basketball, it inspired me.' 'I remember I was doing an exercise and he was showing me how to do something or telling me what to do next, and I was sitting there and in my mind I was like, ‘I'm working out with this 'damn' Kobe Bryant'The California legend touched many people in basketball and beyond, which his death tragically brought to mind. Technically, Tatum resembles Bryant even though the relationship is less obvious than Kobe and Michael Jordan, visually. Anyway, but what does the Celtics fullback have in common with his idol is the passion for work.
Drew Hanlen, his personal trainer and that of many other NBA stars, detailed, per Sports illustrated, his first encounter with a 13-year-old Missouri boy. 'Many children want to grow up. But most aren't ready to do the job. That first training session was exhausting. I practically tried to kill himBut Tatum never complained. His mother still recounts how as a teenager he would get up at 4 or 5 in the morning to go to training. If that doesn't remind you of someone…
No plan B for Kobe and Tatum
And if we were to finish convincing ourselves of this total involvement that Jayson Tatum puts into his project, and which therefore links him to Kobe Bryant, here is a discussion reported by his mother to Slam.
'What's your plan B, in case you don't make it to the NBA?
– That's the difference between me and… (Tatum mentions several names according to his mother). They have a plan B. Mom, no. For me it's that or death'.
'If he keeps that Mamba mentality, he'll be an eternal All-Star, MVP contender, everything in between…continues Brandy Cole. In 2023, Jayson Tatum will be an All-Star for the fourth time in a row and until proven otherwise is a serious candidate for this season's MVP title. Like against Miami last season, when he wore number 24 and Lakers runners on his wrist, Tatum will still and always think of Bryant during the next Playoffs.The one who made 'Mamba' the best player in history, above Jordan, during the stormy debates with his mother will always have him at the bottom to his heart, this Kobe Bryant who inspired him, who inspires him and who will inspire him.
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