Jayson Tatum said he needed some good news this week after enduring the heartbreak that came with the death of his mentor and friend Kobe Bryant.
That good news Tatum sought after was delivered Thursday prior to the Boston Celtics tip-off at the TD Garden with the Golden State Warriors when Tatum learned he had been selected to his first All-Star Game as a reserve.
Tatum, who was picked No. 3 overall by the Celtics in the 2017 draft, was rewarded for the leap in his play he has showcased throughout the first half of his third season in the NBA as Tatum is currently averaging 21.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.
“I’m so excited,” said Tatum, who is the second-youngest Celtic behind Antoine Walker to make an All-Star appearance. “It’s always been a dream of mine and it finally happened. I get to join (Kemba Walker), my teammate, at All-Star Weekend. It doesn’t even feel real right now.”
Jayson Tatum shares how he found out about making the All-Star game & reflects on how he used to always get Kobe's All-Star jersey pic.twitter.com/J2xnv1CiOi— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) January 31, 2020
The honor bestowed upon Tatum and just 23 other players across the NBA almost moved the 6-foot-8, 210-pound forward to tears, Tatum said, but he held it in and added he might shed a few tears over his accomplishment later.
After Tatum’s play during his sophomore season with the Celtics didn’t reach the expected height, he has taken the necessarily steps to succeed in the spotlight this season. Tatum has turned into a more polished, go-to scorer in all areas on the offensive end, knocking down 3-pointers and mid-range jumpers with regularity while showing steady improvement on his finishing touch around the rim after struggling with it early in the season.
Playing with a minutes restriction after missing three games due to a right groin strain in the Celtics 119-104 win over the Warriors, Tatum looked like the All-Star he has become by scoring 20 points on 7-of-14 shooting along with grabbing six rebounds and two assists. It was the fourth consecutive game Tatum reached the 20-point plateau, which is a career-best, per Celtics Stats. Tatum also had a steal and a block as his more notable defensive presence this season has elevated him into the conversation as one of the best two-way players in the NBA.
For Tatum, who grew up watching the All Stars compete and also did so during his first two years in the NBA, he now gets the chance to play in that game as one of them.
“I’ve been watching the All-Star Game ever since I’ve been watching basketball,” Tatum said. “I would always get Kobe’s All-Star jersey. I always had aspirations of one day being in the All-Star Game. At 21 years old, to make it a reality — I can’t put it into words. It’s a special feeling.”