There are lots of amazing things Jayson Tatum does well on the basketball court. For a 6’9, long and athletic wing, the Celtics’ star has an extraordinary skill set. Few players of his age and stature are able to handle the ball comfortably and confidently while also exhibiting exquisite touch from all three scoring levels. He’s got every offensive move in his bag, and he can even stop the opposing team’s best player from scoring. He doesn’t have a glaring weakness on either end of the floor, and he’s only getting better with each passing season. It’s safe to say that there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to Jayson Tatum’s future as a Celtic.
But you know what should excite fans just as much? His durability.
Of the top-20 points per game scorers in the league (and most, if not all of these guys are considered “superstars”), Tatum has the most games played at 47 — three more than any other player. Additionally, though, he averages the third most minutes per game out of all those guys at 37.3 a night.
Last year, Tatum also played more games than any other top-20 NBA scorer. So, this isn’t a new development, and there’s a large enough sample size to make the conclusion that Tatum is probably the most durable NBA superstar.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, welcome to the unfortunate current state of the NBA; whether it be because of actual injuries or load management (aka rest), star players just don’t play as often as they used to.
.@Rjeff24 shared a powerful message on load management in the NBA: pic.twitter.com/viewFKM5P3— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 26, 2023
The assumption is that fewer regular season games played equals better postseason performance. And, well, maybe this is true, but maybe it isn’t. There’s something to be said about a player getting a rhythm during the regular season. Also, last time I checked, it’s better to be a higher seed in the playoffs, right? So, winning regular season games — which is easier to do when your best player plays in them — is kinda important.
Much has been made about Tatum’s wrist injury, but I want to examine another injury he suffered this season. During a mid-November game against the Bulls, Tatum came down hard on Demar Derozan’s foot. Here’s a video of the nasty injury.
This is the play where Jayson Tatum — listed as questionable for Wednesday vs Dallas — hurt his ankle vs Chicago. pic.twitter.com/ZcmWdI3NOh— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) November 22, 2022
I’m no doctor, but that looks like a pretty disgusting twisted ankle to me. Tatum walked it off, though, and continued playing the game on his way to 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 7 assists. He did eventually take a game off due to the sprained ankle, but that doesn’t take away from his impressive return against the Bulls.
Now, there are two perspectives for what happened:
A) Tatum suffered a bad sprained ankle and played through it, displaying an incredible level of mental and physical toughness, or
B) Tatum suffered a minor ankle injury, which seems pretty impressive and rare given the degree to which the ankle turned (again, I’m no doctor, but my gut tells me most players would’ve sat the rest of the game).
Either way, one thing is for sure: Jayson Tatum is tough as nails.
Desire to Play
Part of Tatum’s toughness comes from wanting to play every chance he gets. He’s just a straight up hooper with competitive drive in spades. While other players may be okay with taking rest days and missing games, that doesn’t sit right with JT.
In an interview earlier this season, Tatum said this:
“There’s been times where two weeks in advance we talk about, ‘let’s take this game off.’ And I’ll be like, ‘alright.’ Then the day comes and I’ll be like, ‘[expletive] that.’ I think that’s just something that’s the kid in me. I always dreamed about playing in the NBA and never want to take that for granted. I just love playing basketball… I just always want to play.”
Tatum’s durability and willingness to compete for his team is second to none (in terms of superstars) in the NBA. Not only does he have all the skills and physical tools necessary to be a face of a franchise, but he has the passion and toughness, too. You’ll have to drag Tatum off the court if you don’t want him to play, and I’ll take that any day over the player who’s willing to sit on the bench (while healthy) and watch his team lose.
With all of the amazing basketball we witness nightly in the NBA, it can get overlooked how important it is to actually… play basketball. Availability is the best ability, right? And, that’s exactly what Tatum does basically every time the Celtics have a game. So, let’s celebrate that, just like we celebrate his beautiful side-step threes and his filthy handle.