In the summer of 2018, Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum got a chance to work out with his idol, Kobe Bryant. The two formed a bond and developed a relationship that lasted until Bryant’s death in January 2020.
Tatum hasn’t quite turned into Bryant on the basketball court but could very well be on his way. The two-time NBA All-Star just finished his fourth season in the league and recently said there was one question Bryant asked him that still sticks with him today.
Kobe Bryant and Jayson Tatum developed a special bond
Tatum looked up to Bryant when he was growing up. He had an opportunity to work out with him in 2018, and then he was the subject of Bryant’s Detail on ESPN+ later that year. Bryant critiqued Tatum in the video, and the Celtics star soaked it all in.
“I’ve probably watched (the video) like 25 times already,” Tatum said back in 2018, according to ESPN. “It’s very helpful information that I can take with me. That was really cool for me. Growing up, he was my favorite player. That was really a special moment for me.”
In July 2018, Tatum posted photos of himself working out with the Los Angeles Lakers legend on his Instagram account. It’s a moment Tatum treasured then and one he treasures even more now since Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Tatum took Bryant’s death very hard.
“Heartbroken. My Hero. My Idol,” he wrote on Instagram after Bryant’s death. “The reason I started to play this game, the reason I fell in love with this game. Growing up wanting to be just like you, to you becoming a mentor, beyond thankful for everything you’ve done for me. “I didn’t have a plan B. I put all my eggs in one basket and I knew I was going to make it happen” hearing you say that stuck with me everyday of my life. You inspired me, and I am forever grateful more than you know!”
Jayson Tatum still recalls the question Kobe Bryant asked him
During Monday’s Beyond the Press podcast, Tatum discussed that summer workout with Bryant back in 2018. Host Ashley Nevel brought up the subject, asking the Celtics All-Star what the greatest lesson he learned from the Lakers Hall of Famer was.
“One of the many things I took from him that always stuck with me, he kinda just asked me one day, ‘How much does it mean to you?'” Tatum told Nevel. “And that kinda puts things in perspective. You know, how much does being great or being a champion or whatever. How much does it mean?
“What are you willing to give up? What are you willing to do, sacrifice? All those type of things. I think that’s kind of the model he lived by.”
Tatum has taken the advice to heart and has become successful after four years in the league. Like his mentor, Tatum is hardly satisfied with what he’s achieved. He’s aiming to put together a Bryant-like resume.
“Everyone wants to win,” he said. “I want to be a champion. I want to be an MVP and want to be one of the greatest to ever play – Hall of Fame. That’s something I’m actively working on.”
Tatum is the future of the Boston Celtics
Tatum is just beginning. He’s 23 years old and recently inked a five-year max extension with the Celtics.
Although the Celtics had a disappointing 2020-21 season, Tatum did not.
The All-Star forward was Kobe-like this year, especially toward the end of the season. He put up 50 or more points four times since April 9. During a 143-140 overtime victory over the San Antonio Spurs, Tatum finished with 60 points, tying Larry Bird’s team record for most points in a game.
Each season, he’s gotten better. As a rookie, he averaged 13.9 points per game. This season, he nearly doubled that output by putting up 26.4 points per contest. He also averaged career bests in assists (4.3) and rebounds (7.4) this year. Tatum has been an NBA All-Star the last two seasons.
Bryant taught Tatum well, and the Celtics phenom is on his way to creating his own legacy.