Jayson Tatum, an NBA Champion Entering Peak of His Powers

Jun 17, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) lifts the trophy after winning the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) lifts the trophy after winning the 2024 NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports / Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
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From Michael Jordan to LeBron James, even for the NBA's greatest players, winning a championship has typically required patience. But reaching the top of the mountain is worth the wait. Just ask Jayson Tatum.

"These last seven years have been a roller coaster, up and down," said the 26-year-old St. Louis native of his journey to the NBA summit. "I had to listen to all the (expletive) that people said about me, and tonight, it was worth it. Oh, my God."

Celtics star Jayson Tatum celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the locker room after winning his first NBA title.
Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

Tatum spent this postseason making it easier than ever to appreciate that his game isn't defined by scoring. He punished opponents for loading up to limit his point production, his impact on defense included neutralizing the Mavericks' lob threats in the NBA Finals, and he led his team in rebounding in their playoff run to Banner 18.

The five-time All-Star led the Celtics in points (22.2), rebounds (7.8), and assists (7.2) in the NBA Finals. He also did so for the entire postseason, averaging 25 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.

In the championship clincher, a 106-88 victory, Tatum registered 31 points and 11 assists, both game-highs. He also grabbed eight rebounds and swiped two steals.

"This is going to be a night that I will remember for the rest of my life, from the game, the celebration, these moments," said Tatum after lifting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.

"Over the last couple (of) years, we had some tough losses at home in the playoffs. We've lost the NBA Championship at home in front of our fans. We had a chance to beat (the) Miami (Heat) in Game 6 a few years ago and lost that one.

"So, to have a big win, the biggest win that you could have, in front of your home crowd, I felt like that was really important to go out there and do everything in my power to make sure we won this game tonight."

As for how the dream of becoming an NBA champion compares to fulfilling his ultimate goal, Tatum conveyed, "This is at the top of the mountain. To be able to say we did it, that we came together and we won a championship. Banner No. 18 has been hanging over our head for so many years. To know that we're going to be engraved in history, and it still hasn't registered. I'm just still trying to process it all."

Celtics star Jayson Tatum puts his hands on his head, looks up to the sky, and exhales after winning his first NBA title.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The three-time All-NBA First Team selection has accrued every individual accolade a star desires to add to their trophy case except for an MVP Award. He sacrificed counting stats that would've helped that cause for this moment; to reach the mountain top.

From helping lead Boston to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals as a rookie to returning to that stage five times in the first seven years of his career and coming within two wins of raising Banner 18 to the TD Garden rafters in 2022, he's spent his career coming painfully close to clutching an NBA title.

So, what did it take to complete his ascension to the summit? Everything.

"It took being relentless," stated Tatum after completing that mission. "It took being on the other side of this and losing in the Finals and being at literally the lowest point in a basketball career that you could be, to next year, to the following year, thinking that was going to be the time, and (to) come up short again.

"So, I mean, people have said it before. But coming up short and having failures makes this moment that much better. Because you know what it feels like to lose. You know what it feels like to be on the other side of this and be in the locker room and hearing the other team celebrating, hearing them celebrate on your home floor. That was devastating.

"And now, to elevate yourself in a space that, all (of) your favorite players are in -- everybody that they consider greats or legends have won a championship -- and all of the guys I looked up to won a championship, multiple championships.

"So, now I can walk in those rooms and be a part of that. It's a hell of a feeling. This is more -- I dreamed about what it would be like, but this is ten times better."

While Tatum should savor every second of his first championship, from the Celtics' dominant display in Game 6 to the parade down Boylston Street, he's just entering his prime, not yet at the peak of his powers.

He has a star running mate that's only a year older, and the backing of an organization committed to keeping the NBA's most talented top six together.

Tatum's breakthrough to Banner 18 might usher in a dynasty and represent the start of turning the lessons learned from years of heartache into accumulating a collection of championship jewelry.

Bobby Krivitsky


Bobby Krivitsky's experiences include covering the NBA as a credentialed reporter for Basketball Insiders. He's also a national sports talk host for SportsMap Radio, a network airing on 96 radio stations throughout the country. Additionally, he was a major-market host, update anchor, and producer for IMG Audio, and he worked for Bleacher Report as an NFL and NBA columnist.