Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown's Imperfect Partnership Paved the Way for Celtics' Championship

The Jays proved once and for all they are a championship duo.
Jun 17, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts 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) reacts 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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The emotion of the moment was clear as day and could be felt through television screens across the world. Jaylen Brown, minutes after the buzzer sounded on the Boston Celtics' 18th championship, was named the Bill Russell Finals MVP. Unlike when the All-Star forward won the Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP, an ear-splitting grin did not materialize. Instead Brown's shoulders drooped and his hand covered his eyes, the sheer magnitude of the moment weighing heavily.

Then he got to the podium, grabbed his trophy, and immediately said he couldn't have done it without Jayson Tatum, his "brother in crime." The microphones cut out as Brown continued, insisting he and Tatum "share this s--- together." It was a fitting scene as they cemented their place on the NBA championship duo pantheon.

Their partnership, never perfect but almost always good enough, paved the way for this Celtics' title.

That's part of what makes this so triumphant for the Jays. In the end— they are, indeed, imperfect. Unlike the other true championship duos we think of, they do not fit hand-in-glove on the court. Their skillsets overlap, as do their weaknesses. It's why, silly as it now seems, that there was real traction behind the argument that the Celtics would be better off breaking them up. A concept that gained more popularity after the world watched Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic win a title on the strength of an utterly unstoppable two-man game.

It was these imperfections that forced the Celtics to never remain complacent. President of basketball operations Brad Stevens was constantly tinkering with the roster, trying to find the perfect balance of giving Tatum and Brown run of the offense with good enough ballhandling to take the load off now and again. To find the right personnel to maximize their incredible switchability. To surround them with talent capable of capitalizing off their mere gravity when they can't put the ball through the hoop.

This is not to credit Tatum and Brown's flaws as the reason Boston won a championship. It is, though, the truth— that the Jays' obvious strengths and occasionally fatal weaknesses gave the Celtics both the ability and the motivation to blow up a roster that had recently proven good enough to make the Finals. It was those same strengths and weaknesses that allowed for this team to be truly great. They had the humility to recognize they couldn't be perfect, and so welcomed in newcomers like Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday with open arms.

Imperfect as they may be, though, Tatum and Brown have almost always been good enough. Good enough for Boston to have a chance in every game, good enough to win playoff games en masse, good enough to push their team to the precipice of a title.

Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics won a franchise-best 18th NBA title on Monday.
Boston fans! Click the photo or here to to order Sports Illustrated's NBA championship digital commemorative issue. / Elsa/Getty Images

To wit, the moment Tatum and Brown reached the mountaintop was both imperfect and good enough. Neither put forth incredible performances. Tatum had 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting and missed six three-point attempts, but his 11 assists and relentless attacking allowed the Celtics' offense to hum. Brown had one of his worst nights of the playoffs from an efficiency standpoint, putting up 21 points on 23 shots, but his dogged defense on Luka Doncic gummed up everything the Mavericks tried to do.

Nobody will ultimately remember much of that. The details will fade into history. But it is important to take stock of the moment while we're in it.

For Tatum and Brown, this moment is about perserverance. Their journey to find their limits and then push past them has been on display for the world to see for the last seven years. Their moment of triumph was never about being perfect. It was about accepting and adjusting to their failures. For nearly everybody watching, that is what sports are, accepting what they can't do and trying to win despite it all.

All playoffs long, Tatum and Brown were far from perfect. All Finals long, Tatum and Brown were far from perfect. In Game 5, Tatum and Brown were far from perfect. But they were good enough— and now they're champions. .

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Liam McKeone


Liam McKeone is a senior writer for the Breaking and Trending News team at Sports Illustrated. He has been in the industry as a content creator since 2017, and prior to joining SI in May 2024, McKeone worked for NBC Sports Boston and The Big Lead. In addition to his work as a writer, he has hosted the Press Pass Podcast covering sports media and The Big Stream covering pop culture. A graduate of Fordham University, he is always up for a good debate and enjoys loudly arguing about sports, rap music, books and video games. McKeone has been a member of the National Sports Media Association since 2020.