Following the win, the emotions set in almost immediately for Tatum, as he embraced his teammates, coaches, and other Celtics personnel to celebrate the huge win.
Celtics star Jayson Tatum’s dominance led to Larry Bird ECF MVP
When the game is on the line, the stars are going to shine. Tatum did just that as he averaged 25.0 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 5.6 assists in the tightly contested series.
Tatum’s impact extended well beyond the stat sheet, though, as he continued to prove that he is an elite wing defender in the league. He showed versatility guarding positions 1-5 on switches and was able to move his feet and hold his own against his own defensive assignment at the same time.
Poise on the road paved the way to success once again, as Tatum and the rest of the gang in Boston won their second consecutive Game 7 this postseason. Following the game, they referred to themselves as the “road warriors” and “road dogs,” talking about their ability to win on the road. It marked their third road win of the series against Miami.
This win sent them to the NBA Finals, clinching their first berth in 12 years. Tatum and company finally got over the hump after a number of disappointing postseasons, including a 2018 Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They had a 3-2 lead in that series but eventually lost in seven games.
However, this is the series that most fans reference when looking at Tatum’s rise to stardom. He had a number of moments where he showed glimpses of superstar-level talent, including this highlight play against James.
In the present day, Tatum has lived up to the expectations that fans, coaches, and other basketball-affiliated people set for him. This season, he was selected to the All-NBA First Team, the second All-NBA selection of his career.
Tatum dedicated this game and this series to the late Kobe Bryant by wearing a purple armband with the number 24 on it, and by wearing his shoes in various games.
“That was my idol,” Tatum reflected following the Game 7 win. “That was my inspiration. That was my favorite player. This was the biggest game of my career thus far. I wanted to wear the armband to honor him. Kinda share that moment [with him] in a way.”
The young star mentioned how he watched some highlights from Bryant’s hall-of-fame career prior to the game for inspiration. He also texted Bryant’s old phone number prior to the game saying, “I got you today.”
His performance was truly “Mamba-like” in this series, which earned him the first-ever Eastern Conference Finals MVP award. It’s poetic how the award is named after Larry Bird, one of the greatest basketball players in Celtics history and in NBA history as a whole.
Tatum will have a chance to follow up his conference finals performance and finish the job against the Golden State Warriors in his first NBA Finals appearance.