Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Jayson Tatum on meeting Larry Bird at All-Star Game: 'He's the ultimate Celtic'

It's been nearly two years since Jayson Tatum won the inaugural Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy and finally, the 25-year-old got to meet the Celtics legend himself this past weekend.

Bird joined league commissioner Adam Silver and basketball icon Julius Irving in the East's locker room just before Sunday's NBA All-Star Game tip-off in Indianapolis. Tatum, who after seven years in Boston had never been in the same room as one of the franchise's all-time greats, just listened and watched in awe of the pre-game speech.
"I got a chance to go meet him and tell him how much of an honor it was to meet him. He told me he was looking forward to meeting me. So that was crazy to hear him say that," Tatum said in his postgame presser. "He's a lot taller than I thought he was. But obviously what he means to the game, what he means to the city of Boston and the Celtics, he's the ultimate Celtic. It was an honor to meet him."
While it wasn't the most enjoyable of games, the exchange with "Larry Legend" himself gave Tatum and the rest of the East that spark to beat the Western Conference 211-186 in a record-setting affair. 
"I got to meet him and I was anxious, so I got some juices flowing for the game right now," Tatum said in a pregame interview on TNT.
Bird was a 12-time All-Star during the 13 years of his career, all spent in Boston -- in which he won three league MVP awards, three championships, and two Finals MVP trophies.

Tatum, who became the first player in Celtics' history to average over 30 points per contest a season ago (surpassing Bird's 29.9 average from 1987-88), continues to build his own legacy in Boston as he currently leads his team with a 43-12 record -- a six-game advantage over the Cavaliers in the East -- while averaging 27.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game so far.
"I remember saying, 'I've never met Larry Bird. I've never been in the same room as him.' As crazy as that sounds, it's never worked out," Tatum said.
Bird had a front-row seat to witness the next generation of Celtics All-Stars go to work, as Tatum finished with 20 points.

Jaylen Brown, who netted 36 points on 15-of-23 from the field, spoke about the opportunity for him and Tatum to carry the Celtics legacy that Bird helped create for such a storied franchise.
"I think it's just another platform to continue to raise for yourself but also raise for the city of Boston, just represent," Brown said in his postgame comments Sunday. "I think that’s what we kind of look at it as. That's what we've become."
In the meantime, Tatum and Brown look to lead the Celtics to their first championship since 2008. They'll resume their season on Thursday against the Bulls in Chicago.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Celtics on Twitter

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