After the NBA finals there were a lot of questions brought up about Jayson Tatum and where he is in the hierarchy of NBA players. Tatum didn’t play excellently in the championship series versus the Golden State Warriors last season. And I do think that people are valid in questioning if he can be the guy to lead them.
We have to ask ourselves firstly, is the term Superstar used more often than it should be?
It seems any player with a good season or hot scoring streak is tattooed as an “NBA Superstar.”
And what exactly is a superstar?
It took Michael Jordan 7 years to win his first NBA championship, it took LeBron James 7 years to win his first championship. Did anybody question if they were Superstars or not, in year 4 of their career? It took Kobe Bryant 4 years to win his first championship, did they question if he was something special?
No, they didn’t.
Tatum has continued to improve every year since 2017 going from 13.9 ppg to 30.3 ppg and 7 rpg up to this point in the 2022 season. So he has shown obvious great star abilities.
Nobody can disagree that Tatum is one of the best players today, without question, one of the top 5 forwards playing today.
During the playoffs last year, Jason averaged 25.6 pts, 6.7 rebounds & 6.2 assists. And if we’re being completely honest, the Celtics wouldn’t have reached the Finals without him, especially in the Milwaukee series where he put the team on his back. When he was burning the Bucks for 46 to force a game 7 and was key in road games vs Miami, where they went 3-1, everybody was singing his praises, he was the next big big thing in Beantown. There’s absolutely no question that Jayson Tatum is a star in the NBA, and he’s only going to get better as he’s only 24 years old.
Now in the finals, vs Golden State – it was an entirely different Jason Tatum, he did not have a great series, he made a lot of really bad decisions and had a lot of costly turnovers with 23 in 6 games. Playing like that on the absolute biggest stage that you can play in as a basketball player, definitely stifles any opinions of someone being a “superstar.” Tatum is good with being able to create his own shot, but he’s a poor ball handler. And in close games, turning the ball over is just not something that a superstar is going to do. They need to be able to create good scoring opportunities or take the game over, like Steph Curry, who is a current bona fide superstar. It seemed at times that Tatum was trying to play a role he might not be ready to play.
It was almost as if he didn’t know how to be the leader he was expected to be, almost trying to do too much to live up to the hype that he was hearing. Superstars rise bigger and better when the chips are down, they show up and play their best when put on the biggest stage. To me, superstars don’t disappear in championship rounds. He might need to develop the killer instinct to be a superstar, like Jordan, Bird or Magic all had. Too many times when something didn’t go his way, he would look to the refs waiting for a call to help him. He needs to be able to brush off a no-call and use that to fuel him and then make the team pay. We’ve seen those guys not getting a call, and it usually resulted in a glare, a smirk – and the next thing you know they ended up dropping 20 in a quarter. They didn’t waste their time screaming and crying to the refs, flailing their arms around while the game kept going on upcourt.
He has all the talent to be a true superstar but crumbled in his first big shot at proving that he is one.
Does that mean he can never become a superstar?
I think right now he’s a star, and a young “budding superstar” down the line.
I think that loss has taught him a lot, and from what he is doing this year so far, things are advancing quickly.