While some of the current generation of NBA players more closely identify with and watched more of LeBron James, Jayson Tatum is among the young group who idolized Kobe Bryant. So much so that Tatum worked to pattern his game after the five-time champion.
However, Tatum’s father saw more similarities between his son and Paul Pierce, and instructed him to instead watch film on the forward. Coincidentally, Tatum would go on to be drafted by the same franchise that selected Pierce.
Although his father attempted to intervene and Tatum is now an integral part of the Boston Celtics, he remains fond of Bryant.
During an appearance on the “The Bill Simmons Podcast,” Tatum credited Bryant for being the reason he wanted to become a basketball player:
“My favorite player was Kobe. … That was my favorite player ever. LeBron was one of them, Carmelo, Paul George, KD, guys who just play the wing position. … Kobe was the reason I wanted to play basketball. From a kid, like, my earliest basketball memory was of him. … When I was like four or five, my mom would ask me what I wanted to be when I got older. And I would just be like, ‘I wanna be Kobe.’ She’d be like, ‘You wanna be in the NBA?’ ‘No, like, I wanna be Kobe.’ He was just my favorite player. I had his poster, all his jerseys. That was my guy.”
Tatum’s affinity for Bryant led to them working out together this summer. It was during that session Bryant, after watching film of Tatum, purportedly asked why the Lakers didn’t select Tatum No. 2 in the 2017 NBA Draft.
Although that was interpreted by some as a criticism of the Lakers and Lonzo Ball, Bryant’s remarks were passed along as being lighthearted in nature and from the standpoint of jokingly wondering why the franchise wouldn’t want another player like himself.
Aside from style of play, Tatum and Bryant are also tied together in the record book. At 20 years and 61 days, Tatum became the youngest player to score at least 20 points in four consecutive games in the NBA Playoffs. Bryant previously held the record at 20 years and 272 days old.