Prior to the 2018-19 NBA season, Jayson Tatum met and worked out with Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant in preparation for his sophomore year with the Boston Celtics.
While Tatum was the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, he was expected to come off the bench for head coach Brad Stevens. However, Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury against the Cleveland Cavaliers gave Tatum an opportunity to play major minutes.
After averaging 13.9 points and 5.0 rebounds during the regular season, the 20-year-old took his game to another level and averaged 18.5 points and 4.4 rebounds as the Celtics were one win away from the 2018 NBA Finals without Hayward and Kyrie Irving.
As Tatum showed improvement in his rookie season, there is one aspect he learned from Bryant, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:
“The overall experience of interacting with him on a personal level—he’s my all-time favorite player—that really meant a lot to me. There were a few things he showed here and there that can help make it easier for me. But just being around him. His mindset that he had going into each year, just to always improve and not backtrack and get better each season as he wanted to continue to grow as a player.”
It is no secret Tatum grew up idolizing Bryant and it is ironic that he plays for the Celtics now. While Tatum wanted to be like the five-time champion, his father actually made him watch tapes of Paul Pierce instead.
Heading into his second season, there is a level of uncertainty for Tatum. With Hayward expected to be ready by training camp, Tatum’s role and minutes will likely change, but he does not mind coming off the bench as he only cares about winning.