Jayson Tatum’s childhood dream was to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The St. Louis native had hoped to don purple and gold like his idol Kobe Bryant and had his fingers crossed the Lakers would draft him second overall in 2017. Instead, Los Angeles went with local product Lonzo Ball (now of the Pelicans) while Tatum slipped to the Celtics at No. 3. That’s worked out pretty well for Tatum, who recently landed a five-year, $195-million extension. But at the time, the All-Star forward was admittedly skeptical about playing for a team he grew up hating.
“My favorite player and my idol was Kobe and everybody knows that. So, I didn’t like the Celtics at all,” Tatum told former NBA star Quentin Richardson in an interview that will air Wednesday night on TNT. “I only grew up, I was like, I’m going to play for the Lakers. Honestly, I never knew what Boston was at. Like I knew only East Coast. But, I’d never been there, I never thought about going there.”
Tatum’s past Lakers fandom may come as a shock to some but don’t forget, Paul Pierce, the most decorated Celtic of the past 20 years, shared a similar aversion for the C’s growing up a stone’s throw from The Forum in Inglewood, where he would frequently attend Lakers games. Pierce, whose number 34 was retired by the Celtics in 2018, eventually grew to love Beantown, finishing his career as the second-leading scorer in franchise history.
If you ask Tatum, who has reached the conference finals in two of his three seasons in Boston, it all worked out for the best. “When I got drafted, it was kind of crazy. Like, I used to hate the Celtics, and now, it worked out,” said the former Duke one-and-done. “Everything happens for a reason and I’m surely thankful to be here with this opportunity.”
Tatum, who placed 11th in our recent NBA player rankings, will make his season debut when the Celtics host reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night at TD Garden.