Not every professional athlete is cut out for a career in Boston. While Jayson Tatum has learned to embrace the high expectations that come with representing the city, it wasn't an easy adjustment for the Celtics superstar.
Tatum was drafted third overall by the Celtics as a 19-year-old in 2017. Boston had the No. 1 pick in the draft but traded it to the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 3 pick and a future first-rounder. That decision to pass on Markelle Fultz -- the No. 1 pick and consensus top player in the class -- put even more pressure on Tatum to succeed.
Now 25 years old, Tatum is widely considered the current face of Boston sports. He opened up about the challenge of living up to Boston fans' expectations during his appearance on the Point Forward podcast with Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner.
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“Mentally, it can be a lot," Tatum said. "Just the idea of being young, and every single night, there’s 20,000 people who came to see you be Superman. They don’t know what you’re dealing with at home, family problems, you argued with someone back in St. Louis, something wrong with (his son) Deuce, or whatever. It’s like, ‘No, I’ve seen you do this before, I want to come see you do it tonight. I don’t care what else you got going on. Be that person we want to see.’ And you’ve got to learn to navigate that.”
Boston wasn't Tatum's ideal destination as a St. Louis native, not to mention a massive fan of Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. However, since his arrival, he has grown to love the city's unique passion for its teams and athletes.
Now, he finds himself dreaming of the day he brings the elusive Banner 18 to TD Garden.
“Honestly, I didn’t understand how special of a place Boston was until I got here,” Tatum said. “I didn’t like Boston. I felt like (the Patriots) beating the Rams (in Super Bowl XXXVI) ended up being the reason the Rams ended up leaving. They beat Kobe in ‘08, so I was sick about that. But this is a special place. They love their sports teams, they love their guys.
"I feel like they’ve been embraced, I feel like they’ve accepted me as one of their guys. There’s a sense of pride, there’s an edge you have to have to play here. I can only imagine the love, the reception, if you hung one of those banners up. It would be incredible — it’s going to be incredible. I know it.”
Tatum and the Celtics' quest for an NBA title is off to a strong start. Boston owns the top spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a 15-5 record.
As for Tatum's individual performance, the four-time All-Star will be in the conversation for his first MVP award if he maintains his current pace. He was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Month for games played in October and November.