Boston Celtics

Jayson Tatum relishes in silencing critics with NBA championship

"I had to listen to all the s--- that people said about me, and tonight, it was worth it."

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BOSTON -- Jayson Tatum was the subject of intense criticism throughout the Boston Celtics' postseason run. Earlier this month, the 26-year-old superstar lamented being "the most scrutinized player in the playoffs."

After Monday's championship-clinching victory over the Dallas Mavericks, his six-year-old son Deuce delivered the one piece of feedback that will stick with him.

"He told me that I was the best in the world," a jubilant Tatum told reporters. "I said, 'You're damn right I am.'"

Tatum backed up that claim with a 31-point, 11-assist masterclass in Boston's 106-88 Game 5 win. He became the first player in franchise history to have at least 30 points and 10 assists in an NBA Finals game.

It was an undeniable performance that perfectly capped off his near decade-long quest for Banner 18.

"These last seven years have been a roller coaster, up and down," Tatum said. "I had to listen to all the s--- that people said about me, and tonight, it was worth it. Oh my God."

The Celtics selected Tatum with the third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. As a 19-year-old kid out of Duke, he immediately was expected to be the next face of the franchise after then-C's president Danny Ainge traded down from No. 1 overall.

The following years were filled with memorable ups and devastating downs. Before this playoff run, Tatum led the Celtics to four Eastern Conference Finals berths and one NBA Finals appearance but failed to accomplish the ultimate goal.

With Banner 18 finally ready to be raised to the TD Garden rafters, he took a moment to reflect on the journey.

"This is going to be a night that I will remember for the rest of my life," Tatum said. "From the game, the celebration, these moments. You know, over the last couple years, we had some tough losses at home in the playoffs. We've lost the NBA championship at home in front of our fans. We had a chance to beat Miami in Game 6 a few years ago and lost that one.

"So to have a big win, the biggest win that you could have in front of your home crowd, I felt like that was really important to go out there and do everything in my power to make sure we won this game tonight."

Jayson Tatum has an incredible moment with his son Deuce after winning his first NBA Championship

In 2022, Tatum and the Celtics had to watch the Golden State Warriors celebrate an NBA championship on their home floor. Last season, they stormed back from down 0-3 in the East Finals vs. the Miami Heat only to fall in Game 7.

Those were painful experiences, but Tatum credits them with fueling this team's historic run.

"It took being relentless," Tatum answered when asked what it took to get over the hump. "It took being on the other side of this and losing in the Finals and being at literally the lowest point in a basketball career that you could be, to next year, to the following year, thinking that was going to be the time, and come up short again.

"I mean, people have said it before. But coming up short and having failures makes this moment that much better. Because you know what it feels like to lose. You know what it feels like to be on the other side of this and be in the locker room and hearing the other team celebrating, hearing them celebrate on your home floor. That was devastating.

"And now, to elevate yourself in a space that, you know, all your favorite players are in, everybody that they consider greats or legends have won a championship, and all of the guys I looked up to won a championship, multiple championships. So now I can, like, walk in those rooms and be a part of that. It's a hell of a feeling. This is more -- I dreamed about what it would be like, but this is 10 times better."

Jayson Tatum talks about winning his first title, and Jaylen Brown being named as Finals MVP

Tatum led the Celtics in points (22.2), rebounds (7.8), and assists (7.2) per game in the Finals. Despite those numbers and his outstanding series finale, it was Jaylen Brown who earned the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP award.

While Tatum could have used the snub as ammo to take another shot at his critics, he took the high road. He couldn't have been more thrilled for his longtime teammate.

"First of all, congrats to him. Well-deserved. Extremely happy for him. This is a hell of an accomplishment," Tatum said.

"The main goal for us was to win a championship. We didn't care who got Finals MVP. I know that I need him through this journey and he needs me. So, you know, it was great to see him have that moment and share that moment with him. I'm extremely happy for him. Well-deserved. That was big-time. He earned that."

Brown was a worthy recipient of the honor. The 27-year-old, who also was named Eastern Conference Finals MVP, averaged 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game in the Finals.

This shouldn't be Tatum's last opportunity to earn a Finals MVP award. The Celtics are expected to be favored to repeat as champions in 2025, and with Brad Stevens at the helm, they should be built to compete for titles for many years to come.

You can watch Tatum's full postgame press conference below or on YouTube:

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